In A Moment

Written, spellchecked, etc. by JanieMarple.

Standard disclaimer: I do not own White Collar, nor any of the characters therein, all non-recognizable characters are not up for grabs. Yes this goes AU and yes there is a pairing in it that is AU. Don't like it? Don't read it. Originally written as a gift for my best friend.

Where would he hide it? There are only so many places you could put paintings and artifacts without damaging them.

Rae looked around for a couple seconds, trying to think like Neal, trying to think what this might have been like six years ago when an associate had been building it. Neal would have been able to hide his loot anywhere.

Paintings can't take the heat. Rules the attic out.

Walls only went unaltered for so long, so that ruled out pretty much everything but the basement, and that was concrete. So where the hell could the stash be?

Could Neal have engineered a hiding place for his loot behind the concrete or just made it appear to be concrete?

Rae beat feet to the basement, knowing there was very little time to look around before Fowler and Kate would make up their apparent time deficit.

Naturally, it would be a finished basement, and naturally nothing would match the photos she had.

Thanks loads, Jared.

She heard a thud overhead and ducked into the alcove behind the bar, thankful she hadn't parked the car anywhere near here. She pulled her gun out of its holster and released the safety, making herself as small and quiet as possible. She was banking on it being only Kate and Fowler. She hoped in their haste they hadn't picked up any associates, and were hoping to have this done and over with before a pissed off Peter could bring the posse.

She was also banking on the fact that Fowler probably knew as much about her as he did about Peter's dog. Because if Fowler had had the brains to look into Rae, he would have realized how very, very thin the ice he was skating on really was. Failure was not in Rae's vocabulary. And the ends could very well justify the means. Rae wasn't on the white-collar unit for her beauty or a Harvard alumni meeting. She was there because she was quicker than your average white-collar criminal.

She heard voices, and held her breath to listen and get a rough tally of how many people she was dealing with. Fowler... Kate... And Neal... Neal sounded bad.

Feet made their way down the stairs, and Rae closed her eyes for an instant, praying that Neal wasn't going to botch whatever plan he had and get himself killed.

Neal's heart was somewhere around his ankles. Rae clearly hadn't gotten the message, or she'd have saved him at the airport. But at least the person who owned this house wasn't here.

His head felt like he'd been run over by a herd of wild horses, and he was seeing double. And his ears were ringing. He hoped it didn't show. Because if Kate knew, Kate would exploit the hell out of it in what little time he had left.

Going down the steps was beastly. He clung to the railing for dear life. Processing enough to balance was really hard to do when you were being hurried along to your inevitable demise.

"Where the hell is it, Caffrey?" Fowler demanded, standing at the bottom of the stairs. Neal tried to get the room to stop spinning and look. It was hard to pull up his photographic memory, too. Dear God the basement had changed a hell of a lot in 5 years.

Kate struck him upside the head and everything went black for a second. He wondered for a moment if this was what it felt like to die. Would everything just go black and silent? Would the pain just go away? Or would it be a cacophony of noise and a vicious haze of agony?

Neal realized he had dropped to his knees as his sight came back with a vengeance. "Where is it?" Fowler demanded again.

"Back of the basement," Neal whispered. "Near the AC unit."

Kate raised her pistol and aimed for Neal's head. "Not yet Kate. Might be wrong," Fowler spat. "And I'll be damned if I'm gonna dig through the whole basement."

Kate scowled and yanked Neal to his feet. "You'd better hope you're right," she hissed in his ear. He closed his eyes, trying to block the hurt from the sound.

Oh God, Neal... What have they done to you?

Rae watched them walk by and wasn't sure what to do. Intervene now, before the stash was found? Or intervene after? Would that be too late? Neal was walking shakily, and that lump on his head had to have a lot to do with it. If he had a plan, he was likely way outside of it now.

Pity mixed with rage. She wanted to beat Kate and Fowler black and blue for this, for the damage they had likely done not only to Neal's body but his mind. And she felt so horribly bad for Neal. His pitiful excuse for freedom hadn't helped him avoid this, and it hadn't helped him avoid a lot of hurts.

Kate shoved Neal to the floor as she and Fowler began to examine the wall. Neal curled in on himself, as if that would protect him, bringing his cuffed hands to his face to hold his head. Rae's ire rose a notch when she saw fresh blood smear on the carpet.

Neal had clearly given up. He thought she'd abandoned him. Else he wouldn't have just lain there. If only she could have let him know to hold out for a few minutes more. If only he knew that help would be there in a moment.

She stepped out from behind the counter, keeping her movements hidden behind Kate and Fowler's bickering. One of Fowler's contacts would have told him if she'd called the FBI in on this. They would have told him if they knew she had left the city. They didn't know that she was there, or else they'd have looked.

"Freeze," Rae said, standing twenty feet back and training the muzzle of the Glock on Fowler's shoulder.

Fowler and Kate whipped around. "Gilmore," Fowler smiled. "What brings you here?"

"You have something of mine," Rae said coolly, watching both Kate's hands and Fowler's hands.

"Caffrey? Thought that was Burke's pet," Fowler said easilly, getting up.

"I meant it when I said freeze," Rae said stiffly, taking up the slack in the trigger.

Neal moaned from his curled haven on the floor. Fowler whipped out his pistol in the brief second that Rae's attention was not entirely on him. He trained it on Neal's head. "Put the weapon down, Gilmore," Fowler said menacingly. "I won't miss at this range. And there won't be enough left to put back together."

"Camp Lejeune," Rae said flatly.

"What?" Kate asked, confused and pissed.

"Marine Corps base in North Carolina," Fowler said quickly.

"What do they teach Marines, Fowler?" Rae asked, stepping slightly to the left. Fowler was silent for a second, and then it occured to him.

"One shot, one kill," he said.

"Would you like to test that? Or would you like to put the weapon down?" Rae asked. Fowler made as if to put the pistol down for a second, and then started to take up the slack.

A gunshot is not quiet when you're out in the open air. Pistols are rather raucous, simply because so much has to come from so small a firearm. The kickback alone can surprise the hell out of someone not accustomed to firing a weapon. Bring that weapon inside, and the discharge is deafening. The reverberation off of concrete walls is amazing, you can feel it.

Fowler dropped to the floor and Rae bolted forward toward Kate, the sights on Kate now. Kate dropped her pistol and raised her hands. Rae returned the favor Kate had given Neal, walloping Kate's skull with the butt of the pistol.

She cuffed Kate and quickly checked for weapons, Kate's wrists tangled with her leg so she couldn't jimmy the cuffs easily. She picked up Fowler's weapon and Kate's, and pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. Much as it chafed her to do it, she called in EMS.

Fowler wasn't dead, as evidenced by his swearing and wriggling on the floor. He just wished he was. If he'd be able to use that shoulder again, it'd be impressive. The amount of blood on the floor and on Fowler's shirt was impressive, too, come to think of it.

Rae called Peter's cell, turning toward Neal. "Neal, Neal, are you in there?" she asked softly, coaxing his hair away from his bloodied head. Neal only stared. Fowler hadn't gotten the shot off. So Rae didn't think that was even a likely possibility.

"Rae? Are you alright?" Peter demanded.

"I'm fine. I need you to iron some things out," Rae said, hearing sirens overhead. "I'm in Phoenix, Arizona, I've got Fowler and Moreau."

"Oh thank God. How's Neal?" Peter asked.

"I'll let you know after he's seen a doctor," Rae said, gauging Neal's reaction to light.

"What do you need?" Peter asked.

"Get Hughes on this. Fowler is dirty, put a sting on his unit," Rae said. "I'm going to the hospital with this gruesome threesome."

"Is Neal...?" Peter trailed off.

"He's alive, Peter. I'm not sure what's left," Rae sighed, getting up and going to the bottom of the stairs to yell to the EMTs and Police.

"Please keep me apprised," Peter requested.

"I will," Rae said, and hung up.

EMTs were quickly attending to Fowler and Kate, and Neal was being loaded on a stretcher. Rae quickly explained the situation to the troopers as she undid Neal's cuffs. They verified her FBI ID, and accepted her story, taking it down.

Rae went with Neal to the hospital, baffled by his lack of response. FBI agents met the ambulances at the hospital, assigned to Fowler, Kate, and Neal. Hughes was already on top of the situation, thousands of miles away. Rae described Neal's lack of response to sound and his sluggish response to light to the doctor on duty in the ER, and a neurosurgeon and a neurologist were paged down.

They sent Neal for a CT scan first and foremost, and his external injuries were tended to. Even if Neal's head was broken, he was doing much better now that he was on some drugs. Rae looked down at the stitches in his noggin with no small amount of anger.

"Neal, can you hear me?" Rae asked quietly.

"He likely can't," the neurologist said. "Between the secondary impact and the gunshot, his hearing is questionable at the moment. It may be temporary, we'll see over the next few hours."

"What else?" Rae asked.

"No real bleeding in the brain, just some bruising," the neurologist said.

"What's gone for good?" Rae prodded.

"There's really no way to know that. You just have to sit and wait. Short term memory may be bad over the past couple of days, or it may not be. Some senses may or may not have been affected," the neurologist said. "At best, it's still a waiting game."

Neal might not remember the past few days? The very thought of that being gone hurt. On so many levels. Would Neal remember kissing in the kitchen to tell Peter to go away? Or would Rae have to be his memory?

Rae settled into the chair beside Neal's bed, determined to wait and see.

Rae woke with a start, seizing the hand that was on her shoulder and twisting it away from her neck. A rather high-pitched squeal told Rae she'd made a mistake.

"Oh, God, Elizabeth, I'm so sorry," Rae said softly, letting go.

"I was only trying to wake you and ask if you wanted some coffee," Elizabeth whispered. "You look beat."

Rae's eyes darted from Elizabeth to Neal, Neal to Elizabeth. Neal was still sleeping. That was good. "I'd appreciate that, thank you so much," Rae whispered back. Elizabeth smiled softly and walked away.

Peter walked in and came close to Rae. "How is he?" he asked her quietly.

"His hearing is damaged. He's not deaf anymore, but it's damaged," Rae said softly. "And they're not sure what he'll remember."

Elizabeth returned with coffee for Rae. "When can he go back to New York?" she asked.

"Don't know. Sooner if he doesn't fly," Rae said.

"Well he doesn't have to. Hughes sent your flagship," Peter said softly. Rae quirked a smile.

"He hates that car, so much," she whispered. "And that's more than 2,500 miles. That's easilly three or four days driving minimum."

"It's about 40 hours wheel time," Peter affirmed. "So split it over four days, ten hours a day. I think he can handle it. Or even five eight hour days."

Rae nodded, holding the hot coffee cup in her cold hands. "Rae, we can book you a hotel room, you don't have to sleep here," Peter offered.

Rae shook her head. "I can't leave him, Peter, not after this..." she said.

Elizabeth patted Rae's hand. "We understand," Elizabeth soothed.

Rae pinched the bridge of her nose. "Peter, I can't take him back to New York if that's straight back to prison," Rae sighed.

"It isn't. Hughes has a motion in to waive any sentencing," Elizabeth said.

"We know Neal did nothing of his own volition, and no stash was uncovered," Peter said. Rae looked up in surprise.

"What of the mess made of a private residence?" she questioned.

"An agent was undercover, tracking a crooked agent who was holding a hostage, the homeowner was very understanding," Peter smiled.

Rae was absolutely ecstatic. "Oh Neal, you've yet got a chance," she murmured, twining her fingers with his.

"See you in the morning, Rae," Peter said, sliding his arm around Elizabeth. He and Elizabeth headed out of the room and Rae watched them leave, not looking away till long after they were gone. She turned back to Neal, and just watched him breathe.

She ran her fingertips along his jaw, tracing it. So close. She'd almost failed. Almost lost him. She really didn't think she could have lived with that. Neal shifted slightly, frowning in his sleep.

"Shhhh. You're alright, Lamb," Rae soothed. Neal made a broken sound, and his eyelashes fluttered. "Go back to sleep, Lamb," Rae coaxed, smoothing his hair. Bleary blue eyes managed to open, looking up into her face.

"Rae?" Neal croaked.

"Yes, I'm here," Rae answered.

"Where am I?" Neal asked.

"St. Joseph's hospital," Rae said. "You have a concussion."

"Fowler and Kate?" Neal breathed, soothed by Rae's touch on his hurting head.

"Still kicking. Little worse for wear," Rae said.

"I'm going to prison, aren't I?" Neal questioned, a tear slipping down his nose.

"No," Rae said firmly. "You're coming back home."

"You'll still take me?" Neal asked, absolutely childlike in his battered state.

"Of course," Rae said, smiling softly. "I came all the way to Arizona to bring you back."

"When can we go?" Neal asked, his eyes roving around the spartan hospital room.

"As soon as the doctors ok it. Peter and Elizabeth will be here in the morning to say hello. Why don't you go back to sleep?" Rae encouraged.

"You won't leave, will you?" Neal asked. Rae shook her head.

"No, Lamb. I'll be right here," she said, and leaned in to kiss his nose.

Neal closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep, letting Rae continue to pet his head. Much as he hurt, he was safe.

Rae had saved him, after all.