Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, but I wish I did!
Summary: Neal's got the shakes. Peter's more than a little concerned. Tag to the season two premiere.
To everyone's relief, the rest of the evening passed without further injuries. Mozzie kept a close eye on Neal and spoke softly to him every time he frowned or showed any signs of distress. Hearing a friendly voice was enough to pull Neal back from the darkness.
Come morning, Mozzie was the one looking exhausted but, so far as he was concerned, his noble act was worth every yawn. When the sunlight started to bathe the room in yellow and gold, he quietly slipped to the kitchen to begin making breakfast while waiting for his friend to wake.
Mozzie was halfway through his first cup of coffee when a light knock came from the front door. He shuffled over and opened it to reveal June, looking as bright-eyed and beautiful as ever. The woman was an ageless wonder.
"Good morning, Mozzie. How is our patient doing today?"
"Glad to hear it. Lord knows he needs the rest."
"And I could use the company, so thanks for stopping in. Neal is a great guy and all, but not much of a conversationalist while he's sleeping."
June chuckled as she moved further into the main room. "Is that Lavazza Espresso I smell?"
"Is there any other kind?" Mozzie lifted an empty glass in question.
"Don't mind if I do," she smiled back.
They sipped their coffee in comfortable silence for a few minutes, then June decided it was time to check on Neal. She led the way to the bedroom, Mozzie a few steps behind.
Neal was still sleeping soundly on his stomach with his good hand under the pillow and his sore one laying limply on the mattress a few inches from his face. A few strands of his bangs hung down in front of his eyes. He looked all of five years old and it warmed the older woman's heart.
As she sat down on the edge of his mattress, she gently brushed his hair back, letting her fingers comb smoothly through his wavy locks. He began to stir at the unexpected contact.
"Kate…?" he mumbled, his eyes still firmly closed against the bright sunlight.
Mozzie sighed, hanging his head, but June chose to ignore the slip-up of her half-conscious guest. "Time to wake up, Neal." She smoothed the bunched up sheet that was draped around his shoulders, then rubbed his covered back gently, hoping the contact would help guide him towards the present.
Neal slowly blinked his eyes open, grimaced at the light as it pierced his over-blown pupils before they could adjust, then lifted his head enough to glance around the room. "June?"
"Good morning, sweetie. How did you sleep?"
"Better, I think… Thanks to Moz." He smiled sheepishly up at his friend who waved off what he saw as unnecessary gratitude.
"Just doing my part to help right the justice of this world, my friend. It was nothing."
"Down to business then," June continued. "How's that hand of yours doin'?"
Neal stiffly rolled onto his back with a stifled groan, propping himself up with his elbows and lightly massaging his bandaged hand above his stomach. "I think you missed your calling, June. It doesn't hurt that much anymore."
"What doesn't hurt that much?" a deeper voice asked from the bedroom doorway.
Neal jumped but recovered smoothly. "Hey, Peter. How'd you get in?"
"June's granddaughter answered the door." Peter's eyes immediately gravitated towards the conman's bandaged limb. He frowned. "Neal, what did you do to your hand?"
"Just an accident, Agent Burke," June responded for him when the boy faltered. "In fact, I was just about to check on its healing progression." She held her hand out for Neal's but he pulled back slightly instead.
"It's fine, June. Really. You don't have to…"
"Neal…" Peter warned. "It's her or me. Decide quickly, but you're not leaving this room until you get checked out."
Grudgingly, Neal held his hand out for June who took it with a smile. She began unwinding the bandages, careful not to jostle his wounds too much. As soon as the damage was revealed, Peter's eyes widened and he crossed the room in three long strides, grabbing hold of Neal's wrist and pulling his arm higher to get a better look.
Neal winced and hissed through clenched teeth as Peter began palpating around his bruised and scabbed-over knuckles, just as the kind landlady had done the night before. "There's no broken bones, Peter. June already checked. It looks worse than it is, I promise."
"Care to explain?"
"You first. Did I have nightmares when I stayed over at your house?"
Peter shifted uncomfortably. He really didn't want to answer that question. "Why do you ask?" he supplemented, buying some time.
"I didn't remember dreaming at your place so I thought the pills were actually working. But I took them again last night and, as you can see, they had undesirable side effects."
Peter sighed. "I'm sorry, Neal. I knew the drugs would keep you out of it enough so that you wouldn't remember in the morning, but I stayed with you all night and woke you each time the nightmares started. I was hoping if you managed a significant amount of sleep, it would help."
Neal nodded in understanding. "Unfortunately, I think the only cure is time. But I am feeling a lot better today, so that's something."
"Glad to hear it. Doesn't mean you're off the hook though. You should take a few more days to give your hand time to heal."
"Come on, Peter," Neal whined. "Don't keep me on the sidelines. Work is one of the few things that helps. It keeps me focused on other things…"
"You mean aside from Kate?"
Neal nodded again. "Yeah. Please, Peter. I can't just sit around here all day. I'll go crazy and you know it."
Peter exchanged meaningful looks with June like two parents deciding whether their son should be grounded or if he learned his lesson. "Alright. But you're on probation. If I see you starting to freak out again on the job, I'm bringing you back home."
"Fair enough. I'll go get dressed." Neal moved to throw the blankets off his legs so he could get up but Peter put a firm hand down on his shoulder, halting his movements.
"Slow down there, Beaver. Let June finish with your hand first."
Neal slumped back against his pillow, practically sulking while June cleaned his cuts once again and put fresh bandages around them. "Now can I get up?" he asked Peter with a slight note of exasperation in his voice.
Peter chuckled, then patted Neal on the head in acquiescence. "Go ahead. Meet me downstairs when you're ready."
Neal slipped from the bed and padded his way towards the bathroom.
"Neal?" Peter called after him, making the younger man turn back. "Don't forget this." He tossed his friend's favorite hat to him, spinning it through the air.
Neal's hand shot out and gracefully caught it before flipping it onto his head. He tilted the brim and shot a megawatt smile at the agent. Peter clearly knew him better than he thought he did.
Caffrey wore different wardrobes for different personas and aliases. Each one came with one particular item that transformed him into that character. Sometimes it was a leather jacket, sometimes it was an expensive looking watch or a pair of sophisticated looking glasses. He had worn expensive suits as his alter ego, Nick Holden, so that was nothing new, but the hat? The hat was all Neal Caffrey.
The second it slid onto his head, the fear was gone. The uncertainty and pain were buried. The mask was back up, and it was a good one to hide behind. The cocky attitude and smooth finesse replaced the torment and sadness with which he had previously been struggling. One little accessory, and he was a whole new man.
Everyone present felt the change in the atmosphere as the hat fell naturally into Neal's hand. The room seemed brighter, the air, much lighter. And that's when they all knew it. Neal was going to get past this.
As he shut the bathroom door behind himself, Neal felt a great weight lifted off his shoulders. He knew he would never forget Kate, and for the first time, that thought didn't cause him pain. Kate was a woman worth remembering, and he was glad to have known her, even if it was only for a short time.
He glanced at his reflection in the mirror and smirked. He knew it would be Peter who saved him. It would always be Peter. The man had a heart of gold and for some reason, he thought Neal was worth saving. The conman wasn't about to prove him wrong.
Twenty minutes later and they left for the office together, the swagger back in Neal's step. He drew a lot of surprised looks from his co-workers and he didn't feel like shying away from the attention anymore.
If anything, he was back in his element, charming the crowd and having them bend to his will. By the end of the day, The Architect was behind bars and there was another check in the "win" column for Burke's team.
After the thief had been escorted away by agents, Neal and Peter left Edward Walker's home, side-by-side, and Neal would be lying if he said it didn't feel good to close another case.
As they headed down the street together, Peter clapped his partner on the back. "You did good today, Neal. I'm proud of you."
"Thanks, Peter. You weren't so bad yourself."
"It's good to have you back, buddy."
"It's good to be back."
"We wrapped this case up earlier than I expected. El won't be home for a few more hours. Wanna grab a beer before supper?"
"Yeah, sure. There's just somethin' I gotta do first. I'll call you in a few."
Neal went one way and Peter headed in another. He had something to do first as well. Pulling out his cell phone, Peter made a quick call and set up his last appointment for the day. "Meet me in the park in ten minutes. Same bench as before."
Exactly ten minutes later, Peter sat down on the selected bench and opened his newspaper, giving the signal to his paranoid informant.
Seconds later, a familiar voice spoke from the other side of the bench. "I saw a mockingbird in the park." Peter rolled his eyes, refusing to play along. "Then you say 'what color's the mockingbird," Mozzie supplied impatiently.
"I'm doing the newspaper thing, I'm not doing the stupid bird thing," Peter retorted, annoyed.
Mozzie decided to cut his losses and get to the point. "How's he holding up?"
"Better," Peter responded, folding up the newspaper he never intended on reading. "I'm seeing the old Caffrey coming back."
"Good." Mozzie smirked knowingly.
"Whatever part you played in it, you did good."
"I'm sure you didn't call me down here to tell me how great I did…"
"You did good," Peter emphasized again, not wanting to give the little guy a big head.
"Great," Mozzie shot back once more and Peter decided to change the topic now or risk being stuck in a word battle for the next hour.
"Look, I know he won't tell me everything. I get that. He's Neal. I'll keep an eye on him, and you… But, that puts me in a position to clean up a mess. Not stop it before it happens."
"Oh, that's the part you want me to take care of…"
"Just… Tell me if he's gonna do anything stupid."
"I can't rat out my friend."
"It's to protect him."
"That's the same rationale that was used by the Gestapo and the KGB."
"Look at me." Peter turned to face Mozzie and waited for him to do the same. "He's my friend too," he stated with complete sincerity. Mozzie could see the truth in Peter's eyes.
"I'll take that under advisement."
"Yeah." Peter stood, leaving the newspaper for Mozzie on the back of the bench. "You do that." As he began walking away, his phone buzzed in his pocket. He knew who it was before he looked at the caller-ID. "Hey, you ready?"
"Good to go."
"Alright then." He gave Neal the name of a nearby pub and waited for him to arrive.
They sat down at the bar and Peter turned curiously to Neal. "Did you take care of whatever it was you wanted to do?"
"Yep. Everything's set."
"Glad to hear it." Peter raised his glass. "To a job well done."
"To friends you can rely on," Neal added before clinking his glass against Peter's.
"Cheers." Peter smiled warmly at his friend, then took a swig of his beer.
When June returned home from walking her dog, she found an exact replica of the lamp Neal had shattered waiting for her on the dining room table and a note taped to the base of it stating, "Pick you up at nine. Wear your dancing shoes." She smiled. The old Neal Caffrey was back.
A/N: Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing this story! Your support is greatly appreciated and I hope you enjoyed the ending. Till next time!