Author's Note: This idea entered my head and simply would not leave me alone. So enjoy, and (as always) leave a review.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Peter paced the waiting room, wearing a hole in the floor while he positively seethed with fury. He had been here all night. He was supposed to almost shoot Neil, possibly (probably) hit him, find El, send Neil to jail, fume for a few days, probably have El talk him down out of his anger, rescue Neil from jail, lecture him for AT LEAST an hour, and then they would go on as they always have, and even though Peter would know that he really couldn't trust the con, he would continue to trust him after a month of snide comments and passive aggressive behavior that would have Neil rolling his eyes often enough to make the FBI agent want to hit him (again... probably.) THAT was how it was supposed to happen.
But of course Neil could never do anything the easy way. No, instead, he had to run.
Peter was livid, really, truly, livid. Neil had run. The tracking anklet was found on the floor of June's and Neil was gone. Peter, Jones, Diana, Sara, and Hughes (surprisingly enough) were out on the streets looking for him. Peter was rushing out his door, Satchmo on his leash (maybe the dog could sniff the bastard out?) and swearing to himself about the futile effort he had put in to get Neil to stop being an IDIOT and actually change his life and his ways when the unthinkable, impossible, single most wonderful/terrible thing happened.
Elizabeth Burke ran into her husband's arms, shaking and crying, trying to say something through her tears. Peter didn't need to hear more than 'Neil' before he understood what happened, and knew that he had been wrong/right about Neil, that Neil wasn't running away from the FBI to save himself. Not himself. Peter was on the phone immediately, holding his wife with one arm and screaming into the phone with the other. "Find him! Neil traded himself in to Keller in exchange for El. He's in danger! FIND HIM!"
And he knew that they would., but he didn't know how long it would be, and that terrified him almost as much as losing Elizabeth had. He and Satch took El inside, sat her down, made her tea, (Satchmo kept her company while Peter was making tea, drooling on her leg comfortingly) and Peter sat down and let her tell him the entire terrible story. Keller had knocked her out, and she woke up tied to a chair, in a warehouse of some kind. Neil called Keller, and they made some kind of deal, and an hour later, Neil showed up, not wearing his tracking anklet, his hands shaking, and Keller cuffed him to a pipe.
Neil had hugged her before she left, slipped a hand into her pocket, putting something in it, and then Keller had blindfolded her and dropped her off near her house. She had no idea where she had been, where Keller now had a completely defenseless Neil Caffrey. El handed Peter the slip of paper, and with shaking hands, he unfolded it and read.
First of all, I hope that Elizabeth is okay. I wrote this before I saw her, so I don't know. I don't think that Keller would do anything terrible to her, because she is the only leverage he has, and while he definitely underestimates you sometimes, he's not that stupid. If he was, he never would have gotten as far as he did.
Secondly, I want you to know that I never stole the nazi treasure. Don't get me wrong, I hid it from you; I won't deny that. (There's really no point in denying it now) But it was Mozzie who switched out my paintings for the artwork. I never knew about it until afterwards, and I never really decided whether or not I was going to go. Mozzie can tell you that, or at least he could if he was still around. He took the treasure and left, and I didn't go with him. Which brings me to my most important point: There is no treasure to give Keller in exchange for El, and when he finds out, he'll kill her.
I can't let that happen, Peter. I know that right now you're having a hard time trusting me, and frankly, I don't blame you. But I'm going to try to make things right. I hope you see this letter, because if you don't, it means that my plan failed and Elizabeth is dead, and you're probably going to throw my ass back in jail, and I can't accept that. You taught me that I have to fix my mistakes, right? So that's what I'm going to do, if I can.
Now here comes the hard part. The part where I tell you not to come looking for me, even though I have a feeling that if you get this, you'll ignore me and come looking for me anyway. But you can't. You really can't. Think of this UNSELFISHLY (shut up, Peter, and hear me out.) I'm not trying to play the hero here. I'm really not. This is the most ridiculously unselfish thing I've ever done, and if you find me and come charging in guns blazing (Don't pretend you won't) Keller will kill you and you'll waste the gift I'm giving you here. You can live without me, Peter, but you and Elizabeth have something really amazing. I'm realistic enough to recognize love like that, so don't waste it and don't lose it. Be happy, and stay together, and know that I truly am sorry for what I did to you, Peter.
This is my repentance, my way of making up for everything I did wrong. I'm not talking about the cons and the forgeries and the thefts, I'm talking about lying to you, leading you on, and deceiving you. That's the part that I regret, and that's what I'm making up for here.
So thank you, Peter, for everything, and good luck.
All my best, Neil
Neil's letter had one thing right: Peter had no intention of listening to the idiot and not looking for him.
A day after the beginning of the search for Neil, Peter was kicking his team's ass into continuing the search. He knew that Neil wasn't dead, and the thought was hardly comforting. Keller liked to play with his food before he ate it, and Peter spent hours of fruitless searching trying not to think about the state Neil would be in when they found him. Even Keller had a time limit. He wouldn't be in New York for longer than three days, and time was running out. If they didn't find Neil soon, he would be dead when they finally did find him.
It was 4:27 am when Keller's hideout was finally found. A physically and emotionally exhausted Peter barreled into the room headfirst, recklessly ignoring the danger to himself. Keller had escaped yet again, but he left Neil. Maybe he thought Neil was dead, maybe he didn't have time to drag him out, but whatever the reason, lying in the middle of the floor, bleeding sluggishly from dozens of wounds, shaking, and barely alive was Neil. Peter found himself at his side, cradling Neil's head in his lap and letting the conman bleed all over his clothes while they waited for an ambulance.
"Neil... dammit Caffrey, talk to me."
"Peter." Neil opened his eyes. They were unfocused and glassy, but he was alive, and he had recognized Peter's voice. "I told you-"
"You idiot, you knew I wouldn't listen."
Neil made a weak attempt at a smile, shivering. "Peter, it's so cold, and I'm so... tired..."
"Don't you dare fall asleep now, Caffrey. If you die on me, I'll kill you."
Neil chuckled, wincing. "How... El..."
"She's fine. A little shaken up, a little bruised, but she's going to be okay. And so are you. You just have to hold on for a few more minutes. There's an ambulance on the way."
"It is NOT too late, don't you dare even think it." Peter snarled, watching Neil's eyes flutter closed. "Neil! You stay awake, you idiot! I told you to stay awake!"
"Peter-" Neil tried.
"No! Listen to me, Neil, I'm going to take care of you, just like i always do. I'm going to take care of you and you're going to be okay!" Peter was shouting now, shaking almost as badly as Neil was, brushing his bloody, matted hair out of his eyes and categorizing the countless injured that marked the con's body. "Nothing is going to happen to you. You've got to hold on! Promise me!"
"You win. I... promise..." Neil said softly. Peter could hear sirens and was almost crying with relief.
"The ambulance is here, Neil. You're almost there. Just a little bit longer, okay?"
Neil nodded weakly, and then was still. He was still shaking, still taking slow, ragged breaths, and Peter talked to him, though Neil was obviously not conscious anymore, hoping that his voice would keep Neil's promise in t=his mind, keep him alive, for just a little bit longer.
Frankly, if Neil woke up, Peter was going to kill him. "Hon, you need to calm down." El wrapped her arms around her husband, soothing him with her presence. "Neil's going to be just fine."
"You don't know that." Peter argued, his anger getting the best of him. El, wise to his ways as she was, just gazed steadily at him, finally making him sigh. "I'm sorry El. I'm just..."
"I know. But Neil's going to be okay. You'll see." She sat him down, kept him from pacing, and for what felt like years, he waited until a doctor came out.
"How is he?" Peter stood up immediately.
"He's awake. There's been a minor problem. It would be easier to show you. Come with me." The doctor led Peter and Elizabeth to Neil's room, where he was propped up, a book in his bandaged hands. Neil looked up and smiled as they entered.
"How're you feeling, Neil?"
"Alright." Neil said, still smiling cheerfully. "Who are you?"