A/N: So, this idea has been bouncing around in my head for a bit, and I wanted to post it up before the new season comes out in January. I'm counting down for it... Seriously, it's just not OK that they're making us wait that long (or for Suits, for that matter... Oh dear... Harvey and Neal meet... there's an idea...). Anyway, ideas bouncing off the inside of my skull usually require being written down, and sometimes I post them here. It's really just an excuse for some good, old-fashion Neal-whump and bromance combination. Enjoy.
The first thing that he noticed was that his head ached. The pain was centralized, but spread out across his skull in a way that made it difficult to open his eyes. They were heavy, and that was the second thing he noticed. His lids felt like they were weighted down and there was a taste in the back of his throat that he didn't want to place.
He really did need to open his eyes. He knew the voice that had called his name, but he couldn't quite place it. A face would need to be seen to do him any good, so he blinked and cringed.
The lights were dim, and he saw feet moving and shuffling across the hard floor. Other voices, belonging to the boot-covered feet, could be heard in a muffled way and he shifted. His hands were tied together and he frowned, shifting again.
There was that voice again. It was just too damn familiar. After several long and painful seconds of wiggling around, blue eyes finally came to rest on one Elizabeth Burke. Her hair was tasseled, her eyes red, and her lips pulled in a worried expression that didn't bode well for their predicament. She was leaned up against the wall with her hands tied behind her in the same fashion that his were. At least she was alive, and, from appearance, unharmed.
"Hey," Neal managed, wincing and trying to sit up. He finally succeeded and felt the room shift as he did so.
"Easy," Elle encouraged, looking as if she wanted to reach a hand out to steady him, but then realized that she was bound. "You remember what happened?"
The conman thought for a moment, his aching mind working harder than it should have had to. He looked around to their surroundings for some sort of clue, uncomfortable with what he found. They were in the storage unit. Keller had found it and his men were moving the treasure out as he sat there and watched.
"Keller kidnapped you," Neal found himself saying, not realizing that it was his own voice until it reached his ears.
"Did Peter send you after me?" Elizabeth asked as if she knew the answer.
"No…. He told me to go home and stay there."
"Do you have your anklet on?" Elizabeth asked in a hushed whisper, looking towards Neal's leg.
"Keller cut it."
"So there's no chance of the FBI finding us."
"There's always a chance," Neal encouraged. "If there's one thing your husband's good at, it's tracking me down."
This brought the smallest smile to the event planner's face. "So, if Peter sent you home, how did you find me?"
Neal's lips twitched downward as he thought, his mind sluggishly trying to put the pieces together. He leaned his aching head back against the wall, eyes watching the thugs help to move what might have been his and Mozzie's get-away treasure. "I followed what I knew," he answered at last. "And I knew what Keller wanted."
Diana had called him to find Peter. Why she didn't contact him immediately on his own cell, Neal had never stopped to ask. He'd simply caught the first cab over to the Burke household. He hadn't beaten Peter there, but it didn't appear that the FBI agent had been home long. He was standing with his back to the front door and it gave Neal moment to grasp the situation.
Agents were crawling across every inch of the house. Jones and Diana were trying to reassure their boss that Elizabeth could and would be found. Peter looked to be in shock and Neal called his name.
Peter turned, eyes wide and still disbelieving, but something set over him and the conman recognized the anger burning beneath. He rarely saw his friend angry. Irritated, often, but rarely all-out angry. A sort of loathing seemed to be bubbling from him now. "He took my wife," he managed.
Neal stepped forward, unsure quite how to proceed. He reached a hand out to try to comfort the elder man, but it was slapped away and that intense glare was turned on him with all of the wrath backing it up. He could only stand there, shocked, as Peter spoke in a low, unsteady voice.
"Keller took my wife, Neal. He called me on a phone that he'd put into my car…. He was watching her, and he took her."
"I know," Neal managed, feeling a knot forming deep in his stomach.
"He said… He said he'd seen the treasure and that he wanted my help getting it. He said you had it."
"Don't," the agent hissed, his shoulders straight and his whole body appearing to shake under the pressure he was under. "Think about your words very carefully, Neal, because if some stupid stunt you pulled caused all this… If you caused all this then you won't even make it back to prison."
Real fear tugged hard at Neal's core and he felt himself take step back. "What do you want me to say?"
"I did not take the treasure," Neal answered honestly. He didn't. Mozzie had.
Peter moved faster than the conman would have liked to have given him credit for, and his closed fist sent the younger man stumbling back. Blue eyes widened and two agents had jumped into action, pulling Peter back and away from his floored CI. Neal didn't speak, nor did he even lift a hand to wipe the blood that he could taste on his lip. He just watched as the two agents held their boss until Peter calmed a little more.
"Get out, Neal. Go home. Stay home."
"I can help you-"
"You've done enough."
"Get out before I have them haul you back to prison tonight!"
The conman watched his friend turn and leave him lying on the floor to do as he was told. Finally, when Peter was out of view, he found a hand reaching down to help him up. Jones hauled him to his feet, steadying him with a concerned look.
"He didn't mean it."
"Yes he did," Neal managed with a strained look and turned to leave. He couldn't be in the house any longer. The sauce splattered across the cabnets and floor reminded him of blood, and he knew all too well what Keller was capable of doing. Elle had done nothing to deserve this, and yet she was caught in it because of Neal's own greed.
The air was cool as he stepped out of the house and pulled his cell phone from his jacket. It rang twice in his ear, then rolled to voicemail. "Moz, I know you're not happy right now. I don't blame you, but I thought you should know Elizabeth's been taken. Keller has her. Listen, I know you think that happy endings are a dream, and maybe for people like us they are, but I'm willing to do whatever I have to in order to make sure Peter and Elizabeth have theirs." He paused, fingers gripping the phone tightly. "Thanks for everything, Moz."
Keller had found Neal. That was the easiest way, and Neal had given himself up freely. "Just let her go," he had said. Keller had smiled and quipped something about the easy way and the hard way. Neal didn't care, he just wanted the Burkes left out of it. Was it worth a priceless treasure? Yes, yes it was.
Later Neal would look back and think of how stupid it was to hand over the location before watching Elizabeth walk away. It was the dumbest move he could make, and he knew it, but he wasn't thinking clearly. His keen mind was muddled with thoughts of how he had betrayed two of the very few people that he trusted. Mozzie was gone, Sara was gone, and now Peter. At least he could get Elizabeth home to her husband before the end.
Now there they sat, watching the treasure being taken away before their eyes and Elizabeth was no freer now than she had been when he'd confronted Keller.
"Neal," Elizabeth called, trying to bring the CI back around to the present. Her eyes were worried and he realized that he had almost blacked out again.
"Aren't you going to ask?"
"About the treasure."
"I think that's the least of our worries right now," Elle murmured.
"It's the reason he took you."
"No," she answered sternly. "Keller took me because he's an evil man." She gazed at the younger man for a long moment, a frown tugging at her features. "Don't you dare blame yourself for this."
"It's my fault."
"No, it's not. I don't blame you."
"Now ain't that sweet?" Keller asked, causing his captives to look up at him. A lopsided grin was displayed across his features and he had his hands stuffed deeply in his pockets. "I'm sure Burke would love to know that his little pet feels bad."
Neal grit his teeth together. "You'll be lucky if they get you to prison, Keller."
"Funny, because they're not going to find me." He glanced back to where his men were loading the last of the treasure and wheeling it out the door. "I'm sure that he'll find you though. Eventually."
"You have the treasure, Keller. Let Elizabeth go."
"It's up to her husband now to find her. You, on the other hand, have been a pain in my ass for too long." He reached into his jacket and pulled out a gun, screwing the silencer onto the end. Elizabeth began to squirm in her place, eyes wide and frightened, but Neal met his gaze with a steely expression. "Say hi to Kate for me, Caffrey."
"No!" Elizabeth screamed as the muffled sound of the gun sounded.
Neal jolted back against the wall, his head colliding with it and pressure spreading all through his chest. He looked down, watching with a strange fascination as red began to blossom across his blue shirt. He began to think that it didn't hurt nearly as badly as he would have expected, but then it caught up and all he could manage was a sort of strangled gasp as he felt himself slide sideways and fall fully to the ground. Keller's retreating form shifted in and out of focus and he could hear Elizabeth calling his name next to him and the door slam shut, locking from the outside.
"Neal?" Elizabeth whispered frantically. "Don't close your eyes. Neal!"
"I'm here," he managed through gritted teeth.
"Okay," she said, panic sounding in her voice. "We've got to get out of here. You're bleeding…. We have to-"
"'Lizabeth, turn 'round," Neal instructed, his voice slurred with pain as he began to try to shift into a better position to help. "Your hands closer to mine so I can… So I can try to untie you."
"Yeah. It's fine."
Elizabeth shifted over to do as she was told and she felt the conman's usually nimble fingers fumble with her restraints. She glanced over her shoulder at him, noting his pale complexion and the sweat building against his face. He was losing too much blood too fast.
The ropes fell away all at once and Elle turned to relieve Neal of his own. She then moved to put pressure on the wound, wincing at the hiss of pain it brought from the injured CI. "Shh," she hushed. "Peter will find us."
"I know," Neal managed, his eyes glossy. He reached a fumbling hand up, groping at his jacket pocket. He frowned for a moment, and tugged at what appeared to be a sewn together inside pocket. The threading came loose and his numb fingers grasped hold of a simple set of lock-picks.
"Neal, there's no way you are getting to that door," Elizabeth murmured, looking worriedly at the distance.
"I'm not. You are. I'll walk you through it. It's not hard."
She nodded and took the lock-picks from him with blood-covered hands. Slowly she stood, glancing worriedly down at the injured man, and then turned to the door. Her fingers slipped once, and then twice, while listening to Neal's soft instructions of which way to turn the small instruments. His voice, usually so strong and sure, was growing weaker with each word that left his lips. Finally there was a click and she gave it a hard push open. "I'll be right back," she promised and saw him give a small wave in response.
Elizabeth sprinted out into the open, eyes scanning widely. She silently thanked God when she heard voices and recognized her husband's above all. "Peter!" she screamed.
He turned, his eyes lighting up and he crossed the space between them with such speed that she barely saw it. He scooped her up in his arms, nearly crushing her against him, and buried his face in her hair. She wrapped her arms around his neck, but stiffened suddenly. "Peter?"
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, but Neal…"
"You didn't even know he was here?"
"I'd hoped he wasn't."
Elizabeth grabbed his hand, pulling him back in the direction she had come from. "It doesn't matter. He needs a doctor. Now. Keller shot him and took off."
The urgency hit the FBI agent and he called behind him for someone to call an ambulance before following his wife, never releasing her hand, back to the storage unit. Neal was laid out on the floor, blood pooled around him, and very still. The only movement he gave was the very shallow rise and fall of his chest and the way that his clenched fingers would twitch briefly at his side.
"How did you find us?" Elizabeth asked as her husband knelt next to his injured partner.
"Mozzie. He said he'd received a strange voicemail from Neal and that if Keller were involved he thought he knew where Neal would lead him." He glanced around the empty storage room. "But why here?"
Elizabeth's mouth dropped open, as if she were conjuring up the best way to answer, when a pained groan sounded from the conman. Blue eyes fluttered open and he looked between the Burkes.
"Help's on the way, Neal," the elder man promised.
"Peter, I'm sorry."
"Shut up. I don't want to hear it." The agent frowned at the hurt expression that crossed Neal's face and he reached a shaking hand up to smooth back dark hair. "I didn't mean it like that," he said, softer this time. "You just need to stay quiet and still until help comes."
"Yeah, she's right here. She's okay."
Neal gave a short nod and a smile perked the corners of his lips before he felt everything fall back into darkness, wondering if that were Peter calling his name.
Neal Caffrey was not a fan of hospitals. He could count the times that he'd seen the inside of a hospital since his eighteenth birthday on one hand, and rarely had that been for anything that had happened to him. Somehow, he'd always been lucky.
As Neal shifted, seeing white walls and smelling anti-bacterial all around him that simply reeked of hospital, he knew that he had not been as lucky this time. His mind was moving slowly, as if they'd given him something, and he couldn't get over that irritating beeping noise somewhere to his left. All he wanted was for the sound to go away.
"Look who finally decided to wake up."
Neal blinked several times, trying to bring himself around to focus on the figure from whom the voice had emitted. Finally he saw Peter Burke in the doorway to the room, coffee cup in hand, and looking as if he hadn't gotten a good night's sleep in several days. "Good morning," he croaked, voice crackling and throat raw.
"It's actually early evening at this point," Peter corrected.
"That's for your safety." Peter moved into the room and pulled a chair closer to Neal's bed. He sat heavily in it, leaned forward, and steepled his fingers. "What do you remember?"
"That a lot of people have been asking me that lately," the conman quipped. When it didn't elicit a smile from the agent, his expression turned serious. "Keller shot me."
"How did you find us?"
"Mozzie. He got your message."
Neal felt his world shift. Mozzie had gone to Peter with it. Of all of the things to happen… Well, they were alive. "So I guess I should get used to orange again, huh?"
Peter cocked his head to the side. "What do you mean?"
"You found us in the storage unit…." Neal sighed. "What? You just want me to say it?"
"No, I want you to keep your damn mouth shut," the elder man hissed, voice low as he glanced towards the door.
"You what? Keller had the treasure. Keller has the treasure. Keller is the thief."
"But you're angry."
"At me. At your house…."
Peter flushed suddenly. He'd hoped in all of the trauma Neal would have forgotten that. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, meaning saturating every part of words. "I was… scared."
Neal nodded slowly, taking in his words. "I'm sorry too."
"We'll call it even and get the son of a bitch, how does that sound?"
"Like the best thing I've heard in days."
End. Please feel free to feed the author's addiction with reviews =)