A/N: A chapter for Neal, because, let's face it, you can't have one without the other.
One shake of the head, and he's running now. Running because he knows what that shake means, knows that it's a goodbye.
It's the only one Neal's allowed to have.
It should be a consolation that it would be Peter's goodbye, approval, permission, but the thought just makes him feel hollow inside. He'd meant what he'd told Mozzie, what he'd told Peter, what he'd told those that were supposed to decide his fate. Neal had truly wanted to stop running, wanted to stay, wanted it all.
In the end, what he wanted hadn't really mattered.
He can't figure out how things got so wrong, or maybe he can and doesn't want to think about it, but now he's grabbing what he needs from June's place. He considers writing a note of thanks (he owes her so much), but there is simply no time. If there were, he would do so much more. He'd buy something nice for Elizabeth, an apology for causing her and Peter so much trouble and for taking Peter away from her so much. He'd take Satchmo for one last walk, June for one last dance. He'd tell Sara that he's sorry, that he loves her, that he wishes, wishes, wishes so much that he could turn back the clock and make them work.
But he's got the ticket and passport in hand now, and Mozzie's joining him, and they're stepping onto the plane together. Mozzie's watching him quietly but pretending not to; he seems to know that Neal just isn't capable of holding together a conversation right now. His heart's pounding in his chest, and he can't believe that he used to enjoy this kind of rush.
And now he's sitting on the plane, forced to stay still with nothing to do but think, think of what he's doing and where's he going and, more than anything, what he's leaving behind. As the plane takes off, he doesn't want to look out the window but he can't help himself. He says a silent goodbye to Peter and El, to his view from June's house, to the elevator at the FBI, and to everything else that made New York home.
It's all history now.
Jones was right, he thinks, not for the first time. My life was a dream, with an anklet attached.
The tracking anklet is gone now, and his leg feels oddly light without it. He almost misses it, and only now does he realize what it meant to him. It meant that while he was not yet free, he still had a place to belong. It meant that there was something keeping him grounded. And most of all, it meant that Peter could always find him.
An ache forms in Neal's chest, and he can see nothing but the face of his partner, his friend. Peter, who always had his back. Peter, who was able to forgive all Neal's past transgressions in the unprecedented belief that he could be someone more than a con, someone better.
It's what kept the anklet in place for three years now, but he's been forced to cut the cord. He will not be used indefinitely by Kramer, who neither trusts nor respects him, and who would so casually tear him away from the first real home he's had in years.
"Neal," Mozzie starts, and Neal wishes he wouldn't. He's not ready to talk about what's happening or the future or any of it. But Mozzie knows and doesn't push, merely states, "I'm going to miss them too." He pats Neal's shoulder, but the gesture is made awkward due to the airplane seating.
Neal pulls deep within himself, puts a lifetime of acting lessons into one scene, and forces his best smile. "It's okay, Moz. There's a life outside New York." he says, pretty words he wishes he could believe.
Mozzie looks at him, knows he's lying. Doesn't mention it.
Neal leans his head back against his seat and tries to fight the overwhelming sense of grief he's feeling. His stomach is unsettled and his head hurts and he wants so badly to just cry, but he has to keep it together, because the trip will be long. Mileage and distance matter when you're on the run.
Neal knows, now more than ever, that Jones was right: his life had been a dream.
But now it's time to wake up.
A/N: For the life of me, I tried to make this long enough to satisfy. Reviews much appreciated.