WHEN THE WORLD IS COLD

Summary: After Neal is forced to escape, Kramer with his team comes to search June's house. A tag to Judgment Day.

A/N: This story might have never been published without my two amazing betas; GrayWolf84, who helped tremendously with the first draft of the story, and Winterstar/Dmk0064, who helped to polish it, fixed the grammar and gave me more insightful ideas. Thank you both!


"Justice is restoring order… not furthering chaos."

Peter Burke, Company Man


It's almost night when the agents finally leave June's house. When the door closes behind the last of them, June goes to the living room where her granddaughter is sitting in an armchair, one of the four that are placed around a small, beautifully carved table. Cindy's expression is one of shock and anger; her face a shade paler than usual, a glint of tears glimmering in her eyes.

"They're gone now," murmurs June.

Cindy gives her a wordless nod.

"Here you go," says their maid Julia as she enters carrying a tray with two big mugs of steaming tea, freshly cut lemon, a glass of honey, a bottle of brandy and teaspoons.

June gives her a warm, grateful smile. "Thank you, Julia."

June sits into another armchair and takes it upon herself to mix their drinks. She squeezes some lemon juice into the tea, pours in a little brandy and finally adds a spoon of honey their cups to make the flavor just the way they love it. The tea's sweet, pleasant scent fills the air. June carefully hands one of the mugs to Cindy.

"Thanks, Grandma," says Cindy quietly, still obviously shaken.

"It's okay, dear," says June and pats her arm with a sad smile. "It's okay."

Cindy sips her tea, and color slowly starts returning into her face. "I can't believe they did that," she suddenly exclaims in disbelief and anger. "I can't believe it… They can't just do this!"

"They can, and they did," corrects her June softly, though there is something grim and hard in her expression. "But don't make a mistake; our lawyer will hear about this. They've crossed a line. They won't get away with it."

Cindy bites her lip and shakes her head. "And Neal…" She looks into June's eyes. "Is he really gone, grandma?"

"We must assume so," says June. "I'm sure Peter will tell us more soon."

"It doesn't make sense," says Cindy and lifts her mug to her face. Then she hesitates, places it back on the saucer and adds another small spoon of honey and a few more drops of brandy before she picks it up again.

"I talked about it with Neal just a few days ago. Even with his commutation hearing coming up, he made it pretty clear that he wanted to stay around. Why would he run now?"

June sighs. "Unless Peter tells us or Neal sends us a message, we might never know for sure. But I can make an educated guess." She picks up her teaspoon and slowly starts to mix her tea. "You know your Grandpa had a lot of skeletons. With Neal, it wouldn't be any different." She frowns. "Before the hearing started, Mozzie spoke to me about the risks. He was worried what could happen if Neal's past came up."

"You think that's what happened?" asks Cindy.

"Maybe," says June. She lets out a half-amused, half-melancholic chuckle. "When Byron got out of prison, he insisted that we always have a contingency plan – especially after your mother was born. He created backup resources, prepared an escape route, and we agreed on several meeting points, the location changing by the circumstances of his disappearance, just in case we were separated. Thankfully, we never had to use any of them… but as charming and daring as he was, your grandfather had learned the wisdom of taking precautions." She pauses. "Although he still believed that improvising on spot was the best option."

"I hope Neal has plans as well," says Cindy. "Things would be bad for him if he got caught."

June smiles. "He would have prepared a plan," she says with certainty. "Or if not him, then Mozzie. If Neal has run, then they're most likely together." She finishes her tea and places the mug back at the table. "We must believe that they will be fine."

"I hope so," answers Cindy with a sigh.

It's almost half an hour since the FBI agents left when June stands up. "I need to go and see the damage. You don't have to come with me."

Cindy presses her lips together. "It's okay. I'll come."

"Thank you," says June, and her face momentarily lightens with a soft smile; then it hardens again. "And we'll need to use your camera. If we want to pursue this later, we need to take photos now."

Cindy takes a deep breath before she gives June a decisive nod. "Let's go, then."

o – o – o

June had been reading a book and listening to music when she heard the bell ring.

"Julia?" she called.

"There are some men outside," said Julia. "They look like police."

June frowned.

She had been visiting a friend earlier, and she had just returned home about ten minutes ago, when Julia had informed her that the police had been at her house earlier and had performed a brief search of the premises. At that point, June had been more annoyed than worried. Part of the paperwork she had signed when she had taken Neal in allowed the authorities to enter her home and perform a search in certain circumstances. However, it didn't happen often – in fact, June remembered only four past occurrences. After the first time when a group of rookie cops came to her home, she had spoken to a few friends in higher places and expressed her displeasure at having her house invaded just because someone wanted to prove his importance. They had mostly been left alone since.

Still, June figured that it was entirely possible that someone who wasn't exactly in favor of Neal's commutation hearing had authorized the search as a last petty jab at Neal and his past. She had her own share of experience dealing with police, and she had met quite a few of them who weren't above misusing their power or at least flaunting their position. The police visit could have easily been a case of someone boosting their ego, or it could have been a simple mistake – that had happened once, when there was a misunderstanding about the FBI cutting Neal's anklet.

But if the police were back, then June had to start considering other options. These options spoke big trouble.

Neal had promised to call once he had the news from his commutation hearing. It was now more than two hours since the board should have reached a conclusion. True, he could have forgotten…

But Neal rarely forgot.

June closed the book and bent down to stroke Bugsy's fur, finding relief in the familiar sensation.

"Let them in," she said to Julia and put her book aside. She got up from the couch, picked up Bugsy and went to meet her unexpected visitors.

There were six of them.

The nearest of them, an elderly man, shoved his badge right into June's face.

"FBI! Mrs. Ellington, we have a warrant to search your house."

"Excuse me?" said June and let Bugsy down. "Why?" she asked.

"That's not your concern, Madam," replied the old agent. He reached one hand into his jacket and pulled out a carefully folded paper that he handed to June. "The judge's order to search your house for a fugitive," he said. "We also have a warrant to search Neal Caffrey's apartment."

"May I see it?" asked June. What was going on?

"Of course," said the righteous-looking agent and promptly produced another officially looking document. "Now, Madam, could you show us inside?"

He almost pushed past her, but June stopped him. "Wait."

June carefully examined the paperwork. She was barely able to hide her surprise and displeasure when she noticed the details of the warrant for Neal's apartment; one that allowed the FBI to look for fake passports, IDs, credit cards and other similar things. From her experience, June knew that such a warrant allowed the agents to look pretty much everywhere.

Then she looked at the other warrant, and stilled.

"Are you satisfied now?" asked the leading agent impatiently.

June stared at the paperwork, not quite sure if she believed her eyes. "This – this thing says that you can search my house for Neal Caffrey, a fugitive from the law."

"Caffrey has escaped," explained one of the other agents.

"What?" asked June in disbelief.

"This isn't your concern, Mrs. Ellington," said the older agent. "Now, will you let us in?"

Still in shock, June once again looked at the document in her hands. It was the typical search warrant, allowing the agents to enter all the rooms in her house and examine the possible places where Neal could be hiding.

June tried to find a reason that would allow her to proclaim the warrants invalid. Unfortunately, everything seemed to be in order – the address, the date, the judge's signature that appeared to be genuine.

"A moment, please," said June.

The leading agent glowered. "Mrs. Ellington, if you're attempting to obstruct the investigation – "

"I have the right to make a call," interrupted him June. She ignored the irate look on the agent's face, went to get her phone and dialed Peter's number.

'This is Peter Burke's voice mail. Unfortunately, I can't take your call right now. Please leave me a message – '

June hung up.

She glanced at the warrants in her hand before she gave the agents a sharp nod. "It seems like I have no other option. Come in."

"Finally," said the leading agent. "Robert, Tina – start with Caffrey's rooms. We'll join you when we're done with the rest of the house."

"Yes, sir."

"Wait! Julia, please show them to Neal's apartment," said June before any of the agents had a chance to protest.

She might not be able to stop them, but she sure as hell wouldn't let them in any part of her house completely unsupervised.

The leading agent gave her a wordless nod before he and the rest of his team started to search June's house.

What followed was somehow worse and much more real than any of the police visits. June could only watch as the agents entered one room after another, knocked on the walls to find secret hideouts and opened wardrobes and cupboards in their search for Neal. She remained silent until they entered her own bedroom. This was June's most private place. Even Cindy rarely disturbed June here…

When Bugsy started to bark at the group, June had to pick him up and hold him close until he calmed down.

The agents opened June's wardrobe and went through her coats and dresses. They took down her mirror. With clinical precision, they violated the room where June and Byron had made love; where she imagined could occasionally smell his scent if she closed her eyes –

Bugsy barked.

"That's enough!" exclaimed June angrily when one of the agents lifted the blanket from her bed. "Or you really think Neal would be that stupid to return to this house and that he'd hide under the bed in my room?"

The group's leader didn't even look at her when he answered: "Neal Caffrey has walked out of Supermax in plain daylight, wearing a guard's uniform. It's his calling card to do the brazen and unexpected. I won't let him slip away just because we underestimate him. Besides, we're done here anyway."

June bit back her retort. She fought the urge to slam the door to her bedroom once the agents finally exited.

The search continued for ten more minutes before the agents were satisfied.

"I think that's it," said an agent when they once again found themselves standing in the hallway.

The leading agent nodded. "I agree. Let's go help Tina and Robert."

"Follow me," June had said curtly.

o – o – o

"I'm ready, Grandma," says Cindy when she reappears with her camera.

Even Cindy's room had been searched. And June considers it a small mercy that Cindy hadn't been present earlier; when the agents entered her room in their search for the escaped felon…

They go upstairs, until they reach the third floor.

Taking a deep breath, June places her hand on the door's handle. She mentally prepares herself for the damage inside. She presses the handle down and enters the apartment.

She hears Cindy's soft gasp behind herself.

June has already seen this once. It shouldn't come as a surprise anymore. And yet…

What was once a beautiful, welcoming apartment is now a scenery of chaos. June feels incredibly old… and helpless.

The framed poster that has been hanging next to the door is now leaned against the wall on the floor; the poster itself torn in two pieces, the broken glass swept away by one of the agents. Another painting is hanging only by one corner and has its canvass sliced open, while the rest of them have been taken of the walls, pictures separated from their frames.

The floor lamp from the dining area has been overturned and then rearranged back into its place. Cupboards are thrown open, and the mess on kitchen shelves show apparent signs that someone has examined them. The agents have found most of the secret caches, and June notices a few scratches on the furniture where they probably searched for more.

One of the agents has emptied the trash can on the floor and examined its contents. Since it had been towards the end of their search, they didn't bother to clean up the mess afterwards – they just threw their used latex gloves on the top of the pile.

This is supposed to be justice.

Feeling slightly ill, June peeks into the bathroom, knowing that the agents have been there as well, and yet hoping against hope that it might have been somewhat spared during this madness.

The smell of a smashed men perfume flask and bottles of body-care products carelessly rearranged back into the cupboard dissuade her from her illusions.

"Grandma…?" whispers Cindy behind her.

June steels herself and exits the bathroom.

o – o – o

June had given Bugsy to Julia. When they left, she tersely watched as the FBI agents started tearing Neal's apartment apart.

The agents had been more than thorough.

Inch by inch, they started examining the whole flat. They looked behind paintings, threw open the drawers, pulled away the carpet and knocked on the walls for secret caches. June winced when she saw the way the agents handled the kitchen equipment, and she was angered by their apparent lack of caring as they slowly turned the previously tidy, clean rooms into something more resembling a war zone. She wished she could chuck them out, but unfortunately, that was not an option.

Suddenly, she deeply wished that Byron was with her now. Even if his charm and sharp wit hadn't been enough to handle these… men, at least he would have been here as her support.

"I feel I need to apologize for all of this," spoke someone behind her in an undertone.

June turned around. It was the group's leading agent.

"I understand this can't be easy for you," said the senior agent with what probably should have been sympathy. "Unfortunately, we have no choice but to carry out this unpleasant task."

"That's interesting, Agent…"

"Philip Kramer. I'm from the DC Arts Crime Unit."

"That's interesting, Agent Kramer," repeated June. "You don't seem particularly upset about any of this."

Not to mention he had those warrants ready awfully fast…

"We're only doing our job, Madam," said the agent. "The moment he cut his anklet, Neal Caffrey has once again become a threat to the society. It is our duty to ensure that he is apprehended as quickly as possible before he gets to do any more damage."

June was rendered momentarily speechless.

"You're… you're calling Neal a threat?" she asked at last.

"Of course, Madam. Caffrey may not be a murderer or a rapist, but he is still a very real threat to the orderly lives of American citizens – "

"I can't believe this!" exclaimed June in true anger. "After all he has done in the last two years – how dare you!"

The agent looked like he was about to pat her shoulder, but thankfully for him, he changed his mind in the last moment – otherwise June might have been tempted to break his arm. "Mrs. Ellington, I know this must be very upsetting for you," he said instead. "If it makes you feel better, you're by far not the first victim that Caffrey has deceived. Even someone as experienced as Agent Burke has fallen for his games – "

"If you really think that, then you obviously don't know a thing about either of them," interrupted June.

"Now listen to me, Madam – "

"No, you listen," said June. "I've watched these two for two years. I've seen them tease and chatter with each other, and I've been there when they went through some pretty rough times. Together, as friends. Now, I don't know where you're coming from, or what your problem with Neal is, and frankly, I don't care. But don't talk about things you clearly know nothing about."

The agent had narrowed his eyes. "I think I know more than enough, Mrs. Ellington."

o – o – o

June, followed by Cindy, enters the closet room, where Byron's suits (Neal's suits) are lying on one big pile on the floor.

This is the one that Neal worn the day when Ford was arrested. They danced for maybe an hour, until the recorder stopped to play…

Some day, when I'm awfully low,

When the world is cold,

I will feel a glow just thinking of you...

And the way you look tonight.

There's no music, just silence.

June's heart clenches in a mixture of grief and anger.

Lovely ... don't you ever change.

Keep that breathless charm –

June harshly cuts off the memory before it affects her even more.

Too late.

Neal's smiles, Mozzie's visit, the feeling of adventure and pure joy that they brought to her house –

Where is Neal now? Is he safe? Is he with Mozzie? She hopes that despite the circumstances, he rejoices in his newfound freedom; or that he will once he gets over the initial sadness of leaving his old life behind –

They're gone.

The two con men have disappeared from her life. She has lost them, all over again.

June's startled when someone takes her hand.

For a second, she imagines it is Byron – but despite the ten years passed, she would recognize his touch even in her sleep.

She feels the gentle, unassuming compassion and love when the small hand squeezes hers.

She squeezes back. Then she lifts her head and looks into her granddaughter's eyes.

"Cindy?" she speaks. "The photos. Don't touch any of this, and start taking photos."

o – o – o

"Caffrey is a felon and swindler who has repeatedly made a complete mockery of the US laws and the whole FBI!" Kramer had exclaimed as their argument escalated.

"Neal is an intelligent, compassionate, fine young man. He is a far better person than you could ever understand."

"I believe I understand Neal just fine," said the agent. "Although I should have anticipated that he would run the moment some of his schemes came in light. He escaped because he was afraid to face justice. That's how great person he really is, Mrs. Ellington."

"You…" June clutched her fists so fiercely that she dug her nails deep into her palms. "You caused this? You made him run?"

"How could I make him run? … Caffrey made his decision," said Kramer flatly.

June shook her head. "You took a good man away from his friends and home."

"A good man who has robbed countless people?" opposed the agent. "Neal has done this all to himself."

"If you always judge everyone so quickly, then I pity you," said June simply.

Kramer's expression hardened. "Your faith in people is admirable, but I pity you for your naivety and blindness, Mrs. Ellington," said the agent. "Although I'm curious how you maintained them. You must have been disappointed quite often in your life."

"Not quite so often," said June. "And when I wasn't… some of those moments led to the happiest times I've ever lived."

o – o – o

Now, as June and Cindy return back to the biggest area of the apartment, June braces herself and looks at the dining room.

Justice, Kramer had called it.

Neal may have been a thief and a confidence man, but he never would have treated another's possessions like this.

Justice.

There is so much more to it than following a set of rules; more than living by the law. Justice is to do the right thing. Justice doesn't make excuses – but at the same time, it walks hand in hand with understanding, mercy and forgiveness; the qualities of a good heart.

Peter Burke has those in spades, thinks June.

Justice has many faces and many roles, but there is always a line not to be crossed. When served harshly and without wisdom, the ways of law could cross into oppression, creating pain and harm to everyone, even innocent people. And while justice could sometime mean retribution, it must never turn into revenge.

Somewhere in the course of time, thinks June, Agent Kramer has forgotten that true justice isn't blind.

o – o – o

"Excuse me, Madam," one of the agents had said apologetically to June. "I need you to move over now to search this part of the kitchen. You can go to the door to the entrance to the balcony or take a seat on the couch – "

"Martinez!" barked Kramer suddenly.

A young man, who looked like he was in his late twenties or early thirties, stopped examining the bookcase and turned. "Yes, sir?"

Kramer gave him a long look. "Is this your first time while performing a search of someone's apartment?" he asked at last.

"No, sir. I've been present to two other occasions when we had a warrant – "

"In that case, I expect better work from you," interrupted Kramer.

The younger agent frowned. "What do you mean, sir?"

A woman a few steps away from him pulled out her knife and started to swiftly cut the seams of the seat cushions and examine the damaged furniture.

Martinez looked at her in shock. "What are you doing?" he asked with a hint of alarm.

"Credit cards, passports, driver's licenses," said the woman. "He could hide any of it here."

"Thank you, Margaret," said Kramer.

Martinez frowned. "Sir, I don't think this is necessary. Caffrey wouldn't have – "

"If you can't handle this because you knew Caffrey from the office, then you should have said so earlier," said Kramer. "But now I expect you to do your job properly. If Caffrey has made any mistakes, then we will find them. I'm not letting him slip away because of someone's delicate feelings."

June could practically feel the young man's unease and hesitation.

"Are you going to purposefully sabotage this search?" asked Kramer after a moment of silence.

"No, of course not!" exclaimed the young agent.

"Then get back to your work and try to be more thorough," ordered Kramer flatly.

The other agent still looked hesitant, before he sharply nodded his head. "Yes, sir," he replied.

Then he had turned his attention back to the bookcase.

o – o – o

June struggles when she picks up a book and it falls apart in her hands. The book's spine has been clearly cut into two pieces. Before June took Neal in as her tenant, she used his apartment like a very fancy storage room.

She hears Cindy's soft gasp, even as she diligently continues snapping the camera.

June's vision starts to blur. She resolutely wipes away the wetness from her eyes and forces herself to continue.

This was her favorite story book as she was growing up. And this – this was a photo album that she lent Neal about two weeks ago, because it had some beautiful pictures of Venice and Rio de Janeiro, two places that Neal has never seen himself (and June couldn't believe him, she laughed at the idea when Neal insisted that yes, he had traveled through half of the world, but he didn't stay in Italy for long enough to see the city of gondolas)

Maybe now he'll finally find the time to visit Venice and send her a postcard.

Several of the photos of Byron and her have fallen out. June picks up one – she almost laughs at just how young they were, she in the flowery dress, Byron in his finest suit and hat – this picture was taken just a few months after their anniversary; and on this one, she was already pregnant for the first time –

The next one is a Neal's favorite book of poetry, and the other she randomly picks up is a zoology atlas of amphibians and reptiles.

Several other bigger books have their spines cut as well. The whole bookcase has been emptied; almost all the books have been taken out of the shelves and rearranged into neat columns on the floor, as a mockery of tidiness and order.

June tries to blink away the tears of despair and helpless anger forming in her eyes.

She's not new to con men and their secrets, so she knows that Neal had a book or two with secret compartments in them. Objectively speaking, he could have hidden something here – an insurance card, a fake ID or two, maybe even a coded list with his potential escape plans.

But was it necessary to take apart the whole library in search of those?

As June walks further through the disarrayed apartment, she steps on something and hears something break. She bends down and picks up one of Neal's paintbrushes – using some justification June doesn't necessarily understand, the FBI have confiscated Neal's art supplies as "evidence", so this one must have been forgotten and left behind.

Clenching the broken paintbrush in her hand as some ridiculous sort of talisman or protection, June takes a deep breath and enters Neal's bedroom.

o – o – o

June's eyes had burned through the agent. "I'll remember your name, Mr. Kramer."

The man lifted his eyebrows. "Is that a threat, Madam?"

"But of course not," answered June with a sweet smile. "It's always a pleasure to welcome the FBI into my house. After all, you're only doing your duty."

"The pleasure's all mine," replied Kramer.

Suddenly, the door to the apartment opened and Cindy burst into the room. Then she stopped dead in her tracks. "Grandma?" she asked weakly. "What's going on here?"

"It's all right, Cindy," said June with steel in her voice.

One of the agents knocked over Neal's easel.

"What are you doing?" exclaimed Cindy and tried to interfere.

June clutched her shoulder and stopped her. "Go downstairs, Cindy," she ordered in quiet, firm voice.

"But Grandma – "

"Go downstairs," repeated June. "Ask Julia to make us a strong tea and bring it to our living room. I'll join you once we're done here."

"Your grandmother is right, Miss," said Kramer. "You wouldn't want to be accused of obstructing the legal process, now would you?"

June buried her fingers deep into Cindy's shoulder, gritting her teeth together. "Go, Cindy," she repeated one last time.

Cindy stared at the agent with barely suppressed anger. Then she sagged her shoulders in defeat and turned around to leave the room. She stopped in the doorway and shot one last look at all the mess.

"Screw you," she said clearly. Then she closed the door behind her and left.

o – o – o

The bedroom is the worst. They looked behind the mirror. They looked under the mattress. They looked behind the painting hideout. And aside from that –

Outwards, June appears calm. She remains strong. She lets Cindy take the rest of the pictures. She –

(steps over Neal's sketch of what appears to be Sara's figure that is crumbled on the floor)

– maintains her serenity.

When Cindy's finally done, June pats her shaking shoulder and leads her back downstairs to the living room. Here, she takes the brandy and pours some of it right into their empty mugs. She and Cindy clink the mugs and drink.

Slowly, June pulls Cindy in a strong hug. That's when Cindy's forced calm and bravery finally fails her and she starts to sob quietly into June's shoulder. June just pulls her closer and watches their seemingly innocent surroundings.

Here, it looks like nothing has changed.

In truth, their lives have just been turned upside-down.

Neal is gone.

o – o – o

Despite how strongly she had begun to detest Kramer since he had crossed her doorstep, June now almost wished he was still talking to her. At least their verbal sparring distracted her a little from watching the agents creating havoc all around her. Now Kramer had joined his people, making sure that they "didn't miss anything", and June felt like a stranger in her own house.

– "Sir? I found this in his bedroom."

– "He drew a lot of pictures of these people…"

– "Hey! Careful about the –" – Crash!

– "No sign of a laptop or an itinerary…"

– "The CDs are just music and movies…"

"Take them into evidence," said Kramer. "I won't trust anything from this apartment until I look at it personally.

As she observed the viciousness of Kramer's search, June felt her anger growing into hot rage.

This was no longer even an illusion of justice. This was evil, pure and simple.

And she was helpless to stop it from happening.

o – o – o

When June calls Peter to tell him what has happened, he unhappily tells her that the warrant has been real indeed and the search officially approved – and that Neal is truly gone. He promises to drop by and give her full details as soon as he can.

June wishes him luck and promises to be patient.

Peter finally comes over two days later, looking haggard and tired, and tells her the whole story.

They're sitting in the same room as June and Cindy on the day of Neal's escape when Peter tells June his doubts.

"I panicked," he admits. "When Kramer brought up Neal's old crimes, and I imagined Neal tethered for life… but what if I've made a wrong call? Now he's a fugitive again. If he's ever caught, I won't be able to help him. We could have fought this legally."

Legally…

June thinks about the state of Neal's apartment. She thinks about the talk she had with her lawyer ('Pursuing this is questionable, the chances of success are low, it might be a waste of your time.'). Then she shakes her head.

"You've done the right thing" she says.

Peter gives her a feeble smile. "So Elizabeth keeps telling me."

"Then you should trust your wife," advises June.

Silence.

"What about you?" she asks after a while.

The agent sighs. "Kramer wanted to make sure that I didn't interfere with the case. He accused me of allowing Neal to escape, and – I don't think he realized himself how much heat it would bring."

He shakes his head and snorts. "They're putting me on administrative leave, and the OPR and DOJ already started an investigation against me. Philip actually apologized to me for that. He said he wanted to protect me; that if I wanted, he could speak in my favor." He chuckles humorlessly. "El thinks I should have told him where he could stuff his apologies. Instead, I acted like a good, sensible agent, thanked him for his concern and told him I can take care of myself." He pauses. "At least I'm now reasonably sure he won't come after Diana or Sara. Though if someone blows open the whole Raphael thing –"

"He appreciates it, you know," says June.

Peter pauses, then his jaw drops. "What – what do you mean?" He jumps up from his seat, and looks at her with an expression that radiates hope and anxiety. "Have you spoken to him?"

"No. But I know him," replies June simply. "He knows what you've done for him. Wherever he is, he's probably thinking about us right now. I'm sure of that."

"I brought Kramer into this," says Peter. "I took Neal as my consultant; I caught him. I've allowed this to happen –"

"You helped Neal build a real life here," opposes June gently. "You became his friend. Despite your occasional differences, you helped him to find a new home. And when it became necessary, you set him free."

Peter remains silent.

"You've done what you had to," says June. "Don't doubt yourself."

"You think he'll be fine?" asks Peter at last.

June smiles. "Of course," she says simply. "Neal is very resourceful. And he has good friends."

o – o – o

"We're done," said one of the agents eventually.

Kramer turned to her. "Mrs. Ellington, do you have any idea where Caffrey might be hiding?"

"No, I don't," replied June.

"Mrs. Ellington, are you aware that if you're lying to me, you're aiding a fugitive? The consequences of such a deed – "

"I know the consequences, Agent Kramer," June interrupted him. "And Neal would never put me in this position. I have no idea of his location."

Kramer considered her. "Caffrey could have had hiding places outside of his rooms. We might need to search the rest of the house in detail – "

"In that case, you'll have to bring a warrant with those stipulations," stated June resolutely.

"Of course," replied the agent after a momentary pause.

"I'm glad that we understand each other. Now, if that's all, get out of my house."

o – o – o

It's almost midnight when June finds herself staring at the huge map on the wall in Byron's study.

No, she doesn't know where Neal is.

Mozzie, on the other hand…

During one of their strictly hypothetical talks, June discovered that there are several islands with no extradition treaties that Mozzie finds interesting. And while she doesn't know… she thinks she could make a pretty good guess.

If it ever comes to that, June might make a suggestion to Peter about where he should start looking.

But not yet.

June's hand slides down to the pocket of her vest. When she pulls it out and opens her palm, she's holding the two broken pieces of Neal's paintbrush.

Broken and lost.

June stares at the tiny pieces of wood. Then she takes a deep breath and puts them back in her pocket.

And with that, she finds a new wave of determination.

She can't do anything for Neal directly; his current situation is too complicated. But there are other options. Her mind turns not to those on the run – Neal and Mozzie – but to those who he had to leave behind.

Peter and Elizabeth Burke. Sara Ellis. Even that agent, Diana Barrigan.

June has contacts – both between wealthy people and in the criminal underground. She can call in a few favors, make some polite requests, drop a word here or there. She knows she won't be able to stop the storm that's brewing, but maybe she can help to make things at least a bit easier for these people.

These people. Her acquaintances. Neal's friends.

There are so many things that she can do. For one thing, she can have Neal's apartment restored. She can invite Sara Ellis for tea; she has heard the young woman is barely holding up. And if Peter's former mentor doesn't leave them alone… she just might suggest to someone to help her turn Kramer's attention to other problems, because if June has to, she can play pretty dirty as well. With all the joy Neal has brought into her life, she owes him as much.

She has to believe that one day, true justice and law will meet again. One day, Neal will be able come back.

This isn't over yet.

THE END


The lyrics used aren't mine, but they come from Frank Sinatra's wonderful song "The Way You Look Tonight".

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