Neal was following Jones, his thoughts lost to what was going on around him as he wondered where Peter was. It seemed the agent was strangely absent as they approached the convoy and he saw a Marshal open up the door to the SUV for him. He was barely 10 feet away when he saw a few agents and Marshal's get defensive, an odd noise distracting him as he turned to see Mozzie hurrying over despite being on crutches with his busted leg. Jones had turned to see what was up and then called out an all clear as the other con man approached them without any sort of fear. Jones didn't look happy.
"What are you doing here, Mozz? This is a secure area. Nobody's allowed back here."
Jones was being nice but there was a certain edge to his voice, Neal seeing the look in his friend's eyes. Something was up so he intervened, holding up his handcuffed wrists.
"Let me... a few minutes?"
The agent looked a little concerned but finally nodded, standing nearby and not all that far away. Mozzie didn't seem perturbed at all by the presence of the agents which made Neal wonder what was going on.
"Mozz... what's up? You're not supposed to be here!"
If not for his colleagues present someone might have shot his friend or at least tackled him. Mozzie blinked up at him owlishly.
"Inario... He's somewhere close."
Mozzie's tone was dire and he reached up as if to pat Neal's hand in a comforting gesture but he felt a hidden pin there to help him out of the cuffs around his wrists. He shook his head, playing along but not taking the item as he sighed and saw the disappointed look.
"I have enough protection and I'm not without means. Thanks, Mozz. Just keep an ear out around Elizabeth and June."
The little guy frowned slightly but then nodded, moving back as he raised his hands (pin free now) and started to hobble away with his arms still up.
"I'm unarmed Suits... don't make me a martyr!"
Neal rolled his eyes, Jones moving closer and leading him again towards the open SUV as he leaned a bit over and spoke quietly.
"Caffrey, what did Mozz say about Inario?"
The agent had heard enough, Neal whispering back.
"He said he was near but with all these agents and Marshal's I don't think he can do much. I told Mozz to watch El and June."
The agent nodded, eyes gazing around slightly in alert mode as he handed him off to the Marshal but stayed close. The other man seemed slightly annoyed as he took Neal and helped him into the vehicle. It was dimly lit inside, windows darkly tinted as he slid into the vehicle. The door was shut but he suddenly sensed someone behind him, head turning to face a gun. He swallowed hard as the masked figure glared at him, cocking the gun back. Neal couldn't speak for a moment uncertain what to do as the figure slowly removed their ski mask and revealed themselves.
The agent just stared at him silently, those brown eyes eclipsed by dilated pupils. He'd been drugged and from the looks of it Neal thought he knew with what. There were no words, Peter's index finger starting to pull the trigger back...
He couldn't think of anything else to say, the argument coming back into his mind and everything he'd felt guilty about making him think this was justified. Peter seemed to hesitate but he didn't notice as he continued to talk.
"I was pig-headed and stubborn, Peter. I did everything you told me not to and it was my fault. I should have been the bigger man and apologized. You were right... I should have listened to you. I'm sorry."
It had all spilled out, all the guilt he had been feeling and the little bit of angst that made him think he deserved what was going to happen but Peter... would he remember anything? He was still uncertain about so many things due to the drug's effects.
The agent was suddenly trembling, hand shaking as his finger remained stuck on the trigger ready to kill him. There was something dripping from those brown eyes: tears. Peter was with him if only a little bit but it was enough. Maybe... maybe there was a way around the drug's effects as he continued to talk hoping it would help.
"You're the only one I ever trusted. I... don't know if you'll remember any of this but... I need to be honest with you..."
Neal just started to talk, telling the agent about his past in detail and how he had worshiped his father and so many other things that had led up to his current situation. He told him about Ellen and what she had done for him. Things just spilled from his lips he never thought he could say but hoped would be enough now to sway his friend from whatever he had been told to do. Slowly the gun started to slip from the agent's hand as he swayed where he knelt in the rear of the vehicle and seemed to be focusing on him. Neal reached over, hands still cuffed and gently hugged his friend, the agent gazing at him curiously when the driver's door opened and he turned to see a Marshal there. Suddenly he recognized the figure as he heard the doors locked, trapping them and saw a gun pulled out.
"You play a convincing good guy, Caffrey but everyone's going to think you were trying to escape."
Neal froze, uncertain what to do as the man suddenly yelled: "He has a GUN!"
Everything seemed to move in slow-motion, Neal seeing the gun go off but feeling himself pushed aside as another sound exploded not too far from his ears. He thought he saw the bullets moving inch by inch as the one for him hit the car seat and the false Marshal suddenly bucked and fell back as he was hit by Peter's shot. Neal looked to see if his friend was hurt as Peter collapsed against the rear door.
"Peter? No... please... no... JONES!"
He was calling for help, reaching over the seat for his friend in the back of the vehicle but having problems with the cuffs in the way. The gun lay on the back seat where he knelt as he started to climb over. The doors were suddenly unlocked and sunlight flooded the dark interior. He held up his hands when he saw a gun pointed at him again, this time by Jones who put it down when he saw who and what, calling for help from others around there as someone went to check the downed man.
"Caffrey what's... Peter? Why is he there?"
Jones was looking at the semi-conscious form of his boss and the gun on the back seat, obviously trying to piece together a few things when other agents and Marshal's moved in and Neal was pulled aside. The back door was opened up and a doctor from the hospital was there to look at Peter who was obviously out of it.
"We need to get him inside. Anyone know what he was given?"
Neal started to raise his hand, the Marshal pulling him back but Jones moved over and took control.
"Tell him, Caffrey."
Jones was uncuffing him now, several dirty looks their way as Neal showed them, searching Peter and finding the small patch on the nape of his neck. The doctor thanked him as more medical crew showed with a stretcher and carried the agent away, Neal wanting to go but Jones held him back.
"Wait... we still need to know who shot that gun at the Marshal, Caffrey."
He was eying him curiously but Neal wasn't sure what to say seeing as either way he was going to be viewed as suspicious.
"I did. That wasn't a Marshal but Inario Bertucci. Check him out."
They moved around the vehicle as more medics arrived from the hospital to assist as the Marshal's confirmed it.
"He's not one of ours but he has our uniform. What's going on here?"
There was confusion as Jones realized that Neal was telling the truth and called Blake over as Diana joined them.
"I've been looking for Peter... is that?"
Jones nodded, explaining quickly what happened and then turning to Blake as Diana glanced curiously at Neal. The con felt sick as he watched them take his friend away, worry eating at him.
"Take Caffrey inside and keep a sharp eye on him and Agent Burke."
The rookie nodded as he walked with him and Diana. Neal glanced back at Jones thankfully who nodded back before he turned to take over the situation. He was glad in a way now that they had Inario but he wasn't sure if the man was dead or alive. Peter had shot him nearly point blank range under duress and much as the agent could take care of himself, Neal had lied to protect him from the damage shooting might cause. He was technically already in trouble and the shot was in self-defense whether he did it or not. Better the spotlight stay on him than move to his partner. Peter had enough to worry about being drugged.
Neal glanced up to see they were inside and Diana was speaking to him. She was pointing at a waiting area to sit as Blake accompanied him. Diana walked over to a nurse on the tail end of the group with Peter as the agent was wheeled into the OR. They were talking as Neal sat there and tried not to think so hard. Peter would be ok. If Neal had to do some time so be it but at least they knew Inario was caught. He saw one of the other Marshal's come in and glance around them look over at him with a narrow eyed glance as he walked over towards the con. He felt like shrinking back a bit and disappearing but the man turned from him to Blake.
"I was told to say he's your responsibility again. We'll be in touch."
Blake looked a bit surprised as he nodded and the Marshal left them. Diana walked back over after a moment curious what had just happened but looking relieved for other reasons.
"Blake, what did the Marshal say?"
They spoke a moment and she nodded a smile curving her lips upwards as she pointed at Neal and he perked up.
"You're back under our custody. I'll have to call Hughes to see what's happening but they said we can visit with Peter in a few minutes. They're just getting him checked out and then putting him in a room for observation. I called Elizabeth."
She seemed to notice how relieved he was, a hand squeezing his shoulder.
"Come along, Caffrey. I think you'll be ok once they get Inario talking. They're pulling a bullet from his chest now but he'll live."
Diana was smiling at him ever so slightly as he nodded and followed.
Peter didn't remember too much after the walk down the hallway from his room. He came to with a fuzzy memory of being placed in the back of a large vehicle, an SUV he thought but his head lay on the carpeting in the hatchback area as someone whispered words to him. He nodded sleepily uncertain what it was they were saying on a conscious level but he responded before laying there in a semi-conscious state until...
Someone was in the vehicle, a familiar scent of cologne hitting his nose and waking him up. It wasn't a particularly strong scent just enough to know he was supposed to respond as he heard the door shut and semi-darkness filled the quarters as he pulled something down over his face and lifted a heavy cool metal object in his hands. It only took a moment for two frightened blue eyes to stare back at him in surprised and terror. Something about them was familiar but he had orders as he started to cock the gun, index finger pulling back on the trigger.
The words startled him but not so much as his response to the person saying them. His mind told him this was odd but also something honest, something he had waited for. Two simple words that he would normally not believe but this time he did and a part of him paused what they were doing to listen as words spilled forth he could little understand or hear but still resonated with him until he seemed to feel his mind waking.
That voice was worried about him, so much emotion there that he just wanted to respond but still was unable to wake up completely as arms wrapped around him in a strong brotherly hug. He did the same, a familiarity there he was clinging to in the fog before he heard that voice. His vision was still unfocused as he saw the man behind his friend. Suddenly he was focusing on a weapon but not the one in his hands as it went off and he did all he could to respond in kind. It was automatic as he pushed Neal aside and shot. He was waiting to be hit but something else hit him even harder as he slumped back, his consciousness starting to fade away. Was his friend ok? Blue eyes seemed to stare down at him worriedly before his own rolled back and he passed out in the darkness.
He's going to be ok... The doctor said he's reacting better than you did to the same drug. Lower dosage but he'll have some withdrawals as you did. Thank you, Neal.
Someone was talking, his mind starting to wake up but his body remained still and sleeping. He wanted to respond, his urge to answer great as he felt himself swimming up against the darkness towards a light.
I didn't do anything... El.
This other voice sounded sullen but relieved. There was pain in their tone and something else that made him want to reach out and knock some sense into them. It was a different feeling he had towards them, both brotherly and fatherly all at once and yet he really just wanted to hug them and say he was sorry. He wasn't really sure why as he kept clawing his way up through the darkness and finally heard an audible gasp. Had he made a sound or had someone else made it?
He's waking up... Hun? Peter?
They still sounded as if he were listening from a great distance but slowly his body started to awaken and he could hear them much closer.
"I'll call the doctor..."
Someone rose and he heard soft footsteps, someone gently brushing at his hair and kissing him on the forehead softly. A scent of lightly perfumed hair as it brushed his face. He knew the presence and slowly his eyes opened and peered up into bright blue eyes. They were worried but happy as he felt his own lips curve upwards.
Elizabeth hugged him closer, careful of his hurt shoulder as he glanced around looking for something or someone. Had he imagined them or had they gone? His wife noticed, a smile firmly planted on her lips but the worry remained in her eyes.
"Neal's gone to find the doctor. We've been waiting for you, sleepy head."
She continued to gently brush his hair with her hand as he tried to find his voice but suddenly felt nausea. El seemed to know, grabbing up a trashcan and holding it under him as he sat up on his side and threw up. There wasn't much there but he felt worse for wear once the spasm ended and he lay back exhausted with his wife's help. She rose and he heard her soft steps across the floor, water running then something cool placed over his forehead and a cup held up to his lips.
"Drink... slowly, hun."
The taste in his mouth was too much so he swirled the water first, El holding the trashcan back up for him to spit into then he drank the rest. Peter felt tired but he held his wife's hand like a life preserver and she squeezed back.
He had finished the water nodding his head without speaking. Peter wasn't sure what he would say, his thoughts still confused as so many fuzzy thoughts swam around but strayed far enough he couldn't chase them to reveal themselves. They both turned when they heard the door open and two figures entered.
"I see the patient has finally waken."
El talked to the middle aged woman, their voices disappearing into the background as he started to feel a bit more awake. He remembered this doctor, the same one who had helped him before when he was asking about Neal. What was her name? She smiled softly at them, moving closer as she did a quick exam checking his eyes with a penlight, feeling for his pulse and listening to his breathing. The doctor looked content, her smile broadening just enough to show he was doing better.
"I think you're going to survive but it looks like you're having some of the nasty side effects your friend had. I'll have them add some anti-nausea meds to your IV but you should be free to go tomorrow I think. Rest, Agent Burke."
The doctor smiled at them both, turning to leave and pausing as Neal talked to her and then she nodded and left. The con stayed by the door looking hesitant about something as Peter narrowed his gazed at the younger man, a slight squeeze bringing his attention back to his wife who was giving him a certain look. She leaned over to kiss him on the forehead, whispering softly.
"Be nice, Peter. It's been a long day for everyone."
She was expecting him to reply but he had yet to speak, his mouth tasting bad from being sick and his throat dry as he finally spoke.
"Ok... hun. Water?"
He saw her smile down at him, nodding approval as she rose to get him more water and now he had a clear view of the CI standing by the door looking like he wanted to run away. What was going on that Elizabeth told him to be nice much more why did he feel like he felt sorry for the kid. He had some fuzzy thoughts about things he sort of guessed about Neal but only thought might be true, the ideas fading as his wife returned with the water and stood up.
"I need to leave a moment, hun. That meeting with the client was cut short. He's paging me again. I'm sorry."
She looked annoyed at the cell but he understood, his own job having taken him from her at times. They were both so dedicated to their jobs but it was the time they took from work to have dinner and time together that helped bring them closer. El stopped to quickly say something he couldn't hear to his partner who nodded and looked back at him as if he were getting arrested. Had Caffrey done something he didn't remember. Peter sighed as he sat up a bit more and got comfy with his hurt arm, good hand holding the cup of water as he sipped it slowly. Neal finally walked over that facade suddenly in place as he tentatively sat down where El had been and shifted uncomfortably.
"Hey Peter... how's the head?"
Neal seemed genuinely worried about him, not that Peter doubted his friend was concerned but there was definitely something hidden behind the little facade his friend had up. Peter sighed as he thought what to say, head aching from the drugs as if he had a hang over.
"Like I had too much bourbon or scotch. What happened?"
He had heard the doctor's voice telling his wife something about him being drugged but he had been distracted by other thoughts that revolved around his partner and friend. Neal gave a little frown that wasn't from the mask he wore.
"Inario. He drugged you, tried to kidnap me and... I shot him."
His voice hesitated but it was genuinely angry about what happened, Peter only seeing a faint vision of the incident but seeing enough of his partner to think he was telling the truth. He couldn't detect any falsehood through the anger as he nodded tiredly, reaching up as he balanced the empty cup on his chest to squeeze Neal's shoulder.
"You did the right thing, Neal. I... I wish I'd been there to help. Thanks."
He saw a flash of something, brief but it was there as he said that but Neal just gave a nod and seemed to be trying to figure something out.
"What are partners... friends for? Get better, Peter. Rest."
Neal was telling him to rest? The man who nearly got himself killed trying to chase someone at the beginning of all this mess? He sighed, nodding and trying not to bring up the past. It could be discussed later when everything was calmer. He heard the door open, Neal excusing himself as Elizabeth returned and the young man left. As much as he wanted to stop worrying, he felt a sense that something was being kept from him as his wife sat down, her eyes staring back sadly at his partner.
"He told you... didn't he? I told Neal to wait..."
Peter wasn't sure what she meant, blinking up at her with a confused look. What was it he was missing?
"Everyone knows it was self-defense. They're trying to say he's dangerous if he can shoot another person..."
Suddenly she paused and put a hand to her mouth as if realizing her mistake.
"Hun... I... I thought he told you. Peter..."
He felt some confusion, the memory of a gun being shot in his mind's eye but seeing the weapon in his own hands. Maybe it was the drugs confusing him and he only thought he had shot at Inario but it felt right despite what he was being told.
"No... Neal didn't tell me. Does Reese know what's going on? Neal's already been through enough without more trouble."
Peter wanted to get out of bed now but his head ached too much and he was tired if not grumpy from the day's events. He started to feel himself slump back against the pillows, El making him comfy as his eye lids grew heavier and he started falling asleep. She kissed him gently on the lips, Peter reciprocating as sleep overcame him.
"You can talk to him later, hun. Rest."
Neal walked the hallways, Blake his shadow since he was supposed to be under guard as a suspect. They were giving him leeway, Jones knowing he wasn't going to run and they still had him on anklet, the radius reduced to the hospital grounds. Neal was not happy at the moment but it was his own doing this time. He had taken on the responsibility of the shooting in hopes of helping Peter but he was hurting himself in the process. He didn't see it as bad because he was already considered a suspect. Better that eyes were on him rather than a good man who didn't need the attention. Peter was a good person.
He paused, turning to see Blake pointing at his watch. He nodded, seeing they were at the edge of the floor. He wasn't supposed to go too far from Peter's room but they were on the far side of the corridor and Neal would prefer to stay on what little good side he could still be on. They turned and he started back, Blake taking the rear but still staying close to his side. If anything, Neal wanted to run but not from his friends. He just wanted to not be himself for one day, do as Peter wanted and go back to things before he was a con but what would be the fun of that. It was the con in him that got results even if he had a tendency to think beyond the usual violence and mayhem. That was what kept Mozzie at his side, the fact he didn't turn on people and his non-violence. He sighed deeply. Nobody could know he hadn't pulled the trigger...
"Home again... Thanks for the walk, Blake."
The agent nodded, pointing at the room but he shook his head as he sat outside with the rookie. He didn't want to see Peter for a few minutes. His conscience was bothering him as he leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes. He was doing the right thing... sacrifice was good if it was for the right reasons and this was just that.
Neal opened his eyes to see Hughes there along with Jones. They looked like they were here on official business as he stood, the older agent and junior agent glancing at him curiously.
He wasn't sure what was happening as Reese put an arm around his shoulders in a friendly way and nodded for Jones to follow.
"Let's take a little walk..."
Peter dreamed fitful nightmarish images of himself still trapped by Inario and seeing not only himself hurt but Neal dead. The visions felt so real including one where he shot his friend, tears filling his eyes with wet warmth as he started to come to. He squinted in the dimly lit room, Elizabeth napping nearby on the sofa but otherwise he was alone as Peter tried to figure out the reality from what he had dreamed. Neal wasn't dead, he hadn't shot him but there seemed to be some truth there. He also dreamed of a younger version of his friend, the Neal he didn't know growing up hustling in pool halls but also with a dream to follow in his father's footsteps and be a cop. Something about this story felt real to him as the fuzzy thoughts floated through his tired mind and he sat up with a quiet wince.
Elizabeth had woken up, sitting up as she wiped sleep from her blue eyes and came back to sit beside him.
"I'm ok... but I need to ask Neal something. Is he around?"
She shook her head uncertainly.
"He was here a while ago but I haven't seen him. I could ask Agent Blake."
Elizabeth rose, stretching a little as she moved towards the door and exited the room. He was alone now, his thoughts still echoing with alternate versions of what he had been told. He saw himself pointing a gun at Neal and then the sound of a weapon being fired but someone else was there. Why did he remember something different? Could it just be the drugs or was he not being told something. Peter hated being left out of the loop, the door opening up again as his wife entered, a concerned look on her face.
"Agent Blake... he said Neal went with Jones and Hughes over an hour ago."
Her voice sounded worried, Peter wondering if they had decided to take the con early. Should he call Reese or just wait and see? His thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of a cell phone, Elizabeth pulling out hers as she glanced at the number and blinked.
Peter nodded, letting her take it as he waited to see what was going on.
"Hi Reese... yes, he's awake."
She was quiet a moment, nodding some and then looking somewhat happy but he wasn't sure why before she hung up the cell and smiled at him. Apparently the news was good.
"Neal is at June's. They dropped the charges."
Elizabeth seemed to be close to bubbly as she said it, hugging him as he smiled back, a relieved feeling washing over him. Neal was ok. He could finally relax.
"Good. I'm not going to ask... I'm happy with the results."
He saw his wife smirk back, tweaking his nose.
"Exactly. Now... rest up. The doctor said you can leave tomorrow. I'm going to see what's for dinner. Are you hungry?"
Neal woke up the next morning at June's, uncertain if he was dreaming or not. The sheets were soft and comforting, the scent of lilacs obvious. He rolled over and gazed out the windows from where he lay and saw the terrace. It felt like a year since he'd been here but it had only been a week maybe a little longer. His mind went back to the day before and despite everything, he felt relieved.
"Caffrey, Jones and I needed to ask you exactly what happened in the back of the SUV."
The agent's voice was kindly more so than he'd ever known which meant they wanted to help. Not that he doubted it but he was protecting Peter so he had to be careful what he said.
"Inario was posing as a Marshal, he pointed his gun at me and I found this weapon in the vehicle and shot him first."
He left it at that, hoping they would stop but Jones glanced at his boss then back at Neal.
"Your fingerprints weren't on the gun, Caffrey. Peter's were. Can you explain that?"
Suddenly he realized his mistake. Neal was taking the blame but he hadn't had time to wipe the weapon. It had been a stupid mistake but one he hoped wouldn't come up until much later.
"The gun isn't registered to the Marshal's or anyone who drove the vehicle. It had a filed off serial number like the weapon Inario had. Is there something you'd like to tell us, Caffrey?"
Both agents were blocking him in, their expression one of understanding but could he tell them what happened? He didn't want to cause any more issues.
"I found it in the vehicle. Maybe he planted it there to make me look guilty. I have no idea why he did it but I fired the gun. Prosecute me if you will but let's get it over with."
He had been tired and upset, wanting it to be done as he felt that arm around his shoulders again and saw a look he never thought he would from Hughes.
"You're protecting someone, Caffrey. Admit it. Jones already knows who and told me. I just needed proof and I think I have everything now."
His voice was soft, gentle and fatherly which made Neal relax as the older man whispered to him.
"It's ok. Nobody's going to get in trouble. Jones is going to take you home. I'll clear this up."
He blinked at the comment uncertain what to make of it but that smile was worth it as he nodded back, the angst and guilt washing away. It was truly over now. Neal returned to the present, his mind mulling over the past days and wishing to forget it when he heard a knock. Something spoke quietly.
"Neal? Are you awake?"
It was June's voice he heard as he nodded, slipping out of bed and pulling his robe on. He quietly padded to the door and opened it, smiling at his landlady. She looked glad to have him back, a tray of food in her arms.
"I thought you might be hungry."
He nodded, moving aside as he opened the door further and she brought the tray inside. It was still too cool outside to enjoy the terrace so she placed it on the dining table, gazing at it as something crossed her mind.
"I forgot the coffee... I'll be right back."
Neal nodded, unloading the tray onto the table as he heard footsteps approach. June had come back quickly.
"That was... quick. Peter?"
A familiar figure stood there, the agent holding up his hand to knock on the open door as he waited for some sign. Neal waved him in after a moment when the shock wore off. Peter walked in, smiling at him as he saw the table spread.
"Cappuccino in the clouds... Mind if I join you?"
The agent seemed a bit hesitant or maybe he was still tired. That drug they'd been given was pretty strong, Neal nodding with a smile as they sat down and he passed a plate to him.
"Elizabeth with you?"
Neal took a small pat of butter and spread it on a croissant as he poured some juice from a small ewer into a champagne glass. Peter nodded, taking a bite of some cantaloupe.
"Downstairs with June. Coffee might be a few minutes."
They chitchatted like that a few minutes until both ladies were upstairs, June dropping off the coffee.
"Elizabeth thought we could have a celebratory lunch. What did you think , Neal?"
He wasn't sure what to think of the comment, glancing between his friends as they smiled at him. Neal finally nodded, something loosening up in the knot of worry he had before. It was much less wound up than it had been as he smiled more comfortably back.
"Sounds fun. I should probably wash up and get dressed."
He moved to go grab some clothes as the ladies left the room, Peter still sitting at the table eating fruit and drinking a cup of coffee now.
Peter's voice broke through his thoughts, his eyes meeting the agent's as he turned to face his friend. The agent stood, a look there he wasn't sure how to read.
Neal had no idea how to answer to that, gazing at his friend curiously.
"... for having my back. I'm here because of you."
The agent moved closer, wrapping his good arm around him as he did the same back and smiled.
"You had mine first. Just paying it forward."
Peter smirked slightly as he pulled away, nodding to him as he went out the door and closed it. Neal felt the smile on his lips broaden as he went to get ready. Maybe things were looking up after all.
Author's Note: Wow! Emotional roller coaster and then some! Little touchy feely at the end but well deserved. Don't want to be too mushy or drag it on for ages so I left it open for your imaginations. Add what you like. Inario did not get loose. I'll say that much. I just felt other things would reveal what happened in addition to anything that could have happened with interrogating the bad guy etc. Thanks for reading