Jones watched his boss and colleague leave the office, files in hand as they headed out the glass doors and into the elevator. It was obvious Caffrey was still getting over whatever had been in that water but how he was still affected when nobody else was confused everyone. Diana walked over and glanced across at the door as Peter and Neal vanished into the elevator out of sight.
"I'd like to say lucky them but I know Caffrey's had a hard time of it. Peter has his hands full."
Jones nodded at her words as they got back to their own files, their boss letting him know he'd be available by phone from June's. He understood exactly what Peter was up to. Neal had been doing poorly since the case came to ground and everyone had been affected one way or another by it. There must be more but it wasn't his business to ask about it. Peter believed in Neal and so did he to a certain extent. The guy needed friends and direction and they were there for him when he asked or didn't. Jones liked Caffrey to say the least and wanted him to get it through his head he had to change if he was going to stay. So far it seemed to be working. That thought stuck with him a bit before he went back to the doldrums of mortgage fraud.
Several hours passed by, Diana going home a bit early for time with Christie while Jones trudged on with his own files until just before 5 PM. He was starting to see double from reading, finally turning off his PC and grabbing up his things when his cell buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out with little thought, pushing the thing to his ear.
It took him a moment to understand what the woman said not because of her accent (her English was quite fluent) just that what she said took him by surprise.
"Ma'am, where are you now? Yes... I'll be there ASAP. Thank you."
He hung up, calling another number immediately.
Jones regretted calling her when she had plans with Christie but it was necessary as he called over Agents Blake and Wesley.
"I hope your plans can be put on the back burner. Emergency."
He heard silence and then voices speaking low a moment before a door shut and she spoke again.
"Jones, what's going on? What's the alert?"
Diana sounded like she was all ears as he told her about the mystery call and how it involved Neal and Peter in danger from their last case. He heard her moving quickly, telling Christie she had to go (with a quiet apology that he could just make out off to the side) then she was obviously walking out of her place, the sound of a car door slamming soon after.
"Where to? Is Caffrey's anklet online?"
He heard her car start as he answered.
"Just looking up the info... Looks like it's online but I can't see an exact location. It's within his radius but not June's or any other place Peter or Neal would be caught dead in. I'm bringing Wesley and Blake... meet us at Neal's place. We'll figure this out."
Minerva wasn't sure how much it would help, the young man freeing her despite the sickness evident in his eyes. Kios wasn't going to let anyone get the better of him and she knew this young man knew nothing of the whereabouts of the artifact her son sought. She was lucky Gravan didn't think to figure out who she was but how much love could there be for a woman he barely remembered and had left him as a child.
When she was free, Mina helped Neal to the office and gave him the antidote. It was the least she could offer as they talked. He was going after his friend, she knew that much but hadn't expected him to let her escape as he stay behind. Did he not remember how dangerous a man Kios was? She listened, not making a sound, finally leaving when they did. He had handed her his phone and a number to dial as she exited the building and found a place to hide some yards away. The agent on the other end seemed surprised but not suspicious which made her glad. This one had found friends and a life to move away from theft whereas her son had only used his new family to further his own exploits even as an adult. If she could save this one maybe her life wouldn't be so bad. She hung up the phone and held onto it hoping to see the young man again. His friend, the agent, had glanced at her curiously but there had been no recognition as there had been from Anatole... No, Neal Caffrey.
She sighed, sitting down on a stump and hoping for help to arrive soon. Minerva Katsivales had lived on her own for a very long time, wishing to be there for Kios but realizing he had gained all the evil his father had in him. It was her curse to bear as she pretended to merely be an interested friend and he took to her as another person to use. They had met through Nika, a local girl whose family catered to her son's baser requests for drugs, guns and shelter when things went bad. It was a shame when Mina met Anatole and sensed the goodness there despite his being a thief and con. He had an almost Robin Hood goodness in him that made her wonder what had driven him to such extremes. He had been hurt by something but she never had a chance to really talk to him beyond chit chat. Now, she could only wait, glancing at the clock on the phone and then curiously scrolling through the pictures on there. Each image made her more anxious by the moment, seeing the people that this other young man had become friends with. They were not the same as her son. They were good people.
"I hope your friends come soon, Anatole."
Neal could tell they were going to hurt Peter, moving forward to stop them but something hit him hard across the back of the head. He had forgotten about Kios in the heat of the moment, the blow stunning him as he collapsed to the ground semi-conscious. They dragged Peter away, voices speaking but nothing getting through the ringing in his ears and rush of blood filling the silence in his head. How could he have been so careless? Someone lifted his head up, green eyes staring into his. The scene was blurry, a nauseated feeling coming over him from the ache that filled his skull.
"You were always so... noble, Anatole. You thought friendship was the only way but sometimes partnerships must end. Come along, Neal. Can't say goodbye to the agent if you're not there to send him off."
The man's laughter rang through his head above the rush of blood and ring of non-existent bells in his ears. He felt his arms bound behind him with something tight at the wrists and realized it must be zip ties as he was pulled up to his feet and carried along.
"How one in our profession can be such a naive child about the way of the world. Thieves should never have a conscience. We are not Robin Hoods giving our wares to the poor but keeping it for ourselves to move up in life. How could you have missed such an important lesson?"
Gravan's voice echoed as if far away, his head slumping forward against his chest as he was pushed along, his feet barely shuffling across the dusty ground of the old warehouse. He was only just aware of someone ahead in a chair, whoever held him up pausing a few feet away as Kios continued his little speech.
"You disarmed the device holding my other hostage but I've modified it now. It cannot do anything but what it was meant to. The agent will not survive as she did, and your happy ending will never come to be while I do not possess that box. Now... tell me where you hid it, Anatole."
Neal glanced at the man, then back at Peter, the agent staring up at him through one swollen eye, his nose bloodied and lip split. He thought about Elizabeth if Peter didn't come home. He couldn't live with himself if that was his fault as he nodded tiredly at the man. He would tell him what he wanted even if it was a lie to save Peter.
"It's in the tunnel I told you about. Under the water..."
His voice was quiet, tired as he saw Peter stare at him, those brown eyes seemingly disappointed he thought with the truth. He had to let him know.
"When you placed me in that room, I escaped through the tunnel with the box and dropped it rather than drown. I would have made it if you hadn't caught me. I had every intention of going back for the treasure at another time..."
The last part was a lie but he had to get Kios mad at him, bring out Gravan's true self and hopefully divert the man from Peter. He already knew the agent wouldn't be happy with him. He had almost cost several of his friends their lives, including El and June's granddaughter Samantha. Neal had to make this right. He felt a hand squeeze his chin in their fingers, green eyes meeting his.
"You remembered... cut off that anklet. We're taking them both on a little trip across the sea. You'll get me that box!"
Neal felt his heart sink at the remark but nodded, hoping to get Peter free as he watched them remove the trip wire from his friend and the anklet was from his leg. They were both taken towards the entrance where the van was parked. He could do something and get the agent free, then it would only be himself and their captors. Neal had to think fast...
Everyone paused, the voice a familiar one as he saw that woman again, the one that had tried to help him. Mina stood there arms outstretched to show she wasn't armed or a threat. Gravan smirked.
"Why didn't you just run. You're of no use to me now then you were then when I needed shelter."
He raised the pistol he took from Neal but she held up a hand and he paused as she walked towards them.
"I can't run from the past anymore. You look so much like your father... it's a shame you took after him despite all my best efforts."
Neal wasn't sure what was going on as he saw the Ambassador blink, gun held uncertainly as she drew closer.
"What do you know of my father? He was a great man! What did you ever do for me, Mina?"
He cocked the gun back as they were suddenly face to face, those dark eyes of hers glittering back at him.
"I gave you a second chance but I realize now I should have stayed. I put you at a great disadvantage. I'm so sorry, Kios... my son."
Gravan seemed to relax, mouth agape as he stared at her curiously, gun held unsteadily as she reached to hug him. Time seemed to stand still before the man seemed to smile back, his arms easing close to her body...
The gunshot was muted but loud enough to echo throughout the falling building. Mina... Minerva Katsivales stiffened as her body slumped against that of her son's and he smirked down at her.
"As if I wouldn't know my own mother... the deceiver who gave me away. You would choose these men over your own son?"
She gazed at Neal a moment, pulling herself back up enough to cling to her son a moment before she fell to the ground unmoving. Neal felt a tear roll down his cheek, loss for the woman who had helped him survive when he should have been dead.
"The witch would have been dead long ago but I wanted her to think I didn't know who she was. I had my own plans to exact revenge but this will do. Now... we were headed for a small island in the Mediterranean..."
His voice paused, something making his voice shake as he looked down and saw blood pooling on his shirt. Kios seemed confused, touching the spot before he collapsed to his knees with an odd look on his face. Voices cried out suddenly from all around them.
"FBI! Lay down your arms!"
Neal still didn't know who had shot the former ambassador, the Feds known for their straightforwardness. They wouldn't have had a sniper not for something like this. He saw Jones first, Neal worrying about the men still holding them as Kios collapsed to the ground dead. The light in those green eyes died forever and Neal relaxed as the goons finally surrendered, the con slumping down to the cement as someone shook him gently.
"Caffrey... hey... Call a bus stat! Caffrey..."
His eyes were open but not really seeing, although he saw the woman laying nearby. It was a shame she died needlessly. He would have liked to thank her for what she had done for him, his eyes starting to close as he heard someone shouting.
"This one's still alive! There's a pulse! Where are those EMTs?"
Darkness overcame him but for once, he had no fears about what dreams might come.
Peter was afraid. He saw Neal giving in for him but knew nothing his friend did would please the man who held them. If he could have said something...
Suddenly she was there. He had only seen her briefly, nothing familiar about her but something made her stand out despite being tied up to the chair as he was taken past earlier. Now she was back, her dark eyes glittering as she moved to hug the wayward son she had left behind. This was like some mythic story only there were no great feats of wisdom or strength although Neal had been made to go through Hades and back. He had expected something to go wrong but not this. She slumped, eyes growing dim but still hopeful to hold the child she left behind and save another she'd barely known. Peter watched her slip unmoving to the ground and then the villain do the same not a moment later. He was curious how but some part of him let it go. He was tired, body beat up and exhausted as his eyes turned to more pressing matters. His team was there to rescue them and he felt some relief, eyes on his friend as Neal collapsed to the ground. The goons under Kios / Gravan gave up easily, the agent still bound, another moving close to free him.
"Agent Burke, are you ok?"
It was Blake, removing the cuffs from his wrists and cutting the gag loose. Peter spit out the rags, moving towards Neal but seeing Jones there already shaking the unconscious con. He felt a bit tired himself but Neal had to be ok. There was a quiet groan from his partner and he felt relieved once more, eyes turning to the mystery woman who had freed them all of the curse that seemed to finally be over. Apparently she still lived. Maybe he could thank her properly, his own body giving into its pain and injuries as he let the darkness take him and he passed out.
Some hours later, or was it days, Peter opened his eyes. He had dreamed little if nothing at all and that felt nice for once. Someone held his hand in theirs, brown eyes moving to see his wife sitting there watching over him. They were in a curtained partition instead of a room, his mind trying to figure out where and how as she noticed him wake.
"Hey hun. Shh... how are you feeling?"
El gently smoothed her hand over his hair, the action calming him as he smiled up at her. He felt tired noticing all his injuries had been cleaned and bandaged and his ribs wrapped. He ached all over but seeing his wife made everything ok.
"Tired... hun. This the ER?"
She nodded back at him, gently hugging him closer as she leaned over and kissed his forehead. He wanted more but knew El was being careful, his lips still split and hurting. He'd gladly have them hurt more to kiss his wife but for now this would do.
"Yes. And Neal is ok. He had a slight concussion but was fine otherwise."
He noticed she hesitated some, his eyes meeting hers to ask more but they were interrupted by a cough as the curtain pulled aside slightly and Reese Hughes showed up.
Elizabeth chatted briefly, leaving the two men alone after a moment when it was apparent Reese wanted to chat with him alone.
"What's wrong, Reese? Caffrey is alright, isn't he?"
He'd sensed some trepidation on the topic from his wife but saw the smile on his boss' lips and felt instant relief.
"Nothing's wrong. Caffrey's fine but under guard at the moment. Waiting for a new anklet. How are you feeling?"
Peter shifted slightly, wincing when his ribs or something else moved enough to hurt as he sat up some. Reese looked at him concerned but he shook his head.
"Alive. How is... she?"
He hoped to wait but his curiosity got the better of him and Hughes sat in the chair El had occupied, a serious look on his face.
"Touch and go at the beginning but doing better. Nobody really seems to know who she is and Caffrey is tight lipped. Any answers, Peter?"
He wasn't sure what to tell his boss but finally he said what he felt was right.
"I'm not certain, Sir. I was a bit out of it when everything went down."
Reese gave him a look but nodded, obviously content with their comments for now. They would talk about it later more than likely once everything blew over, the older agent patting him gently on the arm before leaving. Elizabeth returned soon after, a coffee for her and a cup of water for him.
"Everything ok hun?"
She was helping him sit up to drink as he nodded, smiling up and kissing her on the lips. It hurt but it felt good.
A few days later:
Neal was wrong to think he wouldn't dream anymore but these dreams were far nicer than they had been. He remembered everything from his time with Kios and Mina and a part of him was sad to know she was gone. Stranger or not, Mina had saved him when Kios had tried to kill him. Neal only remembered bits and pieces of escaping from those chains and washing up on the shoreline. He'd been little more than semi-conscious when she found him, taking him in and hiding the young man from those that had tried to kill him. When he had finally come to, he had been alone and Neal's first reaction was to run, taking what appeared to be conveniently left cash in a drawer as he looked for clothes to escape in. He hadn't thought anyone had made it seem he had stolen it when it was a gift. Minerva Katsivales had ensured he escaped the clutches of her son, something he could never repay her for.
He glanced up to see Mozzie there peeking in through the terrace doors. The con watched him curiously as he smiled back.
"Just thinking... No more blackouts. How long did I sleep?"
He was laying on the bed in a semi-sitting position, pillows fluffed up so he could be comfy but he wanted out of bed, pushing the blankets aside as he eased off the mattress and put his feet into his slippers. Mozzie moved over and stood nearby, a glance of wine in his hand.
"Three hours give or take. It's over... right?"
The last part was sudden as he thought about it and nodded, smiling at his friend. Mozzie had helped so much, Neal moving tiredly over to the kitchenette as he grabbed a glass and poured some water from the tap. He stood and sipped at it a bit before moving over to the sofa where Mozzie was now sitting.
"Yeah. I think it is. The curse is lifted."
He watched Mozzie roll his eyes, the wine glass sitting on the coffee table. He looked a bit thoughtful.
"So... where is the real treasure? Gravan was looking for it this whole time. You must have had some idea."
Neal shook his head, his only real memory of the treasure being that he dumped it in the water instead of drowning. It should have still been there from what he did know.
"No idea. I told him but obviously it wasn't there. Someone else took it or nature hid it from view. Who knows, Mozz."
He leaned back against the sofa, eyes shut a moment when he heard a knock at the door, both men looking at the other before Neal stood and moved towards the door cautiously.
"Who is it?"
There was a moment of silence then relief as he heard someone speak.
Neal opened up the door without hesitation, glancing out at his friend who looked like he'd been in one fight too many. A sense of guilt washed over him but he smiled, happy to see the agent after everything that had happened. Mozzie glanced back, nodding to the agent as he stood and brushed at his pant as if he had been on the ground.
"I think this is my cue to leave. Call me..."
The last part was mostly mouthed, Neal nodding as Mozzie picked up his things and left with a passing salutation to the agent as he disappeared. Neal closed the door, pointing at the kitchen.
"I could make some coffee..."
Peter nodded but then shook his head.
"I'm good. Just... you know."
He seemed just as uncertain of the situation as Neal did, both feeling like there was something between them and technically there was. Neal remembered finally that he had meant to tell the agent everything but there had never been time. Now there was but he wasn't sure he wanted to reveal so much of himself although he owed that to Peter.
"Let me get dressed. Make yourself at home."
Peter sat on the sofa a moment then went to the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the fridge. Something about the fact Neal kept beer for him and only him made him laugh as he stepped out onto the terrace and leaned over the wall to glance out at the city. The past month or so had been hectic, harrowing and if he could complete the alliteration, hellish but now things were back to normal and although Minerva had healed, she still remained quiet on how Neal was involved. She was more than happy to indict her son and tell that story but the rest was hush hush, nobody the wiser but Peter that Neal had ever been part of the story. Her eyes had told him more than words could but OPR and the Embassy were happy with what the turnout was. She had been glad to give them the real artifacts, something Neal didn't know about yet and Peter hoped he could tell the young man in person once he returned from getting dressed. He turned when he heard footsteps, Neal in the kitchenette pouring himself a glass of wine as he came out to meet with him.
"How is El?"
Neal was obviously trying to break the ice, Peter sipping at his water as the con sipped his wine.
"Good. She was asking about you."
Peter wasn't sure what to say, the chit chat ball bouncing back to his partner who looked about the same, although both men were hiding how they felt.
"Tell her I'm free for taste testing the next time she caters."
He smiled at him brightly, Peter rolling his eyes but nodding with a smile of his own. Elizabeth was always asking his partner's opinion on this or that dish which he found amusing in some ways. He was never into foofy foods but sometimes his wife needed that delicate I like to eat caviar and brie on a Sunday for brunch with the Queen kind of palette which Neal seemed to have.
"I will... by the way, Minerva sent her greetings via the Greek Embassy. She's currently under their care until she can get back home. She's still healing from the shot. She said thanks."
Peter wasn't sure what she was thanking the con for but he was curious, a bit of a blush filling his partner's cheeks. Neal nodded, moving aside to the wrought iron table nearby and sitting down. Peter joined him.
"It's hard to believe... it's finally over. Honestly Peter, I had forgotten the whole incident all this time until the case. I may never have remembered if not for what Kios... Gravan had done. I'm sorry."
For once he thought Neal felt truly sorry for anything he had done to make what happened occur. He patted his friend on the shoulder and shrugged slightly.
"Maybe it's asking too much, Elizabeth wanted me to wait but... well you were feverish and promised to tell me what was going on. I can't very well hold you to something you said when you weren't yourself and possibly can't remember."
He was leaving it open for the young man to confess or not what he knew of the original theft and his past with Gravan and Mina. The whole story seemed like it would possibly be one of those drama of the week movies you see on Lifetime but he could be wrong. He saw the look on Neal's face and it told him his partner knew and remembered if only a for a moment before the shutters went back down. If that's all he got, he could be happy for now until Neal felt more comfortable again to tell him. The con chugged back the last bit of wine, wiping at his mouth as he put the glass down and shrugged back in reply.
"I... never meant to hold out on you or the bureau for this case. I just didn't remember it ever happened. The incident had been wiped away with the trauma and now that I recall a bit more of those years, I'm trying to reconciling it with what happened now."
He heard sincere regret in his partner's voice, the memory of what happened still fresh now that he had finally remembered. Peter nodded, placing a hand on his partner's shoulder and squeezing gently.
"Minerva said as much when I spoke to her although she told me little of what actually happened. She just hinted more than anything what occurred when we were alone. Was she your woman in black?"
He watched Neal nod after a moment's hesitation, the fear of that figure now gone. Maybe it had been a warning more than anything for him to remember what had happened than an actual curse. It made sense.
"Yeah, surprisingly. I was shocked to see her and to find out she was a real person. It made sense once I started to recall everything that happened. Odd how that worked out. I still... I don't understand who shot Kios. It wasn't one of ours, was it?"
Peter saw the uncertainty there, a fear but shook his head now that he knew what had happened himself. The truth was sometimes stranger than fiction or mythical curses.
"Seems when Gravan shot Mina, the bullet ricocheted off of a rib, making its way back out and hitting him. There was no mystery sniper on the mossy knoll or anyplace for that matter. Pure dumb luck killed him and proximity. The physics makes no sense but that's what the experts told us. Plus... well Ms. Katsivales had the treasure."
He watches his CI blink, wondering what was running through the mind behind those blue eyes. Neal looked surprised, maybe shocked.
"So she found it. I'm not surprised but... well, there was a curse on that box. The wall said so when I found it..."
Peter was surprised to hear that, giving his friend his full attention. Maybe this was what Neal had been wanting to tell him. He wouldn't push if it meant he would hear what happened.
"Kios drugged me. Sent his goons after me but I got away and found the underground room when I escaped. It wasn't long before he blasted his way in, taking the box... and me."
Neal paused, Peter waiting as the young man stood and walked back over to the kitchenette and poured himself some more wine.
"So you were partners?"
He left it at that, hoping he wouldn't scare his friend from talking. Neal nodded, coming back with a full glass and sitting back down. Those blue eyes were distant, memories swimming behind them like so many fish in an aquarium as he watched his friend start to retell what had happened so many years ago.
"He was trying to end it his way. I managed to get free but, he caught me and the treasure. I escaped, the treasure safely hidden away although I hadn't meant it that way. It was swim or die and with the box, I could only die so I let go and ended up safe but in Kios' hands again. I couldn't tell him much, the drugs still in my system. I was barely aware of my surroundings when they took me to his boat... the Lorelei. I still remember it..."
His voice trailed off, a fond remembrance there it seemed until Neal took a long pull of the wine and frowned.
"He bound and chained me, throwing me overboard when I wouldn't tell him the location of the box. I honestly didn't know and now I was in a fight for my life. I barely got loose when I lost consciousness and then I remember very little except for seeing Mina's face. I thought she was a dream, something I had created and then I woke up to an empty room and ran. I wasn't about to deal with Kios directly again so I just disappeared. I was sick, feverish and the memory of those days finally left when I was better. It wasn't something I consciously suppressed."
Peter nodded at his friend, hoping he looked as sorry as he felt. It was another piece to his friend's past, something he could hopefully help him with now that it was finally over.
"Makes you glad for how your life is now, I hope."
He watched the con blink as if surprised he would ask such a thing. A smile curved his lips as he nodded back.
"I was naive then. Thought I could befriend another con... short of Mozzie and Alex, there are few who are capable of keeping honor among thieves. They aren't as thick as the proverb says."
He gave a tired laugh, humorless at best but still happy. Peter nodded.
"Well most of those old proverbs have proven to be wrong. I mean who really believes cleanliness is next to godliness? I've known some neat people who were far from that status. Their attitude alone would bring them down to that of far baser mortals."
Peter watched Neal blinked back, his smile twisting into a smirk.
"Well I know which proverb you like, Peter. A con in the hand is worth two on the lam..."
The agent sighed, Neal grinning slightly as he rolled his eyes.
"Hmm so does that mean you follow the con world is paved with good intentions?"
Author's Note: Yay! finally over and everyone happy, healthy and humor abounding! I hope you enjoyed this tale. I am now getting to work on the new one for Big Bang. Wish me luck!