A/N: After watching the first episode of season three, this started gnawing at my brain. I greatly disliked how fast the pacing of the last scene was. I felt like there should have been more emphasis on Neal's resignation of leaving. So I give you a brief glimpse into the mind of the great Neal Caffrey.
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"We take our time and do it right, Moz."
Mozzie sighed in trepidation, a sense of foreboding nagging at him. He rolled up the plans and the flight map, tucking it all into his messenger bag. "Are you sure about this, Neal?" Confusion flashed on Caffrey's face and Mozzie clarified. "With the plan I mean."
Neal flashed that cocky grin that never failed to disarm. "Of course, Moz."
Mozzie nodded, accepting the lie and keeping his own counsel. He turned and faced the wall of glass that framed one of the most stunning views in the city. "I'm kind of going to miss this place." He glanced over to Neal, those blue eyes far too searching. "The view."
Neal smiled knowingly and clapped Mozzie on the shoulder. "Why don't you head out and get a start on the warehouse. I'll be there soon; I just have go talk to June about something." As soon as the words left his lips, Neal wanted to bite them back. Already he'd slipped up and he grimaced with remorse.
Mozzie's hand flashed out to seize Neal by the arm, his grip firm and insistent. "Neal. We agreed. No hints. No goodbyes."
Neal gave a stunning smile, but nothing could dim the sadness shining in his eyes. "You're right." He waited a moment, not wanting to reveal too much. "I am going to miss this place."
Mozzie mumbled something and walked out the door. Neal grabbed his jacket off the chair where it hung and followed. Halfway through the door, it was as if he hit a wall. His fingers curled much too tightly around the door knob and his body refused to move forward.
Anxiety spiked through him and his pulse slowly began to quicken. He turned around, his eyes sweeping around the apartment one last time. He thought of June and all she'd done for him, no questions asked. His gaze stilled on his Chrysler piece and he couldn't fight the smile that flirted with his lips.
He'd thought about sending the piece to Peter, to his house, but he didn't doubt that Peter probably would have surrendered the painting to the FBI. Neal knew that once this all blew over, all his effects would be taken into evidence, but he wished there was something he could give Peter; something to remember him by, something he would keep.
When he'd first seen the cache from the sub and Peter had accused him of stealing the art, Neal had thought of nothing other than some way of sticking it to the Fed. Now though, all he could think of was not how he was pulling the wool over the eyes of the law, but how he was leaving Peter behind. He had this irrational urge to call the agent, or El, and confess everything, but Neal had never been one to choose the easy way.
He wondered when it had happened, this subtle change in him. He used to count on himself, no one else, but somehow trust had seeped into the equation. He thought of when he'd encountered Peirce in this very room, a gun pointed at his chest. He had trusted Peter then. Every aspect of his plan had hinged on Peter understanding his cryptic message and getting to him in time. He had no doubt that Peirce would have made good on her threat and he wondered if Peter would have mourned.
Of course he would, his mind scolded. Peter would have mourned, so would El and June. He understood the feeling. His heart stuttered as he recalled when Lang had kidnapped Peter, and the moment that black sack had made Peter's face disappear from view. The following hours in the office had been some of the worst in his life. He'd never felt so helpless and angry, not even when Kate had died.
Kate... Neal didn't even want to think what would have happened to him if Peter hadn't been there to temper his spontaneous bad judgment. He smiled sadly. He knew where he'd be; six feet under, with a mourning Peter being comforted by a grieving El.
He would miss this place; Peter and El most of all. He'd found something in the Burke household that he'd never felt before; contentment. Peter was going to be so mad at him for running again, but mostly he'd just be disappointed. Neal knew Peter's 'disappointed face' like a familiar friend, and the thought of him being the cause of that expression, yet again, stabbed at the con man like a knife between the ribs.
He took a deep breath, banishing it all from his mind. A cold numbness trickled through his limbs and he slipped his hand into his pocket, fingers closing around the smooth leather wallet. He pulled out the badge fold and traced his thumb over the crest embossed on the front. He flipped the fold open and looked at the picture.
His throat tightened and he didn't fight the tremor that shivered through his jaw. The picture seemed to swim as his vision blurred and he swallowed thickly. He flung the badge fold carelessly away and it opened as it landed, his own face staring acusingly up at him.
"Goodbye, Neal Caffrey."
He straightened his shoulders and walked out, his legs fighting against the movement. His chest tightened, his heart pounding against his ribs with every step. This isn't right, he thought. He should feel liberated, like spreading his wings for the first time.
It shouldn't hurt this much, he reasoned. Freedom shouldn't feel like dying.