When Neal was twenty, just before Kate and long after Moz, he met a fascinating individual at the Louvre. They were both admiring the Mona Lisa and Neal said to the man next to him, "da Vinci is magnificent."
"He truly was a master," the man replied. "A genius yet to be equaled." And then, when Neal turned to face him, the man continued, expounding on da Vinci—everything Neal could think to wonder and many things he'd have never considered.
When the man wound down, flushing and lifting a hand to the back of his neck in embarrassment, Neal smiled at him. "I'm Neal Holden," he said. "Do you know as much about Michelangelo?"
"Adam Mateo," his newest friend replied. "And yes."
They spent the rest of the day together, discussing the greatest artists of all time. Neal learned that Adam had recently graduated Stanford with a PhD in philosophy and he'd inherited his great-uncle's fortune. "The old man had chased away everybody else," Adam explained with a wave of his hand. "I was the only one who visited anymore, so he left me everything. And now I'm wandering the world, seeing all the wonders."
Adam's accent was a mixture of several American regions, much like Neal's own. And based on their discussions, Neal felt like they were old friends.
After supper, which Adam insisted on paying for, claiming he had too much money, he invited Neal back to his room. "Just to talk," he said. "It's been a while since I found anyone as interesting as you."
Neal studied him. Even before Mozzie's warnings, Neal knew the dangers. He couldn't remember a time he didn't know them, hadn't experienced firsthand how dangerous the world was.
But Adam didn't feel like a threat. He was just a guy after a good time, same as Neal. A guy who appreciated beauty and was able to keep up with Neal.
"Sure," Neal replied.
They spent a week together, traveling around France. Adam knew places that weren't mobbed by tourists and helped Neal with his French. He sketched Adam in a variety of poses and told him about his plans for the future. Adam offered him advice, taught him a few tricks of the con that Neal was sure even Mozzie didn't know. (Neal would've guaranteed that Adam wasn't just a Doctor of Philosophy. No way in Hell.)
And finally, it was time for Neal to go home, to Moz and their newest partner, Kathryn Moreau.
"I wish you luck, Neal," Adam said, and, "I expect great things of you."
About a decade later, Neal was caged by the FBI, Kate was dead, and Moz had pieces of sage advice interspersed with ideas for future jobs.
The only good things about staying in New York—besides June's loft, which was to die for—were Peter and Elizabeth. No one except Kate, Moz, and a man in France for a week over ten years ago had ever kept up with Neal. Neal still liked Peter, even after he put Neal in jail—yes, he was keeping Peter for awhile. And Elizabeth was simply amazing.
And then came the op with Peter that led to Neal being kidnapped (at gunpoint!) and driven somewhere while blindfolded and a punch to the head that had him on the ground and—
Neal woke up moments before the FBI swooped in and he'd never felt better. The bad guys were arrested or shot resisting arrest and he went home and the second he set foot on the stairs, he had a headache. It was weird, too: a low-grade buzzing he couldn't ignore, unlike anything else he'd experienced.
When he made it to his door, Mozzie met him and said, "Damnit, Neal, this was supposed to happen while I was there."
So, yeah. Moz cut open both their hands to prove it, but Neal had apparently died and come back to life.
"I've known since I met you, Neal," Moz said. "I could feel it. That buzz in the back of your head—it's how our kind recognize each other."
Neal looked at him, studied his face. "How old are you?" he asked quietly, unsure if he was more hurt or angry that Moz had stayed around so long only because Neal was immortal.
"Six hundred, more or less," Moz said. "And Neal, I didn't seek you out just because you were like me. I would've taken you under my wing no matter what." His eyes were sincere and Neal relaxed. "You were so full of potential, Neal, that I had to stay. And you've become a master. In six centuries, I've met hundreds of thieves, of con-men, and only one has ever been as good as you. Better, even. He helped me in my first decade. Antony was my teacher; I'll call him in the morning, see if he'll swing by."
Moz kept talking about Antony and the Game and how Neal needed to take up the sword, but Neal checked out of the conversation and fell asleep on the couch.
He woke in the morning to a headache and Moz cooking breakfast.
Apparently, it wasn't a dream. Damn.
For the next week, Neal went to work like nothing had changed. Mozzie moved in and provided a sword, as well as the most basic of lessons.
"I'm good enough," he said, "but I've survived by knowing when to run. Antony will either teach you himself or call in a favor and get you taught by the best, a boy scout named MacLeod."
Late Monday night, Neal jerked awake when a new buzz hit him. For a few moments it felt like a superbuzz, hammering him down. Then it lessened, becoming only a slight hum.
Neal went to the main room, where Mozzie already was, practically bouncing on his feet. "He's here," Moz announced unnecessarily.
Neal shook his head, wondering if he'd imagined the superbuzz. "Moz…" he began.
Mozzie correctly interpreted his confusion and said, "Antony was just letting me know it's him."
When a knock came at the door, Moz opened it and Neal stood to the side as his teacher's teacher walked in.
Neal blinked and Adam smiled.
"Am I—" he asked. "Adam, what?"
Moz looked from Adam to Neal. "Antony, you already met Neal?"
"Yes, Marcus," he replied. "About a decade ago, Adam Mateo spent a lovely week with Neal Holden."
Ten years and Adam hadn't aged a day. Six centuries and Neal guessed Mozzie could say the same.
Looking at Adam, Neal finally believed it. Neal'd forever look thirty-two. He had forever.
"Holy shit," he muttered, sinking back onto the couch.
Moz fluttered beside the armrest, asking, "Neal, are you okay?"
Adam knelt at his feet, pulling Neal forward so that their foreheads touched. "Breathe, Neal," he murmured. "It is overwhelming, I know. But I am here, and your friend Mozzie. We'll take care of you."
Neal finally fell asleep in Adam's arms, listening to a lullaby crooned in a language dead before words were ever written down.
"Wha's your name?" he slurred into the junction of Adam's shoulder and neck.
"I don't remember," Adam answered. "What's yours?"
"Noah," Neal said. "He died twenty years ago. Just a dumbass kid."
Adam pressed a kiss to the crown of his head and Moz hissed something from across the room, but Adam resumed his lullaby and Neal quit fighting to stay awake.
Neal woke just before noon. Moz and Adam were seated on the couch, speaking an old form of Italian that Neal only recognized because of some research he did after Adam's lectures on da Vinci.
"Did you know da Vinci?" he asked, slumping against the doorway.
Adam laughed. "I didn't know every famous person in history."
"Just most of them," Moz cut in.
Neal stretched, letting himself get lost in their bickering. His whole world had changed (he had forever, if he kept his head), but here, in the kitchen of June's beautiful loft, in his favorite city in the world, it all seemed like such a great adventure.
"You're lucky," Adam said as they strolled down the street later that afternoon.
Adam had called him in with a stomach bug and he had to be in early next the morning (if possible), but he had a freed day.
"How so?" Neal asked, neatly ducking a pickpocket and snagging her loot in the process.
Adam grinned, planting a twenty in the girl's pocket. "No one knows you died, so you can live here for a couple more decades, if you like."
They were silent for a few blocks. Adam had done something to the tracker, so it would appear like Neal spent the day in the loft—in bed or wrapped around the toilet, and he'd be appropriately miserable tomorrow—and there was apparently a quaint little deli Adam remembered from forty years ago. He wanted to see if it was still there.
"I'd like to finish out my sentence," Neal said. "Just a couple years left. Then we'll go from there, see what I want then."
Adam smiled at him, pulled him in for a quick kiss, and said, "Right up here."
Adam stayed for almost two weeks, dodging Peter the whole while. He taught Neal more than a few dirty tricks with a sword and said, "Practice till it's instinct. Time is the greatest teacher."
Neal still didn't know how old he truly was. Moz said he was at least two thousand, but probably a great deal older.
"You're fun," Adam murmured in his ear as he prepared to leave. "I'd like you to stay around for awhile." A deep kiss and Adam pulled away, a scrap of paper with a phone number only for emergencies tucked into Neal's pocket.
"Good to see you again, Marcus," he told Mozzie. "And look out for this kid, y'hear?"
Moz nodded. "I'll see you at Thursday as scheduled."
Adam caressed Neal's cheek and was gone.
Things continued on at work like nothing had changed. Neal solved puzzles, went undercover, ate lunch with Peter and dinner with Peter and Elizabeth. He practiced with a sword and hacked into the Watchers' database with the codes and ID Adam gave him, to catch up on the history of his people.
He'd finish out his deal with Peter. After that… he wanted to stay, to keep Peter and Elizabeth. Besides Moz, they were the closest thing to family he'd ever had. Even Kate had mostly been a fantasy. Peter and El were the real deal.
He didn't want to lose them. And he'd never believed he'd outlive them. Neal always knew he'd die young.
He did die young, and his bitter, heartbroken chuckle had Jones looking over to ask, "Caffrey, you okay?"
Neal nodded. "Just fine," he lied.
He'd keep Peter and El till the four years were up. Then he'd find Adam and travel the world until there was nothing left to see.
(He went back for the funerals, Adam and Moz at his side.)