He can't quite believe Sara.
Oh, he can believe Keller fooled her. Can believe she truly thought she was doing the right thing.
Just can't believe she's that ... gullible ... naïve ... honest.
And damn him. It's his own fault for letting her see the treasure. For letting her get so close.
Of course, that's a small problem compared with Peter's agony. Against the backdrop of Elizabeth's kidnapping, everything pales. Neal lets himself be thrown against walls, get shouted at, with only a small word in his own defence - which he gets shouted at for.
Peter's not in a place for listening to semantics.
But Neal loves Elizabeth; he takes Peter straight to the warehouse. Nevertheless Mozzie is organised, and Neal knows he'd have flown already in a similar situation, so it takes the FBI telling him that Mozzie hasn't left before he thinks of a way to contact him.
Mostly he was strategising, before he had something concrete to do. Bryce could find her before the time was up, could have her location in a couple of hours. Kill Keller and have a clean-up crew clear the area before the FBI got there. No need for Neal to be suspected, no need for the treasure to surface ... Or even, Neal could find something of equal value in his many stashes for Keller if Peter insists on having him close and Mozzie can't be found ...
"Peter," he says quite seriously. "We're gonna get her back."
Playing Keller's game as Neal has its benefits, but mostly this is a losing game. El will be alive, but he will have lost the treasure and life as he knows it. He might outwit Keller, but he loses Peter completely. If he hasn't already.
He knows where this is heading.
Still, he strides across the rooftop to find Estelle, because some things are more important.
Mozzie loves Elizabeth too. He arrives quickly and they plan a con. Neal doesn't fail to appreciate the synchronicity of his failures as Neal; apparently he will do a lot of stupid things for the female of the species, to impress or to protect.
In his mind, he can hear Jon telling him, "You're peacocking again," and he thinks maybe that's unfair this time. Okay, he was peacocking for Sara, but Elizabeth is the injured party - a weak link in a strange chain of people who can be used to hurt him.
Keller, maybe trying to piss off as many people as possible in one day, doesn't hesitate to drive in the knife where he thinks it will hurt most. "You've always been good at lying to those closest to you, right, Moz?"
Neal doesn't even glance at him. Of course he's fucking good at it, he's been doing it all his life. Peter can make him feel bad about it, Keller doesn't make him twitch.
It's a little annoying to later find himself trapped in the hidden compartment of the truck with a fucking headache, but Keller doesn't know who he's dealing with. He thinks it's a tamed Neal Caffrey, a pet who enjoys the leash, but Bryce lurks just below the surface, ready to take advantage.
He forces his way out of the truck, dumping a few boxes of priceless artefacts onto the road before Keller stops, but he's already found a shield and it works well - until Keller picks up a painting. Neal sighs internally. Another fucking Raphael. He and Mozzie thought about this contingency - his choice now is to play Neal or not, and he knows Peter will be coming. He decides to ride it out as Neal, unsure if he's being brave or stupid, and drops the shield.
"Not a Raphael," he says. "You wouldn't!" And then he's dropped bodily to the floor by the frame shattering across his back.
It's less than amusing to be lectured on fighting by Keller, but his eye catches Peter running toward them, so he braces for the hit with the Egyptian cane. It fucking hurts, cracking down onto his back, but Keller doesn't get a second hit.
Peter tackles him bodily to the ground, probably scraping half the skin on his arms as he does so. In the knockdown fight that ensues, neither of them notice Neal crawling across to the gun and appropriating it. A less confident gunman would roll over to brace his arm, but he just waits for the perfect shot, lying on his back and squinting until Keller moves into position.
Peter stumbles back in surprise, looking back at Neal as Keller whines in pain, clutching his thigh.
"Did we really get Elizabeth?" Neal asks, wondering if Peter is that good at bluffing.
"We did," he pants, a slight frown on his face. "How d'you make that shot?"
"Long story," Neal huffs, standing up dizzily.
Peter fingers the dual holes in his pants and raises his eyebrows.
Neal shrugs it off. It's probably a good thing that the wailing sirens of approaching FBI vehicles distract them.
Mozzie knows something is up, so Neal lets him know what he's going to do. Mozzie is seemingly okay with Neal confessing to protect Elizabeth, even his cautionary words are only about the length of time the sentence will be. It gives Neal an insight into the sort of person Mozzie believes he is, and he finds he's okay with that.
"I'll turn myself in tomorrow morning- that should give you a twelve-hour head start," he says quietly. and Mozzie just nods once, obviously upset. "Treasure's gone," Neal says, to cheer him up. "You think you can survive without it?"
Unbidden, a smile transforms Mozzie's face, sending flares off over Neal's head. "I always have a contingency plan."
Neal laughs, but while they talk about where to stop stories, he has a terrible suspicion that Mozzie will try to break him out of prison sometime into that 'next chapter' he's talking about.
It's not his own plan though. Neal won't be broken out of prison if he's voluntarily confessing in order to convict Keller; in his own skewed morality, Neal would have to serve the sentence, whatever it will be - do the time to pay for the crime. But he can't afford to waste time in prison, so Neal will have to die inside. It's a loss, naturally. He's only had one other alias killed off, and (at least the first time) it wasn't his choice to do so. Killing Neal will hurt, but it's not like he doesn't have his own contingency plans.
He heads back to June's to put his affairs in order - a Scorpion courier will be arriving early to pick up things he doesn't want the FBI to have.
He walks past Jones and Diana, a walk of shame he can hold his head up for because of what he's going to do. He makes it to Peter's office and enters quietly, not sure how to begin.
Peter Burke, FBI, does it for him. "Morning, Neal."
"Morning." he answers, eyes meeting Peter's hard gaze. "How's Elizabeth?"
"She's well. Considering."
Peter is terse, waiting for something and Neal can't put it off any longer.
"I know what I've done - and I know what I have to do to take Keller down," he says, not looking away from Peter. "I'm ready to make a full confession."
"You know what that'll mean?"
Neal nods. "I do."
"Are you sure?" Peter asks, his bruising livid in the bright morning light. "You're willing to give up everything?"
It's harder than he thought it would be. "Yeah," he chokes.
"I'm glad to hear that." Peter looks away for the first time, visibly deflating. "But before you go any further I wanna show you something."
"Peter ... please. I need to get this out now -" Neal can't draw this out any longer, it's not like he slept at all. Peter being friendly again will only make this harder.
Peter clicks the remote. "Watch!"
Onscreen, Keller claims he stole the treasure, setting fire to the warehouse to take it from Adler, all to get the Russian mob off his back. It's an interesting ploy, and Neal's quite sure that if Bryce doesn't put the fucker in a grave soon, he'll cause problems again. Peter seems quite concerned about Neal though, as if lack of treasure and lack of criminal kudos for stealing said treasure actually means anything to him. He really doesn't care about that - he doesn't have to kill Neal, everything else is gravy.
"I know what you were prepared to do," Peter says warmly, "and it means a lot that you were willing to do it."
And Neal, half-turned away, thinks, 'You don't know anything'.