It was supposed to be a routine recovery operation. Neal Caffrey went undercover for the FBI as Kristoff Blum, a wealthy private art collector looking to buy the 1937 Henri Matisse oil on canvas, L’Odalisque, Harmonie Bleue, worth about $33M and was recently stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His long time friend, Alex Hunter went along with him as his fence who introduced him to the 'vendor', Malcolm Loebs, the man in possession of the stolen painting, looking for an interested buyer.
Things were all going so well...they had gained Loeb's trust and the 'exchange' was about to go down. The next thing Neal knew, NYPD burst in on the scene. Loebs got spooked and pulled a pistol of out his jacket.
“All agents, MOVE IN! NYPD jumped the gun!” Neal could hear Peter's voice on his ear piece.
Everything happened so fast after that. It was mostly a blur, except for a vision of Alex jumping in front of him. Her body covered his, wrapping him in a tight hug. Then, a gunshot rang in the air, and second later, Alex's body went limp in his arms. Neal heard another shot fired, and he saw Loebs dropped to the ground, clutching his shoulder. Neal didn't even pay attention to what happened after that...all he knew was that Alex was bleeding right there in his arms.
“Alex, don't move...you've been shot.” Neal tried to steady her, cradling her body and supporting her head.
“No shit, Sherlock! You think I don't know I got shot.” Alex joked, but there was no humor in her voice.
Neal saw her cough up blood, the crimson liquid spilling out of her mouth. “Shhh...don't talk! It's gonna be alright. You'll be fine! You hear me?” he tried to comfort her.
“When did you get your medical degree, Dr. Caffrey?” Alex asked with a weak smile.
Neal saw her slowly choking on her own blood. “You look at me, Alex. You hold on to me! And you don't let go! Look at me!” he ordered her, practically yelling at her. Neal was in such a daze, he didn't notice Peter come up from behind him.
“Neal! Are you hit?” Peter yelled.
Neal merely looked at his partner for a brief moment, and then focused his attention back to Alex, who was slowly fading away. “No...NO! You keep your eyes open! Keep them open! Please, Alex...for me! Keep your eyes open for me!” Neal begged her. “Help's on the way...you just need to hold on!” he pleaded. He looked at Peter with frantic eyes. “Where are the paramedics?” he asked.
“They're on their way.” Peter answered, putting a comforting hand on Neal's shoulder.
“You heard that? Their on their way.” Neal grasped Alex's hand firmly in his. “You're gonna be fine.” Neal reassured her. He noticed the pool of blood grower larger around them.
“It's okay, Neal. I can't feel the pain any more. You can let go now.” Alex told him, her voice no more than a whisper.
Neal blinked, and his eyes squeezed out the tears he had been holding back. “Why did you do it, Alex? I could have jumped out of the way on my own. You didn't have to do this! Why did you do it?” he asked her, almost choking on the words.
Alex managed another weak smile before she replied. “Because I love you...you big idiot.” she answered shortly before she slowly closed her eyes. Her body went limp and she stopped breathing.
He pulled Alex's body closer, resting his head on her chest...in search of a heart beat or any sign of life, but failed to find any. “NOOOOO!” Neal shouted on top of his lungs.
Neal's eyes flew open...his body jerked, almost falling out of bed. His heart was beating wildly, practically jumping off his chest. He looked around, and realized he was in his room, back at his apartment in June's mansion. Dazed and confused, he struggled to control his breathing, and tried to figure out what was going on.
Forty two seconds...for 42 short seconds, he forgot that Alex was really dead. He forgot that she died almost a week ago, and that he had been reliving that same nightmare over and over in his sleep. He forgot the pain that lived in his heart since Alex died in his arms. He forgot that her funeral was merely hours away and that he really wasn't prepared to say goodbye.
Because I love you...you big idiot! Her last words came flooding back to him.
Neal grabbed his head, as her voice echoed inside his skull. She sacrificed her life so that he may live. She was like that...right there for him when he needed her the most, and just kinda magically fade away when he didn't. He curled up and hugged his knees. Tears started to fall from his eyes, and shortly after, he began to sob. Alex loved him, and he didn't have a chance to love her in return...at least, not in the way that she deserved to be loved.
He sat in bed and continued to stare at the wall, unwilling to go back to sleep. Afraid that the nightmares will return to haunt him. He remained like this until his alarm clock went off. Then he dragged himself out of bed, went to the bathroom and took a shower.
He wore his dark grey, three-piece suit. That was Alex's favourite, if he recalled correctly. He took one last glance at the man in the mirror, the pain of regret and guilt filled his eyes. He sighed and struggled not to cry. There would be plenty of time for that later. He went to the living room and took a seat...the same spot where Alex sat the last time she was in his apartment. He sat there silently, and started folding papers.
“Neal? Neal!” Mozzie's voice broke into his thoughts.
Neal looked up and saw both Mozzie and Peter staring back at him. They had been knocking on his door for a while, and got worried when he didn't answer.
“You okay there, Neal?” Peter asked his partner.
“No.” Neal answered softly, before going back to folding papers.
There was a brief pause, before Mozzie broke the silence. “We should get going. The service starts in an hour...we don't want to be late.” he reminded his friend.
“Just a moment...these are for Alex.” Neal replied, as folded the final piece of paper. Once he was done, he showed his work to his friends. It was a bouquet of paper lilies...the ones that Alex taught him how to make.
“They're lovely, Neal.” Mozzie complimented him.
“I'm sure that Alex would love them.” Peter added.
“I doubt that.” Neal replied. “They're for her grave.” he stated. He fought the tears that slowly filled his eyes. “She gave me her heart...her life...and paper flowers are all that I can give in return.” he whispered. He walked towards the bedside table, got his hat and put it on. He turned to face his friends again.
“Let's go.” Neal said. “Alex hates to be kept waiting.” he added with a weak smile. With the bouquet of paper lilies in his hands, he headed out the door.
Peter and Mozzie stared briefly at each other, before following him out of the apartment.