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Without a word, Neal had dragged a chair by the door and sat sentry over both Peter and Elizabeth. She'd wanted to tell him that he was being ridiculous, that there were two FBI agents covering the door outside and a number of Peter's colleagues were lingering in the waiting room for news. This particular ICU room was the safest place in the city right now. On the other hand, she understood his need to do something right then, so she let him be.
Neal and Peter hadn't done anything differently throughout the day. They'd gone through case files, worked up an undercover op for an embezzlement scam, and headed down to the corner coffee bar that afternoon to stretch their legs and get some caffeine that wasn't made in the ancient break room machine.
It felt like years ago but was barely ten hours prior when Peter had gotten their coffees while Neal answered his phone, standing off to the side while he debated something Greek with Mozzie. Neal had done a double-take when he finally saw the barista; she looked eerily familiar, but he couldn't place her face. One of the drinks, the orders had been almost the same, had been laced with a poison that was systematically shutting down Peter's organs. It was manufactured to cause a slow, painful death, but the doctors had induced a coma hours ago to spare Peter the agony.
The federal and hospital labs were working as fast as humanly possible to determine the poison and produce an antidote, but Neal feared that it would be too late. A nurse had tried to kick him and Elizabeth out of the ICU not long after Peter had been put into the coma, but Neal had taken her into the hall and explained in no uncertain terms that they were not leaving because Peter was not dying alone.
Elizabeth had been crying softly when he returned. He'd wrapped his arms around her for a moment and kissed her tear-stained cheek before returning to his seat. No words were needed. They were friends, family, and they wouldn't lie to each other about this. Peter was slipping away, and there was nothing they could do about it.
Neal's phone vibrated against his chest around two in the morning. He excused himself quietly and walked down the hall to a secluded stretch of windows. He didn't want to leave Peter, but he wouldn't have this conversation in Elizabeth's earshot.
He pressed the call back button and waited the necessary three and a half rings before his friend picked up. “Moz, what do you have for me?”
Mozzie didn't bother to ask how Peter was doing. It was all in Neal's voice – the stress and anxiety causing fractures in the normally even tone. “That sketch you sent over. I've figured out where we know her from. Remember that job in Minsk with Alex's friend-”
“Sasha,” Neal whispered, putting the pieces together. The heist had been pretty simple but had gone bad when the guard rotation had changed unexpectedly. Alex had brought in a fourth person for the team, a young woman named Sasha Novik, who worked at the museum. The back story had been hazy, but they'd needed to move quickly, so they'd trusted Alex and accepted Sasha on the team.
“She's ten years older and changed her hair, but this is Sasha.”
Neal pinched the bridge of his nose. That job had been a disaster – Sasha had disappeared sometime before the guards started shooting and Neal and Alex had fallen out of a two story window, effectively breaking his leg and several ribs when Alex had landed on him. “Find her, Moz. I need to talk to her.”
“One step ahead of you, my friend,” Mozzie replied. He rattled off the address for a swanky hotel that was, thankfully, in Neal's radius. Not that it mattered. He would happily cut his anklet and deal with the consequences if it meant getting the cure for his partner.
Diana, who'd been standing at the edge of the waiting room watching his side of the call, caught up with him at the elevators. “Where are you going?”
He shrugged and kept his eyes on the display that counted out the floors the elevator was on. It was descending very slowly. “To see a woman about a painting.”
“Caffrey, don't do this. Elizabeth and Peter need you here.” She grabbed his arm, forcing him to turn and look at her.
There were tears in his eyes as he removed her hand and took a step closer to the elevator doors. “You have to let me go, Diana. I might be able to save him.”
“You know who poisoned him, don't you? And you know where they are.” She always was fast on the uptake. “Tell me and Jones, and we'll go.”
Neal shook his head. “This is something I have to do myself. I know her. We have a... history.”
“I swear to God, Caffrey. If Peter dies because you jilted some ex-lover-”
“Hey!” Neal was insulted. “That's not what this is about.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, seeing if that pinged on her bullshit meter. He seemed sincere. “Well, Jones and I are coming with you.”
“That's not necessary.”
She groaned and raised her hand as if to smack him. At the last moment, she changed its course to smooth back her hair. “Let's not do this, Neal. We're wasting time. Just let us come with you. We won't come in unless there's a threat.”
He sighed, frustrated, but he also saw the benefit to having some back-up. Elizabeth didn't need the added worry tonight if he went off and got himself hurt or worse. “Fine.”
Diana didn't even turn to look back. She just made a 'come on' gesture with her hand, and Jones was suddenly standing at her side. He silently stepped into the elevator with them when the doors opened.
Though Neal preferred to work alone, he'd had a few partners over the years for cons and heists that required the extra hands. He'd never felt safer than he did with Diana and Jones at his back tonight.
The door to room 215 was ajar. Neal was relieved; he hated trying to work around electronic key card locks.
“I've been expecting you, Neal.” The sultry voice was coming from the left, by a wall of windows. The lights were off, which meant the night view of Manhattan was stunning and that she was in silhouette.
“You know why I'm here, then,” he replied as he walked further into the room. This was one of the few times in his adult life that he wished he had a gun. It would be an excellent plan B scare tactic.
She tilted her head and smiled. He was close enough to see her face now, and the years had been very kind to her. She was beautiful, but there was an underlying hint of malevolence. “Your new partner is in a very bad way. He doesn't have much time left.”
Neal tried to tamp down the surge of anger that threatened to derail this meeting. He could now reach out and touch her, wrap his hands around her neck and squeeze... He took a deep, calming breath. “What did you give him?”
“That's not the right question,” she taunted, taking hold of his tie and pulling him closer. She started to untie the double Windsor, but he stilled her with a fierce grip.
“Where's the antidote?”
“Why would I make one?”
“What was the poison?” He nearly shouted, losing patience. Peter was dying, and she wanted to play games. This was ridiculous. He slammed her back against the wall. “What did you give him?”
She laughed. “I always knew you liked it rough. Alex would never tell me, but you were clearly unsatisfied with her.” She took advantage of his shock at the subject change to snake a hand behind his head and pull him into a crushing kiss.
Neal shoved away from her, frantically wiping at his lips with his suit sleeve. “No more games! Tell me what you gave Peter.”
She sauntered past him to drop into a velvet chair. Then, she crossed her legs and leaned back in a seductive pose. “What'll you give me?”
“What?” he snapped, annoyed. She was enjoying keeping him off-balance. He needed to get control of the situation.
“What's Peter's life worth to you?” Sasha asked, as if she was asking him what he wanted for dinner or something equally as trivial.
Neal wasn't sure where this was going, and all he could do was ask, “What do you want?”
“I want you, Neal. I've wanted you since Minsk, but you're very good at vanishing.” She smiled at him again, and this one was predatory in the moonlight.
“I remember you being pretty good at it too.”
She smirked, eyes lighting up at what she perceived as praise. “Thank you. Come with me now, and I'll make sure your partner gets this.” She reached between her breasts and pulled out a small vial of clear liquid.
He raised his eyebrows and held out his hand. “Give it to me. Once I see that it's working, that he's recovering, then I'll come with you.”
“That's a hard bargain.” She laughed. “I shouldn't have expected anything less.”
“Do we have a deal?” He moved a step closer and wrapped his fingers around the vial.
“Ah, ah, ah, not so fast.”
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Mozzie had taught him that one, and it was oh, so appropriate.
She considered his words for a moment. Sometimes the con meant that you had to give a little to receive a lot. “Meet me on the Brooklyn Bridge, Centre Street entrance, at dawn.”
“Done,” Neal replied, tugging the vial from her grasp. He turned to walk away, but he had one more question for her. “Why Peter?”
“I've been watching you. I knew that you wouldn't rest until you found me, until your partner was saved. You've become painfully predictable, Neal.” She pulled him into another brash kiss, thrusting her tongue between his lips before he could respond. When she let him go, she was practically radiating rapture. “We'll have to see what we can do about that. See you at dawn.”
Neal had refused to wear a transmitter for the meeting, pointing out that Diana and Jones could track his movements with the anklet just as easily as with a watch, and he didn't want them listening in what could have been a very incriminating conversation.
Diana and Jones had spent most of the time in uncomfortable silence, which was unusual for the two agents who were used to working so closely together. There was so much riding on the line now, and they'd fidgeted and counted the minutes, only breathing sighs of relief in unison when Neal strode out of the hotel entrance.
They'd rushed back to the hospital, and the doctors had no choice but to administer whatever was in the vial. They had no other plan, no other course of treatment, and Neal was very, very convincing.
The change in Peter had been almost instantaneous. His heart rate and blood pressure rose to acceptable margins, and his kidney output improved drastically. There was even talk of easing him out of the drug-induced coma that day.
As the sky started to lighten in shades of peach and gold, Neal stood by the window and watched Elizabeth finally sleep draped over Peter's bed, her hand clutching her husband's tightly. He didn't regret the deal that he'd made with Sasha, a demon in her own right, since it meant that Peter was going to be okay. He wasn't even uneasy that he was breaking that deal by sending Diana and Jones to the bridge to make the arrest.
He was, however, concerned about the lengths that he would go to for these people, most of whom had only been in his life for a short time. Peter, Elizabeth, Mozzie, Diana, Jones, and June had all changed him in ways that he was still realizing, still coming to terms with. Neal Caffrey had built a family and a home for himself, and that terrified him more than making a deal a demon that he would have kept if it had been the only way to save his partner's life.
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