Elizabeth hears the yelling from upstairs. For a moment, she's almost relieved. Neal had spent the first two days afterwards nearly silent. He had answered direct questions – medical personnel, agents, Elizabeth and Mozzie – but that was all. Peter had shrugged it off ("he screamed himself hoarse, El") and told her to wait. Give Neal time to get there.
She's not sure this is what Peter meant. Neal's voice is raised – a blade's edge in the tone. "You shouldn't have stopped me."
"If I hadn't, you would have died too." That's Peter, his own voice no longer calm (she had worried about him too).
"And what?" A thump; something being knocked over. "You want me to thank you? You think I'm glad that I-?"
"You know what, Neal? I am. I. Am. I'm glad that it was her-."
Elizabeth hears the part Peter doesn't say, and she hears the thud of Neal punching him. Her and not you. Not you. She's still furious at Peter because he knows, he knows, that Neal will only hear the first part.
She gets to the bottom of the stairs. Peter is prodding his jaw in mute disbelief; Neal is shaking out his fingers against the pain.
Elizabeth steps in between them. She looks at her husband. "Peter, go for a walk."
"Out of the house. Take Satchmo for a trip around the block. Just- go. For a little while. Please."
She turns and keeps her eyes on Neal while Peter makes his noisy, frustrated exit. He'll forgive her, he'll understand. They've been in love for long enough now that she doesn't doubt that – they always understand each other eventually. Elizabeth touches Neal's arm and he startles away. "Going to punch me too?" she asks.
"Elizabeth, no, he-."
"I know. I know, baby. Peter doesn't always… Sit down with me." She pulls him to the couch.
Neal sits by her. "He shouldn't have said…"
"No. He shouldn't. But he's scared and he can't do anything about it. No badge and no gun and someone else in charge of the investigation. But that's not even… He nearly lost you too. He's hurting."
"It's not the same."
"Of course it's not. But he's not trying to be- you could have died, Neal."
Neal is staring at the floor. He starts on a fierce whisper. "I wish I had. I wish I had been there, I should have been with her. I promised, I promised her, Elizabeth. And I wasn't with her because of Peter- because he said- and I stopped. I wish I had been on the plane too."
Elizabeth says, "No you don't," and puts all the conviction she has in it. She needs to make herself believe it too. "You don't. Not really. Kate wouldn't have wanted that."
Neal whips his head around. "How do you know? All you ever- you and Peter and- you never liked her."
"I didn't know her, sweetheart," Elizabeth points out softly. "I wish I had. The woman that could capture Neal Caffrey? You bet I wish that I knew her. She must have been something. I wish I could have known the woman you fell in love with. And I'm so sorry."
Neal has turned away from her again. He's sitting on the couch alongside her, his head leaning back on her shoulder, feet curled into the side of the cushion. He takes her hand without looking and holds it in both of his. He's crying and not shaking. All she can do is sit still and not take back her hand. If she touches him again he'll run.
Elizabeth says, "Tell me about her."
"What?" Neal almost manages to steady his voice.
"Kate." She keeps her tone light. "Tell me about her."
"You and Peter talk. You already know everything about-."
"Not that part. Tell me the rest. The middle parts. Peter never talked about her, not really, and all I know is the-." She doesn't say 'end'. "The bad stuff. Tell me something I don't know."
Neal exhales. "She…" He pauses and shifts against her and Elizabeth is thanking all the angels because there's a smile in his voice. It's a ghost of one, hardly there at all, but she can hear it. Neal says, "Kate loved the classics. Treasure maps. She used to- birthdays and those times. Times when we were bored. She got bored quickly but then so do I. We kept each other- It was never boring, with us. Once, she…"
Elizabeth lets him talk. When he cries, she lets him do that too. He falls asleep with her arm wrapped around him and she wipes the remaining tears away.
Peter opens the door. He crouches at the foot of the couch and eases off Neal's shoes. "You want me to…?" Peter asks. "I can probably move him without waking him up."
"No," she says. "No, leave him be. Give him time." Peter fetches her a cup of tea and her laptop. She works and Peter works and Neal lies between them and dreams of Kate.
* * * *
Mozzie knows the day the preliminary investigation is concluded because he's not an idiot and because he's known both Neal and the Feds for quite some time now. June lets him in, though he doesn't need the help. He wants the advance warning and her sad smile as she waves him upstairs. (He wants her to say, 'he's doing well today' or 'we're over the worst now'.)
Neal is sitting on the floor with an open wine bottle in his hand. Mozzie recognises the bottle. "Neal."
Neal's first instinct is always to lie. He slips the bottle away to knock it under the table.
Mozzie sighs. "You think I'm going to leave you here to drink alone?"
"I'm drinking, Moz. I think I'm justified. They- they're investigating the explosion but OPR are running the whole thing. They don't care that- So don't try and stop me. Please."
"When have I ever succeeded in stopping Neal Caffrey doing anything?" Mozzie walks to the kitchen and lifts two glasses. "If you want to drink yourself into an insensible stupor that's your call. I'm not letting you do it alone. That's mine." He sits on the rug beside Neal. "Pour me a glass."
The wine is cheap and sour – the bottle and all the bottle stands for doesn't help. Neal doesn't ever let go of the thing; his hand is wrapped tightly around the glass neck. Mozzie is just waiting for the smash and the blood and the screaming.
But Neal starts laughing, through the fog of alcohol, and says, "Remember the snatch she pulled at the British Museum?"
"In the full view of tourists on three floors, the gift shop, the coffee shop, and that visiting party of vacationing Navy guys?"
"That's the one." Neal taps a drumbeat on the glass.
Mozzie says, "It was that pull during the Ambassador's luncheon in Bern that always impressed me. With the-."
"The diamonds in the champagne." Neal closes his eyes and takes another mouthful of wine. "I remember."
"I think it was the accent." Mozzie takes a sip. "Something about the accent and the harmonic resonances of the average idiot male brain. I never understood it."
"No," Neal says, "You never did."
And now they're having a different conversation. Mozzie had been at a wake and now they're on the far, far side of the argument he's been having with Neal since his release. Kate is a black hole in the centre of the only real fight they've ever had: be more fucking careful.
"You never liked her," Neal says, and that's a lie.
"I loved Kate," Mozzie snaps. "Loved you and me and Kate. I wish there was something I could do for her, but I can't, and-."
"You never wanted to help her," Neal says. "You wanted me to leave her to-."
"I found her for you! I did what you asked! Because the list of things I wouldn't do for you is approximately two items long and the first one is: help you get yourself killed!"
"You're as bad as Peter."
"You know what? On this one, the suit and I agree. The only reason you're not dead right now too is because Burke called your name and you stopped. And I am so grateful to him for that, kid, you wouldn't believe it. Kate- I loved Kate too but she was always getting herself in too deep. You were never going to be able to save her forever. So no, of course I didn't want her dead, but I'm not going to sit around and let you blame yourself for whatever tangle she got herself into."
"She visited me every week."
"Every week. You didn't. And I know why you couldn't, but she did. Every week until she didn't any more. Every week even when I could see that she- it wasn't there, for her. Not any more. But she came anyway. She loved me. Even when she didn't want to stay."
"I know. I know, Neal, I know." He reaches out his hand. "Give me the bottle."
Neal says, "What?" but passes it over anyway.
Mozzie pours two glasses. He hands one to Neal, and raises the other. "To Kate, and the classics, and the British Museum and the American Embassy in Switzerland. To an international con-woman of class and distinction, the best grifter I ever had the fortune to meet. To my friend, who I miss."
Neal touches his glass to Mozzie's. "To Kate, who I loved and will love."
They drink bad wine and exchange stories that now only they have all the pieces to. When Neal is halfway to sleep, Mozzie pushes him in the direction of his bed, washes out the bottle, and leaves it drying on the counter. He pulls out the blankets and readies himself for another night on Neal's couch.
* * * *
June opens the curtains in Neal's room. He opens his eyes and squints against the light. "June. What?"
"We're going for a walk. There's coffee on the terrace. I'll give you the length of time it takes to have a shower and drink one cup."
"June," he says again, helplessly. She heard the two of them the night before – shouting at each other and banging doors.
June leans over the bed and touches Neal's forehead. "You're hungover. A walk might do you some good."
She goes back to her bedroom and carefully reapplies lipstick and fresh powder. A scarf – yellow cashmere – against the cold of the wind, and a grey overcoat.
When Neal gets downstairs, he's all wrapped up in black. She touches the collar of his shirt. "I like this better in white." Neal pushes his hat down low and shields his eyes from view. She takes his arm, and they walk.
Halfway there, cool morning sun filtering through the buildings, she stops. "Buy me some flowers."
"What do you…?"
"Flowers, Neal." She passes him her purse. "Lilies, please." She nods him towards the stand at the corner of the street.
He comes back with white lilies and pink roses. He breaks off a rose and tucks it into her brooch. "I could have found you nicer ones than these."
"Oh, you should never steal a woman flowers. You either pick them yourself, or you are so swept away by her beauty and the love of her that you stop the nearest seller and you buy his whole basket." She pauses. "Or, if you're poor and very much in love, perhaps you fold her one from your napkin."
"Byron never stole you flowers, huh?"
"Never. A Christmas wreath once, wider than the door we had back then. From a hotel that refused to give us a room."
Neal laughs. "I wish I could have met him." His expression freezes, like a bad memory has floated to the surface.
June pets his arm. "I quite agree." They don't speak again until they reach the cemetery.
"June," Neal says, and he's pulling away from her so she has to grasp his wrist – this must be how Peter feels.
"I'm going to talk to Byron for a little while. If you want to go back to the house, or wait for me at the gate, I understand."
He nods and turns his back to her and leans against the wall. She takes the flowers from him and opens the gate.
"She doesn't have a gravestone." He still doesn't look. "Not here. I don't know where…"
"It doesn't matter. It's peaceful here. I like the space, and the way everything feels like it's listening." He doesn't move. She nods and leaves him to his thoughts.
June walks a path she knows well, and lays the flowers down. "Darling," she says. "I wish you were here. I don't know what to do for that poor boy."
She doesn't know if Byron would have had the answers either, but helplessness is better shared. She talks to him for a little while, then goes to sit at the bench under the tree, and think about Neal, and whether or not this was a horrible idea.
Neal isn't waiting at the gate. June thinks. He could have walked back home. Instead, she walks back into the cemetery, to the seat by the water. Neal is folding paper flowers. He says, "I don't know what would have happened."
"I mean, maybe Mozzie's right. Maybe we never could have- but I wanted to find that out. I wanted to try. And she deserved that. She waited for me, for years, and I couldn't…"
"It wasn't your fault, Neal."
"Some of it was."
"Not that part. The other things, well, she knew what she was getting into. She wanted that too. I'm sure she wouldn't have done it any other way. You aren't to blame for how it turned out."
"Then why can't I make myself believe that?" He looks at her – he's so beautiful. Blue eyes and a lovely face. Eyes like that, only for you – June had waited those years away too.
She touches his cheek. "Because you're a good man. And a good man always blames himself for not stopping the sins of lesser men. Listen to someone who knows: she loved you and you loved her. That doesn't ever go away. But you are still so very young."
"I won't forg-."
"No one would ask you to." June slips the pink rose from its pin and drops it in the water. There are words to say but she has long forgotten them.
Neal drops his paper flowers in after hers. He starts to sing, very softly. She knows these words but they are not hers to echo. This is a memory – somewhere a woman sings the other part. "Two drifters off to see the world. There's such a lot of world to see."
* * * *
Peter has his badge back. Neal's paperwork is all on hold because Peter hasn't been able to ask the question yet. Technically, Neal could go where he wanted and no one could stop him. Neal doesn't seem to have realised that.
Peter meets him at the door. "Get in the car."
"Is everything okay?" It's a motion towards normality; Peter doesn't know what Neal would do if he said no.
"Fine," he says. "We're fine. There's this exhibition – El thought you would like it. I'll drive you."
"Radius?" Neal asks. "Or… Never mind. Peter, I don't need you to…"
A life, Neal had said. He wanted to have one of his own. A two-mile radius in New York was never going to be enough for him. Peter doesn't say any of this. He says, "Don't mess with the radio," and starts the car.
Peter sits outside – sends Neal inside with one of the two invites and an instruction not to be more than a few hours. Though Peter will wait, if he takes longer. He doesn't say that either.
Neal walks backwards to the door, watching Peter all the while. And Peter knows that Neal is still off his game because if he weren't, he would be calling Peter out.
Peter's phone beeps once, thirty minutes in. 'Second room on the right. Neal.' Peter grabs his gun and badge and gets inside as quickly and quietly as he can.
Neal is standing with a pretty woman with dark hair and saying, "No, really, I'm meeting a friend here."
For a moment Peter is lost in the world of two months ago. He thinks that Neal is screwing with him. Pretending like there might be an emergency to show off something or other. How easy it was for him to lift something, or the pretty girl on his arm. She's just his type – pale skin and long dark hair. The world clicks to now again.
Neal's head is turning and his eyes are desperate. "Peter!"
"Here, here, I'm here." Peter's hand finds its way to the small of Neal's back. "Excuse me, miss, I need to borrow my friend here."
She nods and tries not to look too disappointed.
Peter ushers Neal away and says, "Are you okay? I thought you were in trouble, I brought my gun."
"You always bring your gun," Neal mutters. "I'm fine. Unless we're- we're not working, are we? I thought we were just- unless you don't-?"
"I'm here if you want me here. You want to look around some more?"
"Whatever you want. Okay?" Neal leans into his side, which isn't exactly what Peter would have predicted. He's listing, like a strong breeze would knock him over. Peter grabs Neal's hand. It's a con/case/necessity. Neal is his friend, and Peter will do what he needs. He says, "Tell me something."
"I want to go back to work."
"What? Neal that isn't what I… When you're ready, we can talk about it, but…"
"I need something to do." His mouth twists. "A life. I need a life. This isn't-." He's swaying and his fingers twitch in Peter's grip.
"All right. Ssh, all right. Whatever you want. I'll sort it out. I will. Just-."
"Tell me something." Peter waves his free hand at the artwork. "Talk to me about this stuff. Just me. Forget about everyone else. It's just you and me."
Neal is standing so close that there's barely a space between them. Peter doesn't know if this is still playing at deterrent, or if he's here to hold Neal up. Neal's mouth opens once, soundlessly, and then he finds the words. "This one. This is a favourite of mine. Come on, I'll show you."
* * * *
June wakes up early to have breakfast with him. Neal smiles at her, testing the fit on his face. She smiles back. "Big day today. Is Peter driving you?"
"No. No, I said I'd see myself in."
"All right. Would you like something to eat? Toast? Croissant?"
"I'm not really…" June looks at him and Neal concedes. "That would be great, thank you. Croissant, please."
She makes sure that he's eating and then looks down at the newspaper. "Eight letters. Entice or ensnare. Something – N – something, something – I G – something, something."
"Inveigle," Neal says. "Good word."
She keeps calling clues at him until it's time to go. June stands up. "Let me straighten your tie."
"Let me straighten it anyway." She tugs at the silk until she is satisfied, and kisses his cheek. Neal touches her shoulder. June says, "I'll be here when you get back. You can tell me everything." Neal nods and turns and knows she's watching him walk to the door. He doesn't know what she's worried for – he has nowhere else to go.
He walks downstairs and nearly crashes into Mozzie. "Moz, what?"
"I've called us a cab."
"Now, what would you have done if Peter was driving? Rode along in a Fed's car?"
"No, Neal, not even for you. But I would have followed at safe distance. With sunglasses and a hat."
"Well, thank you."
"You're welcome. Now get in." Moz doesn't exactly trust their friendly cab driver not to spill secrets, so instead of business they end up having an increasingly animated discussion about modern classical music instead. Moz is not a fan.
"Three hours of my life, gone. And for what?"
"A reasonable example of Monet's early work?" Neal mutters.
"For nothing!" Moz insists. Under his breath he adds, "There are easier ways to get a Monet, without drinks receptions for twenty-first century classical composers. How can that be classical, I ask you?"
"Classic doesn't mean old," Neal protests. "It means… timeless. Formal, adhering to particular rules."
"Says the man in the fedora."
Moz smirks, and now they're three blocks away from the FBI building. Neal says, "Drop me off here, please."
"I said I'd meet Elizabeth. She wants to show me a necklace. And you don't want to be any closer to the concentration of suits anyway."
"True. Okay, we'll finish this later. I'll bring by some real classics. Don't be late."
"I'll be careful. I promise."
"That's all I ask."
Neal hops out of the cab and bangs the roof for it to go on; he hears Moz shout inside. Elizabeth meets him on the sidewalk, smiling at him.
She pulls him into a warm hug. "Neal. How are you?"
"I'm fine. Good." She doesn't believe him. He doesn't mind. "You wanted me to look at a necklace?"
It's in the window of a high-end vintage store. It's lovely and it will look beautiful on her. Neal asks to see it more closely. He looks at it through the magnifying glass. "Don't buy it."
"What? Is it a fake?"
"No, it's real. It's beautiful. Let Peter buy it for you. I'll tell him I saw you looking at it. I'll hold it on my card." Neal looks at the clerk. "Is that okay? You can hold my card as a deposit. My friend would really like to-."
The woman smiles at him. "Bring him by before tomorrow evening. I'll hold it until then."
Neal puts his hands together. "Thank you, ma'am. Here's the-."
"Don't worry about the card. Come by with your friend. I'll remember."
Elizabeth is staring at him. "Neal."
"It's your birthday soon. Peter's going to… he worries about this stuff. Let me do this for him."
She laughs quietly. "You know we can't keep secrets from him for long. He'll find out that I knew."
"I know. We just need to keep it secret long enough. Just for a little while."
She tucks her hand into the crook of his elbow. "Walk with me."
They talk about nothing much for the short walk to the FBI building. The benefit gala she's organising, and holiday plans that will come to nothing much. The weather, for thirty seconds of giggling at the inanity of the topic. He doesn't say 'I'm not sure I'm ready'. She knows that he's thinking it.
They come to the foot of the building. Neal asks, "Are you coming up?"
"Not today. Say hello to Peter for me, and I'll see him when he gets home. I'll see you tomorrow night, yes? Spaghetti - I'm cooking. You bring the wine."
Neal nods. She hugs him again, tighter. She kisses his jaw, near the corner of his mouth, misaimed or intentional. She walks away: a busy tap-tap of heels that Neal is coming to recognise. He calls the elevator.
Jones meets him at the door. "Neal, hey. Hey, I wanted to come by and see you but they weren't- I'm sorry. If you want to… I'm around, okay?" He clasps Neal's shoulder.
Diana nods at him across the room. He doesn't know her yet; he misses Lauren. But he remembers that Diana was Peter's probie, and Peter trusted her. Peter doesn't trust many people.
Hughes is at the door of Peter's office. He pats at Neal's arm. "Good to see you back. Agent Burke will be here in a moment with the paperwork." Then he's gone, back to his own office and less complicated forms.
Neal sits in the chair facing Peter's desk, and looks at the tracker sitting across from him.
Peter's voice comes from the doorway. "You can still change your mind."
"Do you want me to do that?"
"No," Peter admits. "I don't. Neal-."
"Peter-." They talk on top of each other. Peter stops and waves his hand at Neal: go on. Neal says, "I'm not done with this. I'm not- I don't want secrets from you but I can't let this go. They killed her and I can't-."
Peter interrupts. "Fowler-."
"Fowler's not in charge any more than I am. Or Kate was. There's someone higher up. And I need to- Peter."
"I know. I know. So I'm going to make you a promise, okay? We'll get them. We, you understand me? You and me. You've got my word. I'll swear on whatever."
Neal shakes his head. "Your word's good with me. But Peter, this could be…"
"Neal. We'll get them. I promise. Stay here, stick it out, and I promise we'll find them and we'll make them pay. Trust me."
Neal nods and breathes out. "You get me another badge?"
Peter reaches into his jacket pocket, alongside his own ID. He hands one to Neal. This is the original – Neal can tell. He feels like he's missing something important. He tucks the badge securely away.
Neal looks at the desk. "Tracker?"
"You want to do the honours?"
Neal's not sure, exactly, but Peter's watching him like this means something. He crouches down on the floor and takes the anklet. It's not designed to be put on by the wearer, and Neal fumbles with the catches. He looks at the floor. "I don't know what I was going to say."
"On the- I turned around. I turned around and that's why I wasn't- I don't know what I was going to say. I don't remember. All of that, and maybe I wasn't even going to go with her. Maybe I left her there even before she-."
"Neal." Peter's fingers find the unruly straps, pulling the anklet on securely. He draws Neal to his feet. "It doesn't matter. Okay? It doesn't matter. We'll get them." He's still holding Neal's hand; Neal clasps it in a shake. A man's promise to another man, with honour as the contract-bargain.
Peter says, "C'mere, come here," and tugs Neal against him. He's solid, in all the ways Neal isn't, yet. No cracks to run along and shatter him unexpectedly, no dark places to stumble into. Neal thinks, dizzily, that Peter could maybe stop the world from turning quite so quickly. Though he cannot turn it back.
Peter doesn't see all this. He lets Neal go again, until it is just Peter's hand on Neal's shoulder. A tether, if not a foundation wall. It's not fair to him to ask for more. Neal needs to do the rest himself. Peter holds on a little tighter. "Neal?"
"I'm okay. I'm ready." They'll both be true, in a little while longer.