The urge was strong. Ever since he had been collared to Peter it had been there. In the back of his mind. The freedom he had enjoyed with Mozzie ever present in his memories.
For much of his adult life he had been akined to a cat. Especially after he left Bruce and joined Chronos. A shudder ran through him. That had been the worst mistake of his life. Joining Chronos. It made him into something that he hated. A stone cold killer.
Shaking his head he entered the FBI field office. He could not allow the thoughts of the past to gain ahold of him. If he did it wouldn't end well for anyone. Especially not when he was so close to his commutation. Then again... his eyes turned to the balcony. On it was Peter and Kramer.
Hurt filled him. Peter was the reason why Kramer was watching him so close. Neal had shot Keller through the knee for him and Elizabeth. Not something he would have done as a member of Chronos. If he was still a member of that group it would have been a single shot through the chest.
Without acknowledging either man he sat at his desk. Piled on it were mortgage fraud. He hated these cases. Anything was better than dealing with the two handlers.
Jones said moving to stand in front of his desk," Neal, Hughes is wanting everyone to do a defense test. Want to do yours with me?"
A cock of his head asked the question. More than any words could have.
Jones sighed as he answered," Normally Peter would have been the one to do it. Since you seem to be on the outs with him still I thought I could be the one to do it."
A defense test. That would be interesting. He would have to be careful not to reveal his full hand. If he did it would put his nonviolent classification at risk.
He stood as he said," Sounds interesting. Let's do it."
A grin crossed the other's face before it disappeared. They made their way down to the gym area. It was filled with the basics. A treadmill, some weight and a sparring mat. Nothing fancy but it would do. There was also a locker room for them to change.
When he began to shrug his jacket off he realized he had a problem. One was that he didn't have anything to change into. Two if he took off his shirt the roman numberals XIII would be shown to Jones. While he didn't think the other would understand their significance he didn't want to take the chance.
As if to answer his problem Jones threw him a sweat shirt. That would solve it as long as Jones didn't see his chest. So he turned away from the older man unbuttoning his white undershirt. It only took three buttons for his tattoo to be revealed.
The mark of a poor decision made in pain. The mark of a Chronos number. He still remembered the day that he had been offered a place within Chronos.
Hard to believe it had already been six months since leaving Bruce. Not that they would have noticed. They probably thought he was off on one of his adventures. While it wasn't far off the mark he was acting more like Jason Todd than Dick Grayson.
A gun was holstered at his hip. He had been acting somewhat of a criminal. Somewhat of a vigilante. Anything he could do to survive. He was no longer the hero Nightwing or the boy that had been Robin.
As he turned a corner to enter the abandoned building that was his hide out he noticed someone. A woman with blond hair. Her eyes were as cold as his own.
He inquired shifting his stance slightly," What do you want?"
She answered confidently her head rising slightly," I'm here for you, Mr. Grayson."
His teeth ground aggressively. How in the hell had they found him? The pains he had gone to to hide himself.
She said," I am not with your adopted father, Mr. Grayson. I am with an organization that would like to offer you employment. A way to get a new identity. One that is completely new and not stolen from a dead infant."
That had his attention. A way to get a new identity without stealing a child's. Now there was something worth listening to.
End of flashback
That decision was what set him on the path to become a killer. A killer that earned the nickname, the Black Cat. As such he was given the tattoo of XIII.
Quickly he finished unbuttoning the shirt. Then he pulled the sweatshirt over his head. The last thing he needed was that tattoo being out in the open longer than needed.
The mats were exactly as he expected. Well padded to protect anyone unfortunate enough to be thrown. No doubt Jones thought he would be doing the throwing.
Neal would have to be careful. He had to prove to them that he didn't need more training. Yet show that he wasn't a threat to any of them. A difficult balance was required for this.
Jones said," Show me what you can do Caffery."
Taking a breath to center himself he watched Jones stance. It wasn't an open stance. It was more formal and rigid. Like a boxers. Easy to get past. Something he had trained at from a young age.
His own stance was open ready to change in a seconds notice. Years of being with Chronos and his time in Gotham had taught him that. Part of him shuddered at the thought of his once home. Those memories had been locked away for a reason.
A headache was beginning to form behind his eyes. This kid was worse than Neal. Unlike with Neal he couldn't tell him to go home. This was an actual case. If it hadn't happened to a Gothamite he would consider that Neal might have done it.
The victim was Bruce Wayne. His office in New York had been robbed of several paintings. Some were valuable. While others weren't.
Neal didn't steal unless it was valuable. Another thing was he avoided anything to do with Gotham like the plague. This case was definitely right up their alley. Maybe it would help mend the bridges he had burned without meaning to.
Hughes knocked on the door and asked," Where's Caffery? He should have been done with the defense test by now."
It was odd that Neal and Jones hadn't returned yet. Jones was one of the best boxers in the FBI. There had been a bet pool on how long Neal would last. Most agreed it wouldn't be longer than a minute. Peter had a feeling that they were underestimating the conman.
Hughes said," Let's go see what is taking Caffery so long."
They took the elevator down to the floor where the gym was. To his surprise Timothy Drake, Bruce Wayne's adopted son followed. There was a light of curiosity in his eyes. Like he wanted to meet the conman that would recover his painting. What they found when they walked into the gym wasn't what any of them were expecting.
Jones was had his arm locked behind him. His face was pointed to the ground. An obvious pained expression from the uncomfortable position marred his face.
Neal was the one holding him with cold grey blue eyes. His left hand held the wrist in a pain lock. His right controlled the agent's back.
When the younger man noticed them he released the agent. It took a moment for Jones to recover but there didn't seem to be any lasting damage. It seemed incredible that Neal had done that. What he had been expecting was to rescue Neal from Jones. Not the other way around.
Neal asked in a cold tone," Are we done?"
Jones said rolling his shoulder," Yeah we're done. Neal where did you learn to do that? Most agent here couldn't keep up with you if you fight like that all the time."
Instead of answering Neal pushed past them to the locker rooms. By his demeanor Neal was still mistrusting of them. Likely due to Peter bringing Kramer in. Now the agent from DC wouldn't leave.
Peter asked curious," How did he do? Besides getting you in a painful lock."
The last bit was said with a teasing smile. Jones at first didn't answer him. Instead his gaze was solely focused on the locker room doors.
When he did answer it was in a strange tone," I could barely keep up with him. Caffery is one hell of a fighter. I've seen soldiers with less experience and talent than him."
Now that was probably the strangest thing he had heard about Neal. That said a lot. Caffery was one of many secrets. Only a few of which had the FBI uncovered.
When he turned to speak to young Drake he found the young man pale. Pale and shaking. Like he was trying to conceal his emotions.
The young man asked," Who was that?"
"The one who stormed off?" He asked. A nod being his only answer.
"That would be Neal Caffery our consultant. That was his self defense test. The FBI decided to test all the agents and consultants prowess in it."
Jones snorted as he said," We can safely say Caffery can take care of himself."
Something about Drake's stiff posture made Peter wonder. Wonder if there was something more to this.
When he changed back into his suit he actively avoided looking at his tattoo. Neal Caffery the nonviolent criminal should not have been able to do that. Should not have been able to take on a FBI agent single handedly. Explaining this was going to be difficult.
It wasn't as if he meant to hurt Jones. Hell he hadn't even been trying very hard. All he had wanted was for it to be over.
The one strike Jones had landed hit the tattoo. That was what caused him to lose control.
With a last look in the mirror he went back out of the locker room. When he took in who all was there he froze. It shouldn't have been possible.
Timothy Drake stood next to Peter. His gaze was cold. Something he wasn't familiar seeing in his brother.