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we thought we'd live forever

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Neal has been irritable for weeks. His voice has become sharper and sharper, his tone so biting it borders on cruel. He's infuriated Diana, annoyed Jones, and Peter constantly wants to smack him. With a sledgehammer.

It is not a good situation, and when Peter talked to June, he learned that even she has been bothered by Neal's attitude.

Peter's asked Neal more than once what's going on. It's clear that Neal wants to tell him, and Peter is getting tired of being in the dark.

Neal is his responsibility, his friend—simply put, Neal is his, and Neal's not letting him do his job and take care of the problem.

Well, no more. Peter has told Hughes to only call for the direst of emergencies, he's let Elizabeth know he'll be busy this weekend, and he's going to lock the door to Neal's loft.

This weekend, Neal will tell Peter what's wrong, even if Peter has to tie him down and sit on him.

Oh, Peter, he winces. Bad thought. Can't do that without El. They have an agreement.

Anyway, he has a foolproof plan.

o0o

Everything goes wrong. There's a man in Neal's loft, a brute of a man who yells at Neal in a language Peter doesn't know. Neal yells back, stepping in front of Peter like he's some kind of fighter, and the man growls something before stalking out.

Neal glares at Peter, demands he leaves, and then ignores him when Peter demands answers instead.

"Neal!" Peter finally hollers. "Is that guy the reason you've been so—" He can't think of an appropriate word that won't make the situation worse.

Neal shakes his head. "I can handle him, Peter." He flashes an approximation of his grin. "Don't worry."

o0o

They watch a movie. Peter falls asleep. He wakes to an empty apartment. By the time he's grabbed his jacket and pulled out his phone to call up his Neal-map, Neal has opened the door.

Peter drops the phone because Neal's shirt is sliced to pieces and he's covered in blood.

"Shit," Neal says. "I…" He wavers in place. "Something's wrong, Peter." He sounds so young. "I want Adamas."

Peter lunges forward to catch him and carefully lifts him, settles him on the bed. He gently pulls off Neal's shirt—for all the blood, Neal doesn't have a single wound. Not even a bruise.

He should call his boss, or Elizabeth, or June. He calls Havisham.

"Do you know anyone named Adamas?" he demands. "Neal mentioned wanting him before passing out."

"Oh, fuck," Havisham says. "That's… that's very bad, Suit."

Peter's panic ratchets up a notch. "Should I call a bus or take him to the hospital?"

"No!" Havisham yelps. "That'll only make things worse. I'll be over soon."

"Havisham," Peter asks. "What about Adamas?"

Silence for a moment before Havisham sighs. "I can't… I'll leave a message." His voice tightens when he says, "Take care of Neal 'til I get there."

o0o

Neal nearly wakes a few times, mumbling. The only word Peter recognizes is Adamas.

By the time Havisham arrives, Peter's convinced himself to take Neal to the hospital.

"Calm down, Burke," Havisham says. "Don't make me slap you."

The shock of hearing Havisham say his name snaps Peter out of his panic.

"Good," Havisham says. "Now, tell me everything Neal said or did today."

o0o

Neal wakes with the dawn. He shifts on the bed, stretching, and grins at Peter as he sits up.

Then he sees Havisham and the grin falls off his face. "What happened?" he asks.

Havisham keeps silent, so Peter replies, "I have no idea." He pauses, but Neal just stares at him with those brilliant blue eyes. "Who is Adamas, Neal?" Peter asks, his voice gentle. Whatever is going on, he's pretty sure it's not Neal's fault. Somewhat sure.

Neal blanches and his eyes shoot to Havisham.

"You begged for him," Havisham says. "All night long. And his name was the last thing you said before collapsing in the Suit's arms."

Neal falls backwards onto the bed and covers his face.

o0o

Peter fixes breakfast while Havisham and Neal don't talk. He tries to remember anything he ever learned or supposed about Neal Caffrey. Most of the guesses were wrong, but some had been right.

None help now. Peter decides to let it go for the moment, while they eat, but no one is leaving the loft until he knows.

o0o

Neal is in the shower when a knock comes at the door. Peter shares a look with Havisham before moving to answer it.

He doesn't know the man standing there—Peter's height, shaggy dark hair, pale skin, and a very proud nose. But Havisham says, "Ben!" in a tone Peter recognizes: excited, happy, relieved.

"You called me, Marcus," Ben replies. His accent is a perfect replica of Havisham's.

Peter backs up, out of the way. Ben smiles at him.

"Adamas!" Neal yells, running out of the bathroom in only his pants, hair still dripping. He looks young again. Ben-Adamas catches him and pulls him close, fingers biting into the smooth skin of his back, tangling in his hair as he cups Neal's skull.

And, surprise surprise, they're muttering in a language Peter has never heard before.
Or heard of, since he usually recognizes a language, even if he has no idea what the words mean.

He'll give them a minute before demanding answers, but he will be demanding answers.

o0o

"Peter," Neal finally says, setting on the couch and pulling Ben-Adamas with him. "What I'm about to tell you, you can't ever use it against me, okay?" He's solemn, eyes sincere. "It'll be a deal-breaker, Peter. I'll leave and never come back."

While Peter thinks about that, Neal continues, "Swear on your love for Elizabeth."

"Neal," he says. "You know I can't make that promise."

"Agent Burke," Ben-Adamas cuts in, and now his voice is as smooth as Neal's during his best cons, warm as honey. "Anything Neal tells you, he is not to blame for. All of it was my fault, and I'll accept the consequences." He pauses while Havisham splutters and Neal turns to him with wide eyes. "However," he adds, voice now hard and unyielding as a blade, "the statute of limitations has long since passed. And all of it was self-defense or defense of another."

Peter watches as Neal's hand grabs Ben-Adamas' shirt and clenches, and Ben-Adamas just keeps going, ignoring everything in the room except Peter's gaze.

"I offered to take Neal away from here, Agent Burke."

Peter's breath catches and he bites in a denial.

Ben-Adamas continues, "Give him time to rest, time to heal. He defeated a monster from his past, something I should have dealt with a long time ago." Neal leans into him and Ben-Adamas presses a quick kiss to his temple.

"Promise, Peter," Neal whispers. "Please."

"I swear, Neal," Peter says firmly. "Everything I hear today, from you, Havisham, and whoever he is, will be off the record. Full immunity." Whatever it is… if it'll get that look off Neal's face, he's willing to let it go.

Neal's relief is painful to see and Ben-Adamas gently unclenches Neal's fingers from his shirt only to thread them with his own.

"I had a gang, once," Ben-Adamas says. "I was second-in-command, but I made all the plans." He still hasn't looked away from Peter. "We found a boy once. A pretty little thing. Had more potential than I'd seen in a long time."

"But you—" Peter stops, looking at Ben-Adamas' smile.

"I'm older than my appearance would lead you to believe," he says, voice silky and dark. "My brother, our leader—he wanted the boy, but I claimed him. I kept him and taught him, and then, when I was thoroughly impressed by one of the cretins licking at my heels, I gave the boy to him as a reward. And when the cretin mistreated him, I took him back."

Peter flinches. Neal closes his eyes, and Havisham says, "You… you just gave him to someone else?" Peter swiftly glances at him; Havisham looks—horrified. And betrayed.

Ben-Adamas ignores him, still looking at Peter. "Some people hold grudges, Agent Burke. You understand, I'm sure. I killed a man once for hurting something I cared for. And that man's brother came for vengeance, long after the fact, and Neal defended himself." Without looking away from Peter, he shifts his body, pulling Neal almost all the way into his lap, wrapping his arms around Neal.

"I—I understand," Peter says. He glances at Havisham again, who clearly knows more than him—and just as clearly won't tell him. "I'll see you on Monday, Neal," Peter says quietly.

He turns to go, but then pauses, looks back, and says, "Please don't vanish."

If Ben-Adamas spirited him away, Peter knows, certain beyond doubt, he'd never find Neal again.

Neal smiles at him. Not as bright as his usual, but still real. "I'll see you on Monday, Peter," he says, warm as the sky on a summer day.

o0o

At home, Peter holds Elizabeth tight, face pressed into her neck. "It's alright, hon, I promise," she says, rubbing his back. "Whatever's wrong, it'll be alright."

Peter wants to demand answers, to slam Ben-Adamas into a wall and shoot him in the face, to make him say everything he and his gang had done to Neal.

But as long as Neal is still in New York on Monday… Peter will let it go.

As long as Neal is still in New York on Monday.