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the calm warning of the evening star left to him

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Five days ago, his name was Chris.

Six days before that, he was Tommy.

Seven days before that, he was Elton.

Three months ago, he was Bryce Larkin.

.

Bryce Larkin was not a traitor. Bryce Larkin was a fool.

.

Today, he's Neal. A year ago, he was Neal. Two, three, four years ago - still Neal.

Neal's his favorite. Neal's suave and debonair, so gorgeous and slick. Neal's a charmer, that's for sure. Even the people who hate Neal just can't help but love him.

Look at Peter if you don't believe it.

.

Chris Watson is a sociology student.

Tommy Douglass is an art appraiser.

Elton Smythe is the only son of an oil tycoon.

Bryce Larkin was a government agent in love with computer geek.

And Neal… Neal’s no more real than them. Neal’s a ghost. A figment. A dream.

Neal isn’t chained by anything but loyalty, and loyalty…

Well. Loyalty can be very fleeting.

.

Neal looks into the mirror. Chris and Tommy and Elton and Bryce all look back. Ghosts. Figments. Dreams.

He blinks and he’s Neal.

Bryce Larkin has resurrected once before. He might again. Loyalty is his greatest weakness, after all.

Bryce Larkin wasn’t his first life, but until Neal it was the longest.

Loyalty is a weakness.

He turns away from the mirror and grabs his hat on the way out the door.

.

Justin Contel is a gun-runner for the mafia trying to work his way up. He’s stupid and reckless. Impressive, though, those moves he can pull out of a car. He’s flashy and charming. So charming.

The sting goes south and there’s no way Neal Caffrey could get out alive. It steals Peter’s breath, heart in his throat, the thought that Neal would die inside while Peter’s own team holds him back, shouting orders nobody listens to.

But staring into the barrel of a gun, Neal blinks and changes skins.

Neal Caffrey couldn’t get out alive. Neither could Justin Contel.

But Bryce Larkin… his greatest weakness might be loyalty, but his greatest skill is resurrection.

.

The mafioso turned on his men, that’s what Neal’s report says.

No one sees Bryce Larkin, every few blinks, and no one questions his story. They’re just too happy he survived.

.

Neal Caffrey is a ghost. A figment. A dream.

And like Bryce Larkin before him, one day he’ll vanish like smoke in the night, gone as if it’d never been.

He looks into the mirror, blinking through all the names he’s worn, and it gets harder to choose because it’s time to move on.

… not quite yet.

Neal Caffrey flips on his hat, grins at the mirror, and saunters out.