Neal shook himself from his daze. The taxi driver was staring at him. “This is your place, right?”
“Yeah,” said Neal after a moment. He grabbed the file and his hat. “Thanks.” He handed the man some cash and slid out of the car.
Neal made his way to his apartment, unlocking June’s door and climbing the stairs mechanically. Walking into his apartment, it didn’t really surprise him to see Mozzie sitting at his table, drinking a bottle of Neal’s wine.
“Wine?” He gestured to an empty glass; he must have been waiting for Neal to arrive.
“Thanks.” Neal dropped the file down on the table and poured himself a glass of the wine, filling it a bit higher than he usually did. Neal sighed and sat down.
“Rough day at the office?” asked Mozzie.
Neal looked at Mozzie. Neal’s expression alone made Mozzie put his glass down. “Neal, what?”
“He’s out.” said Neal simply. He downed the glass of wine and set the glass back on the table.
“What?” asked Mozzie, watching Neal with concern. “Who’s out?”
"Maverick?” repeated Mozzie, his eyebrows shooting up. His expression darkened. “What? How?”
“Guess his sentence wasn’t as long as we thought.” Neal filled his glass again, pouring it even higher than the first, but Mozzie took the bottle from him and set it on the other side of the table. Neal didn’t even react.
“How do you know?” asked Mozzie. “He… He didn’t find you, did he?”
“No,” Neal shook his head, and he saw Mozzie relax a little. “He cased Midtown yesterday. He’s Peter’s new case.”
“Did you tell him?”
“Tell him what, Moz?” asked Neal. He’d already thought it through; telling Peter would be a mistake.
“Um,” said Mozzie, in an isn’t-it-obvious tone. “Maybe that this man has been dreaming of hunting you down for the past five years?”
“You can’t?” asked Mozzie incredulously. Neal picked up his wine glass again but Mozzie pushed it back down to the table, the wine left in the glass splattering and staining the sleeve of Neal’s shirt. Neal slowly met Mozzie’s gaze, and Mozzie said, “What do you mean, you can’t? I’m sure the Suit would want to know!”
“Moz,” Neal said, looking at him tiredly. “If I tell Peter what happened, I have to tell him everything that happened.”
Mozzie sat back in his chair. “Oh.”
“Can’t quite tell my FBI handler a past crime I was never charged for.” Neal retrieved the glass again and downed the rest.
“Easy!” exclaimed Mozzie.
Neal raised an eyebrow. “You want to talk to me about drinking?”
Mozzie sighed. “Neal, they charged Maverick for that crime. You have nothing to worry —”
Neal pushed away from the table, his chair screeching as he stood. “I framed him, Moz! If he sees me, he’ll spill!” He ran a hand through his hair and glared out the darkened window.
“What’s he doing back at Midtown Mutual anyway?” asked Mozzie. That’s what Neal had been contemplating in his taxi ride. Why go back to the place you were arrested? Why steal from that specific bank when you can get money anywhere? Any other bank?
That was it.
“If you want the money, then take it.”
“There are things of much greater value inside a bank vault.”
“He wasn’t there for money.” said Neal suddenly, whipping away from the window. “That day… He was there for something else.” He looked at Mozzie.
“Something else?” asked Mozzie, cocking his head. “Neal—”
“In the vault…” said Neal, grasping the back of the chair. “He told me there were things he wanted, not just cash.”
“Could be anything. Safety deposit boxes can hold pretty much anything.” Neal sat back in his seat and carded his fingers through his hair again. What could Maverick want? What’s worth that much of a risk?
“So there’s something in that specific bank,” said Mozzie, “and you prevented him from stealing it that night.”
Neal reached for his drink. “And now, fresh out of jail, he’s going to try again.” He downed the contents in one tilt of his head. They were both quiet for a moment then, contemplating.
“But why case the bank?” asked Neal, almost to himself. “Why waste time? He was seen on a security camera. He’d thrown two amateurs in to run the security, I get that. But why get yourself caught on tape?” Neal reached for the file he’d tossed on the table and opened it, flipping it around for Mozzie. Mozzie read the page and looked back at Neal. He shrugged.
“Could be rusty.”
Neal leveled him with a look. “He’s had five years to think this over. He’s not going to screw it up.”
Mozzie scrutinized the file. “Well, throwing the amateurs in means that he’s concerned that the security had been upgraded while he was locked up.”
“Still sloppy.” said Neal. “He didn’t seem sloppy to me.” Neal massaged his neck, propping his elbows on the table.
Mozzie laid the file back on the table and looked at Neal for a long time, a long gaze that Neal did his best not to squirm under. “Neal… You’ve got to tell the suit.” Mozzie swallowed. “I don’t want you anywhere near that guy.”
Neal looked up, meeting Mozzie’s eyes. Was Mozzie… scared? He could count on one hand the times he’d seen his friend seem this scared. That night five years ago was one, and when his carrier Pigeon, Estelle, was a week late in delivering a message. Neal tried to shake off his own fear. There was only a small chance that Maverick even knew Neal was in New York now. Though if Neal and Peter were working this case, that chance grew… Neal swallowed. “Moz, I can take care of myself—”
“You always say that.” said Mozzie harshly. “And you remember what happened that night.”
“Neal, you almost died!”
Neal and Mozzie were quiet, both of them going back to that moment. Mozzie broke the silence first. “After it happened, I ran a background check on him. He kills everyone he works with. He’s a murderer, Neal. No one alive lived to tell his tale, not until he was thrown in jail. And still, he’s a ghost. And as the one person to ever get him arrested, I’m guessing he’s gonna be a little pissed off. You cannot let him find you!”
“Moz, I told you,” stressed Neal. “I can’t tell Peter what happened! If I do, I could go straight back to jail. I’m not doing any more time.” Aside from the painful death Maverick might give him, telling Peter wouldn’t be that much better. Telling Peter almost guaranteed a one-way ticket straight back to prison. And prison was… Neal shivered. He wasn’t going back. He couldn’t.
“I’m sure Peter would overlook—”
“It’s not necessarily Peter I’m worried about,” said Neal. “It’s Hughes. He doesn’t like me as it is, Moz.”
Mozzie wordlessly tapped his now-empty glass.
“I’ll just stay in the van,” said Neal, facing Mozzie for the first time in minutes. “I won’t show my face,” he said firmly, locking eyes with his friend.
“Neal, you can’t control that! You know you can’t.” Mozzie sighed. “If you won’t tell the Suit for you, tell him for Kate.”
Neal looked at him. “...Kate? Moz, Kate’s-”
“Dead,” said Mozzie, nodding. “But I don’t think she wants you to join her.”
Neal was quiet for a long time. “Okay,” he said at last. “I’ll tell Peter tomorrow.” Mozzie sighed in relief.
Neal stood to change his ruined shirt, turning his back to Mozzie. He was glad Mozzie was a bit tipsy. Because Neal wasn’t going to tell Peter; he couldn’t. He wasn’t going back to prison. He didn’t like lying to Mozzie, but he preferred lying to his friend than to scare him as much as he must have all those years ago.