Peter nearly fell off the chair. His jaw dropped and he gaped at the man standing behind him. He felt Neal tense beside him and Peter regained his shock enough to say, ”You?!”
“Hello, Agent Burke,” said Graff, in a voice that was stronger and deeper than the Richard Graff he met at the coffee shop. Peter’s heart hammered in his chest.
Graff didn’t lower the gun. He grinned at Peter, flashing his teeth. “Surprised?” he asked, his eyebrow slowly lifting.
Peter stared. He was speechless.
Neal recovered first. His medically-induced daze seemed to shatter, and his voice was sharp. Firm. “Who are you?” he demanded.
“Richard Graff,” said Graff. “It’s good to finally meet you face to face, Caffrey.” He took a step further into the room, and Peter’s hand grabbed Neal’s arm, as if he could protect him.
As if he could save him.
“He—He was the previous owner of Midtown,” said Peter hollowly. His mind was racing. “He was the manager when you—”
“—when you tried to rob my vault,” finished Graff, glaring at Neal. The hand on the gun tightened.
Neal’s eyes widened. He was rigid. Frozen.
“I would actually like to thank you, Agent Burke.” said Graff. “You’re saving me a trip upstairs by being here with Caffrey. You’re making it quite easy to tie up loose ends.”
“I—I don’t understand—” stammered Peter. This couldn’t be happening. It couldn’t be happening all over again.
It had been over.
It was over.
“You disappoint me, Burke.” Graff tutted. “I expected more from the legendary FBI agent who caught Neal Caffrey when no one else could. And yet you played right into my hand. It’s laughable.”
“But—” began Peter, but Graff continued.
“You see, this drive was my idea, Burke. Always has been. And I decided that I didn’t want to share my wealth with that damned bank. I wanted to take it. So I did. I stole the drive, and replaced it with a fake. I was able to take out small amounts of money without drawing attention.
“But then Allen started searching for the drive. He and that stupid thief of his spooked the FBI. I knew that if the FBI knew about the drive, they would close Midtown and close the accounts. The drive would become worthless.” He grinned sickly. “Couldn’t let that happen.”
Graff took another step forward and Neal shifted involuntarily back into his pillow. Peter felt Neal’s pulse race beneath his fingers. They were both silent as Graff continued, “And then you called me. I was pleasantly surprised, Agent Burke. It was a truly perfect plan. I meet with you, give you a copy of the drive, make you think that the accounts are safe. Maybe you’d destroy the drive; even better. Because once you and your government friends believed that the money was safe, that’s when their guard would be down. That’s when I would be able to make my move.”
“—a copy—?” breathed Peter.
“A copy,” repeated Graff. “There were two drives. And tomorrow morning, the greatest bank heist of the century will be all over the news. Millions of people: bankrupt. But, unfortunately, neither of you will be alive to see it.”
“You—” began Peter, his heart sinking.
“I took it all, Agent Burke.” he said. “It’ll be wired to an offshore account once I’m finished with you. And no one will suspect me. Why, the two masterminds of the heist are dead. I would also like to thank you for that; it saves me a lot of trouble.”
“Look,” said Peter, forcing down his fear. His hand on Neal’s arm had tightened protectively and he felt Neal’s muscles tense. “You don’t need to kill us. We won’t say anything. We won’t stop you.”
“You know who I am,” said Graff dangerously. “I can’t have that, Agent Burke. And I know a lie when I hear one.” He sighed. “I really wish you hadn’t been so valiant that night. It would have much easier if you’d just burned in the fire.”
Neal’s heart stopped; Maverick and Allen’s voices echoed in his head.
“Is it set?”
“Yes, he set them before he left, but he said he didn’t sign on to wire explosives.”
Someone had given them access to the Midtown Mutual on Forest. Maverick had a phone conversation with someone.
“We’d better move now, it’s all clear. Just have to let him know.”
“Good. Make the call.”
“He didn’t sign on to get his bank burned down, either.”
“Y—You worked with them!” exclaimed Neal. “You gave them access to that bank, you—”
“I used them.” Graff grinned. “They were clueless of my intentions. It was only a matter of time before they went after the drive again, only a matter of time before they would assume it was you who stole it. And what a way to keep the FBI occupied while I went through with the transfer, breaking back into my old bank. Those government agents really should never have left the original Midtown bank.” He shook his head, grinning. “The FBI can be so stupid sometimes.” He laughed a dark, unsettling laugh. Peter felt Neal flinch. “And if only they finished you off once and for all, Caffrey. You nearly ruined everything for me five years ago.”
“I—I didn’t even know about the drive!” said Neal firmly. “It was Maverick who was stealing it!”
“And it was you who called the Feds.”
Graff took another step forward. “It’s over, Caffrey. I should have done this a long time ago.” He cocked the gun. He raised the weapon. Neal shut his eyes and turned his head away.
And Peter launched himself out of the chair, tackling Graff to the ground.
The force of Peter’s tackle had sent them both crashing out of the doorway to Neal’s room, and into the hallway. They hit the ground hard, Peter landing onto top of Graff.
"Peter!” Peter heard Neal cry.
Peter didn’t give himself time to recover, and he pulled himself to his feet, and started his way down the hallway. He staggered, a sharp pain shooting up his leg, and he fell sideways, hitting the wall.
"Burke!” roared Graff, and two bullets sailed over Peter’s shoulder. He ducked and slammed into the nearest door, which just happened to be the stairwell.
Peter looked at the staircase before him with a sinking heart. But before he could head turn back around for the elevator, he heard Graff’s quick footsteps heading toward the door.
Peter grabbed the railing, and started down the stairs, trying to avoid using his right leg. He grunted with every step. His leg burned. He gritted his teeth. His plan worked; he wanted to get Graff as far away from Neal as possible. Well, he was.
But now he was after Peter.
It was stupid. It was so stupid. But he was going to do it anyway. Because Neal’s life was on the line.
And he wasn’t going to leave him to burn this time.
Peter heard the door slam open, hitting the wall. He’d only taken maybe six steps down, and he tried to quicken his pace. As he did, he nearly missed the next step, succeeding in losing his balance. He fell forward. Peter lashed out with his hand to grab the railing, but missed, and he fell, crashing down the rest of the stairs. He grunted after his landing, rolling off his side, gritting his teeth.
Seeming to know he shouldn’t stay put, Peter started crawling backward, feeling Graff gaining on him. Peter snuck a look behind him and saw the man shoving the stairway door open. He caught sight of Peter and raised the gun.
Peter dove to the floor, hitting the tile hard, bruising his knee and nearly landing on his leg. His leg was nearly numb, sending a horrible pain through his entire body. A bullet struck the wall inches from his head.
“Wait!” cried Peter, on his knees. Graff stopped, ten feet away from him.
“Last words?” he asked Peter. “I’m a reasonable man, I’ll hear you out. What is it? That I won’t get away with this? That I shouldn’t kill you because you have a family?”
“Graff,” panted Peter. “If you kill Neal and me, you are facing murder charges of FBI agents—”
“Caffrey is not an FBI agent.”
“He is damn well close enough!”
“He’s as close to an agent as I am!” exclaimed Graff. “Do you honestly forget who he is? He’s a criminal, Burke! He’s just like me.”
“Neal is nothing like you.” growled Peter.
“You tell yourself whatever you want to hear, Agent Burke.” said Graff. “But he will never be more than what he is. He’ll never be more than what I am.”
“He already is.” growled Peter.
“But, unfortunately,” said Graff, raising the gun. “You will never see him again.”
Neal stared after Graff and Peter, gaping at the space in the hallway where they had been seconds before. Graff was chasing Peter.
He was going to kill him.
Neal’s heart picked up speed, a horrible devastation growing in his chest. He looked down at himself, knowing full well that it took an enormous amount of effort for him to even sit up. Without his right leg, a level head and working ribs… there was no way he could get up.
He also thought there was no way to get out of the fire.
Neal lifted himself up, cringing as his ribs screamed. A sudden idea struck him and his hand shot out, reaching for the phone. He dialed the number with shaking fingers.
It took three rings.
“I said emergencies only, Caffrey—” said Diana in an irritated voice. Neal’s eyes flicked to the clock glowing in the darkness, temporarily having forgotten it was the middle of the night.
“It is Diana!” he said, his voice colored with fear—something he usually never let show. Part of him wondered if it was the medication, or…
If he was really just that damn terrified.
Diana’s voice sharpened. “What? What’s going on?”
“It’s—someone else was after the drive,” said Neal, speaking quickly, shutting his eyes, feeling as if he were wasting time trying to explain it. “Graff. Richard Graff, that—the man Peter and Mozzie met with, the—”
“—and he—he just showed up—he has a gun—Diana, he’s somewhere, Peter ran, he’s chasing him, and I… I can’t move—”
“Don’t, Neal!” demanded Diana. “We’ll be there in two minutes, we have a team on standby! Stay put!”
“Diana, it’s Peter—”
"Neal, you stay where you are—”
Neal hung up the phone, throwing it back on the table beside his bed. He’s already wasted enough time. Peter could be dead already.
Not even trying to prepare himself for it, Neal pushed himself into a sitting position, groaning. His face screwed up in pain as his ribs burned. Neal moved his injured leg to the side of the bed, and opened the drawer of the nightstand beside him. He pulled on a pair of sweatpants that Mozzie had brought for him, for when he began physical therapy. He didn’t even attempt a shirt—half his torso was wrapped in bandages anyway.
Grunting through every movement, Neal was finally sitting on the edge of the bed, gripping the mattress as the pain in his side tripled. He breathed hard, his vision slightly blurring. He couldn’t do this.
He just couldn’t.
But it didn’t matter if he couldn’t.
He had to.
Neal painfully pushed himself up, holding the side of the bed to keep him upright and he stood, dizziness striking harshly. He nearly fell back to the bed. He hung onto it, desperately trying not to fall.
I can’t do this, a voice in his head whispered. He gritted his teeth, fighting it. He spent his entire life doing things that people said couldn’t be done. That was the beauty of being Neal Caffrey. He didn’t take no for an answer.
Shoving himself away from the bed, Neal grabbed hold of the chair in front of him. His muscles shook, trembling with weakness and pain. But Peter needed him, and there was no way Neal was letting anything stop him from saving his friend.
Muscles tensed in preparation, Neal shifted his weight, moving himself from the chair to the wall. He fell against it, breathing heavy, barely holding himself up. The hallway seemed so far away. That little negative voice was stronger, taunting him.
Neal pushed himself across the wall, his hands dragging across the cold tile, leaning heavily against it until he reached the doorway. His leg burned and throbbed beneath his weight.
Cautiously, Neal looked out into the hallway. It was empty. Where were they? wondered Neal. Taking a shallow breath, Neal grabbed the door frame, and pulled himself into the hallway, leaning against the wall outside of the room. He started pushing himself down the hall again, his legs shaking. I can do this, thought Neal before he stumbled again. He caught himself on the wall, and he gasped, nearly falling. Pulling himself back up, Neal pushed himself down the hall. Looking up, he saw bullet holes through the door to the stairwell, heading down the stairs.
Downstairs, Neal thought. Knowing there was absolutely no way he was climbing stairs, Neal stopped at the end of the wall, and looked at the elevator. He took another breath, then pushed himself away from the wall, and limped to the elevator. His head was still spinning, and he nearly tripped.
Neal caught himself on the wall beside the elevator, and hit the down arrow just as he began to slip down the wall. The doors hissed open and Neal quickly shifted his weight toward the opening. Misjudging the distance, he fell forward, hitting the ground of the elevator, his ribs exploding with agony. The doors shut. Neal blinked back the pain and suddenly realized he wasn’t lying on the ground of the elevator; there was something soft underneath him. He pushed himself up, and his heart nearly stopped. It was his guard; the Marshal that was posted outside his door. There was a bullet wound in his head.
"God," whispered Neal. He quickly pushed himself away from the man, and his back hit the side of the elevator. He cringed as multiple wounds punished him.
What now? Neal suddenly realized he had no plan. He looked around the elevator, and his eyes landed on the Marshal. He ran his eyes down the man, and a stupid, stupid idea formed in his slow mind.
Fifteen seconds later, the doors hissed open again, and using the wall, Neal stood.
And looked into the hallway.
Peter was on his hands and knees, ten feet away from Graff, who’s gun was raised.
Both Peter and Graff’s heads whipped toward Neal. Peter’s eyes widened at the sight of him.
“Neal—run!” Peter yelled, but Neal didn’t. He only staggered forward, hands raised, looking at Graff.
“Caffrey!” exclaimed Graff. The gun turned toward Neal. Neal clung to the wall, to the shadows. “Here to make my job easier, are you?”
“I’m—I’m here to tell you that you’re not going to get away with this,” said Neal, as loud as his weak voice could manage.
“I’m not?” asked Graff. “Why, Caffrey, I feel I already have.”
“They’ll—they’ll find you,” said Neal, taking a step forward. “I’ve done the criminal thing. I’ve made enemies. It d-doesn’t end well, Graff. I’ve learned that recently.” Neal took another step forward. “If you kill us, there’s a lot of people who won’t st-stop until they find you.” Neal wavered, but held his ground, his hands still in the air.
“I’ve made enemies.” said Graff. “I kill my enemies.”
“You can’t kill a team of FBI agents,” said Neal, his breath shallow. He fought to stay on his feet.
Graff laughed. “What makes you think that a team of FBI agents gives a damn about whether you live or die?”
“Because we do,” said a voice. Hughes was suddenly behind Graff, and the door burst open, agents crying ”FBI!” running in behind him.
"You son of a bitch!" roared Graff, and he suddenly took a step toward Neal, and then two things happened at once.
Graff fired his gun, the bullet striking Neal straight in the chest. Neal was thrown off his feet, slamming into the wall behind him, falling to the ground. Half a dozen other guns immediately went off, each bullet striking Graff, who crumpled instantly.
"Neal!” cried Peter as he watched his partner fall. He jumped to his feet, ignoring the blinding pain in his leg. He ran to Neal, skidding to a stop and dropping to his knees next to an unmoving Neal.
"Neal!" exclaimed Peter, his voice cracking. Neal didn’t respond. Peter’s heart thudded in his chest, and he felt tears brimming his eyes. It was hard to see Neal in the dim light, and Peter grabbed Neal’s arm, shaking him. “Neal, please—” Tears rolled down his cheek. ”God, Neal, please—”
Peter’s hand moved to Neal’s shoulder, to shake him again, when he felt something under his fingers. Neal was wearing something. Moving his hands across it, realization dawned in Peter’s mind, and he grabbed Neal’s shoulder and shook it again. ”Neal!"
Neal suddenly coughed, jerking violently. Another tear dropped down Peter’s cheek, and he removed the bulletproof vest from Neal’s chest. “Neal, are you okay?”
“F—Fine,” he said in a strained voice. He coughed again, and Peter smiled, relief flooding his veins.
“Neal,” he said, exasperated, “how the hell did you even get out of bed?”
“I—I couldn’t, couldn’t—” Neal coughed again, cringing. “—couldn’t let him k—kill you—” He coughed again. ”God, that hurts like hell,” he said, weakly putting a hand on his chest, where the bullet hit him. Neal shut his eyes.
Hughes suddenly dropped to the ground next to Peter, and looked down at Neal. “Is he okay?” asked Hughes, fear coloring his voice.
“He’s fine,” said Peter quickly. He lifted the vest. “He was wearing a vest.”
Hughes’ eyebrows shot up. “He was wearing a vest? Where the hell did he get a vest?”
Peter and Hughes both looked down as Neal said, “In—In the elevator.”
They both looked up as agents dragged the dead Marshal out of the elevator.
“Neal…” said Peter, shaking his head. “Do you have any idea how stupid—”
“You were—you were stupid too,” said Neal. His eyes opened and he coughed again, his hand curling into a fist on his chest. His face screwed up in pain.
“Someone get a doctor!” yelled Hughes.
Diana and Jones suddenly appeared next to Hughes and Peter. Concern etched into their expressions. “Is he hurt?” asked Diana fervently.
“No,” said Peter. “Well, no more than he already was.”
“I’m—fine,” said Neal shortly, coughing again.
“Neal!” exclaimed Diana suddenly. “I told you to stay put!”
“You called Diana?” asked Peter.
“I’m f-fine, Diana,” countered Neal. “Save your lecture for—for when I’m not.”
“Why is it always you two?” asked Hughes, sighing. “Why is it always just you two that find the only violent white collar criminals?”
“I—I keep things exciting,” said Neal weakly.
“Yeah, that’s one way to put it,” muttered Diana.
“You have to admit,” said Jones, “he’s not wrong.”
The five of them laughed.
“I’m glad your okay,” said Hughes, patting Neal’s shoulder gently. “I’m going to find a doctor.”
Diana and Jones followed him. Peter leaned against the wall next to Neal, straightening his leg, still throbbing. “Alright, Neal—think. Is there anyone else with motive?”
Neal laughed, then stopped as it hurt his chest. “Nah, doubt it.”
“Trouble really does find you.” said Peter. “Or maybe you just like it.”
“I like a challenge,” said Neal. “That’s…” He took a breath. “That’s why I liked you. Back when you were chasing me... I liked the challenge, and so did you. It almost felt like… a game. And somehow, I… I—I guess that made you seem like less of a threat to me, and more of… just someone to play the game with. You were good at it.”
“Oh?” said Peter, raising an eyebrow. “You’re admitting that I’m better than you?”
“No—No, never said that.” said Neal quickly, weakly shifting his weight, cringing. “I just… I felt like I knew you. Like, really knew you.” Neal coughed again, his fist tightening, and Peter put a hand on his arm. Neal opened his eyes and looked at his partner. “That’s why I called you that night. I—I trusted you, even before I knew it.”
Peter grinned, shaking his head. “Neal… there is no one in the world I would trust more than you. Not after this.” He looked down at Neal, taking in his partner’s weakened form. “But, Neal, you’ve got to stop risking your life like this! Even if it’s for me.”
Neal shook his head. “Peter—”
“Promise me, Neal.”
Neal looked up at Peter, and grinned. “I’m not keeping that promise, Peter.”
“Not because I can’t,” he said, “because I know I won’t.”
Peter sighed. “Neal—”
“Trust, Peter.” said Neal, quietly. “You can trust me.”
“I do.” said Peter. And he meant it.
“Promise?” asked Neal, as he struggled to keep his eyes open, struggled to keep his gaze on his best friend.
Peter smiled, tightening his hand on Neal’s arm, watching Neal’s eyes shut, and whispered, “Promise.”
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