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"I didn't kill Docks."

Peter sighed as he considered the conference room that was starting to get too familiar for his comfort. Satchmo was at the animal clinic with Elizabeth. Leaving his wife to sit in a waiting room with Jones was the last thing he wanted, but Giraldi wasn't a name to ignore.

Rook was frothing at the mouth, talking (arguing) with Hughes in the other room, drowning out Dunbar, loud enough that half of the division had collected underneath like rubberneckers on the accident-riddled LIE. Diana came in with a tray of coffees and sandwiches from the café downstairs. Neal emptied the first, ignored the second. Then, after making a face at Rook's bone-crunching voice, Diana shut both doors to Rook's ranting about Neal, cons and orange jumpsuits. God, did he sound like that to Neal few months back?

"I didn't kill Docks," Neal repeated tightly. He stared hard at the photos he insisted on seeing with a set mouth.

Peter thought he looked a little too much like he was fighting bed time. He swallowed that feeling with a large bite of his bagel.

Diana glanced at the photos and grimaced. "Neal, I know you didn't want to. You had no choice. The evidence is clear. Docks…"

Neal made a frustrated sound, his shoulder shrugging away her hand.

"I didn't kill Michael Docks," Neal repeated, his voice growing louder. His hands floated up, like he was trying to contain something. His fingers curled and uncurled. "I…I've been remembering more and…" Neal shook his head.

Unease stirred in his gut. Peter rolled his chair closer to Neal until their knees touched. Neal had insisted (whined) in changing into the clothes Moz had packed up for him: a dark charcoal suit, white shirt, skinny black tie. Neal looked like he normally would. Or at least the Neal Caffrey that Peter suspected Neal wanted everyone to see.

"I was in a car," Neal said, his voice too detached and flat for Peter's taste. "I remember coming to…sort of and someone grabbed my leg."

Peter's mouth soured. He glanced uneasily at Diana, who made a move to leave. "Neal," he said carefully, "you don't have to…"

"It wasn't Docks."

Peter felt his stomach lurch. "There was someone else?"

Neal was watching Peter out of the corner of his eye, giving him a small grimace that Peter suspected was meant to be a smile. As if what Peter feared was remotely amusing.

"Don't worry," Neal answered, that half-smile turned up a little before dropping completely. "I wasn't their type." Neal waved toward his left ankle. "They found my GPS tracker and cut it."

"They?" Diana caught the pronoun Neal let slip so casually.

"Two. One of them was driving." Neal's brow furrowed. "I heard power windows. I think the seats…backseat; I was in the backseat with him."


"Docks." Neal swallowed convulsively as he recalled. "He was in the backseat with me and the other guy." He looked up, his blue eyes widening a fraction at what he saw on Peter's face. "No, nothing happened there except for my tracker being cut off."

"One of Docks' flunkies?" Diana suggested as she grabbed a legal pad. "Which one was in the backseat with you?"

"Bonelli." Neal rubbed at his jaw absently. "He was the one who kept forcing the drug on me." He glanced up. "Is he…"

"I only winged him," Peter bit out. "He should be out of Beekman soon."

"Bonelli's not talking," Diana added. A dark look crossed over her face. "He's asking Ruiz for a deal first."

Peter's teeth clenched. Once Bonelli was discharged from the hospital, he wanted to have a talk with Giraldi's enforcer.

"Do you remember seeing the other one?" Diana asked.

"Think you can sit down with a sketch artist?" Peter added. When Neal shook his head, Peter rubbed the back of a bowed shoulder. "Anything would help."

"I don't think I ever saw the other one."

"Neal." Peter leaned forward.

Neal's eyes were cloudy, distant as he cradled his left wrist to him.

"Are you sure about what you're remembering?"

Neal frowned to himself. "Everything is hazy, but I know I saw Docks next to me in the car. Tied up. Gagged." Neal chewed his lower lip. "Whatever happened to me at the gallery, Docks didn't do it."

"Bonelli wasn't working for Docks then," Diana concluded. "He was working for Giraldi."

"Or for himself," Peter agreed. "Docks' list would have been a hell of a pay raise."

"But what did that have to do with me?" Neal pointed out. "How did I go from the gallery to ending up with Docks?"

"Maybe they drugged you to kill Docks," Diana guessed.

"I didn't kill him," Neal came close to shouting. When he heard himself, saw Diana's face, he deflated.

Peter dropped a hand on Neal's arm. He could feel the arm flexing under his palm.

"All right," Peter murmured low, only for Neal's ears. "All right."

Neal coughed, fidgeted away from under Peter's hand and reached for his coffee. He tipped it back, even though Peter knew it was empty.

Peter picked up one of the photos. Docks' body laid out, limbs akimbo, the blade between where he and Neal would have been positioned.

Peter frowned.

"Boss? You see something?"

"Hold this," Peter ordered, rolling a pen at Neal. He shook his head when Neal picked it up, cradling it within the loop of three fingers. "No, no, like you would a blade." At Neal's eyebrow, Peter amended, "If you were using one."

"Here." Diana rose, drawing out her Swiss Army, missing Neal tensing as she pulled out the knife utility. "Try it with this."

Neal's hands curled and uncurled over his knees. When he realized Peter was watching, Neal swiveled his chair away from him as he reached for the weapon Diana had left on the table. It looked benign, but Peter caught the tremor of a fingertip when Neal's hand drew closer. It was gone by the time Neal curled his hand around the thick handle. He held up the weapon, his other hand gesturing toward it in Vanna White fashion.

Peter scoffed, pretended to clap and nodded toward the photos.

"Boss?" Diana leaned in, rolled her eyes at Neal's bright showman act and studied the blade. Uncertainty flitted across her face. She checked with Peter again.

"Look at the forensic photos," Peter suggested. "Of the blade."

Neal's smile wavered, dropping completely as he and Diana peered at one photo from the batch.

Peter could track both pairs of eyes as they darted up and down the blade. It was an automatic blade, a stiletto, carbon steel sharp enough to make clean entry wounds with a single stroke and stayed sharp despite having sliced through muscle and bone. The city had banned them for a reason.

"These are Neal's fingerprints." Diana shot Neal a look. "Sorry, Neal." She pointed to the smudges near the base of the blade. "Key factor is your thumb here, your other four fingers here." Diana moved her finger lower. "You have a double loop whorl here and an arch here; matches your file perfectly."

"Neal." Peter drew his attention away from the photo before Neal's gaze could wander to the dead body pictures under it. "How would you have done it?" He inwardly flinched when Neal stared at the blade in his grip.

"I don't think—" Diana spoke up.

Neal set his jaw, squeezed the blade tighter and jerked it up in the air. He dropped the Swiss Army blade immediately.

The dirty look Diana gave Peter would have made him—and definitely Neal—smile any other day. He came over and dropped his hands on Neal's shoulders and gave the rigid muscles there a brief squeeze in apology. He felt Neal relax.

"What was wrong with that picture?" Peter interrupted Neal. "Besides the obvious?"

Diana frowned at the abandoned blade. She picked up the photo of the crime scene. Her eyes darted from the photo to the knife and back.

"The angle is wrong," Diana declared with grim satisfaction. She flipped the photo face down and directed Neal's attention to the blade. "Coroner said Docks died from multiple blows in a downward strike into his torso, the fatal blow came from the severing of his jugular." She tilted her head to get a better look at the photos. "With Docks on top of Neal, there's no way Neal could have reached the torso or throat properly." She offered Neal an apologetic grimace as she went on, "Not unless Neal was on top of him."

"But your prints on the blade indicated you were holding it up. You could probably get to that angle but you'd have to do some creative flexibility to pull it off without hurting yourself. Doped up with that much roofies? I highly doubt it." Peter scowled at Neal, who opened his mouth, most likely to remind Peter he could pick locks under the influence. Useful in organ trafficking clinics, not useful to share here.

Neal poked the blade. "So what I remembered…"

"You were probably coming out of it during Docks' murder. They probably had to drug you again, hence the overdose, but there's a few minutes gap where some of what was happening would have stuck. Bonelli and his partner had you hold the knife to get your prints then used your tie to mimic Docks' MO." Peter narrowed his gaze when Neal touched his throat briefly.

"But they didn't kill Neal," Diana pointed out.

"Not that I'm complaining," Neal added quickly.

Peter scowled at the blade. When his scrutiny wandered to Neal, the heat that churned at the base of his throat quelled at the sight of Neal fighting to keep his eyes open.

"You were the distraction." Peter's jaw worked. "One murder, it can look like a job gone wrong. Two murders? People start looking more closely."

"With me still alive, everybody would naturally assume I was pulling a con that went wrong or was unlucky enough to be Docks' latest victim," Neal muttered.

Not everybody. Peter's mouth set.

"You mentioned a car," Diana spoke up.

Neal nodded, almost to himself. "A car, maybe a sedan. Not a van. I know I could feel the front seat. Power windows…"

"So late model," Peter guessed. "Anything about where you were going?"

"Water. I smelled a river." Neal rubbed his throat repeatedly.

Peter nudged his coffee towards him.

Neal drained it before continuing. "There was traffic though. And we stopped at one point, I think, for a red light."

"West End highway," Peter guessed.

"I thought so, too." Neal laughed strangely. "I think I tried to escape. Didn't work. Too slow."

The fact Neal could move at all was miraculous, Peter thought. "Anything else?"

"Docks wasn't drugged like me." Neal swallowed. "He was definitely awake and scared."

"They wanted something from Docks. Most likely the list he was going to offer the grand jury next week," Diana looked up from the notes she was furiously taking.

"So was I part of the plan or unlucky?" Neal wanted to know.

Probably both, Peter frowned to himself.

"Anyway, I don't think they got it," Neal muttered, his eyes on the photo Diana had turned over.

Peter exhaled. "No, but apparently they think you did."

"I didn't," Neal said immediately.

"Doesn't matter," Peter told him. "Giraldi thinks you have it. He's not going to give up that easy."

"He hired someone to get the list, maybe kill Docks after; he's going to try and track Neal down and get that list," Diana said.

"So let him."

Peter turned sharply to Neal. The back of his neck pricked at the tired smirk Neal sported. It was just a shadow of the cocky, self-assured Neal Caffrey that had harassed Peter before. Peter wasn't sure if he was disturbed because he was seeing it again or because it was only a partial piece.

Neal sat back in the chair. He folded his arms across his chest.

"Let's give him the list."

* * * * *

"This is not the room we ordered."

The Upper East Side's Pierre Hotel was not one of Peter's picks. He had been sure Hughes would agree to it either. It was six hundred for a standard room alone. But Neal made an unusually valid (and suspiciously well-practiced) argument on its security and its proximity to five police precincts within a seven-block radius. Not that it would matter: there was a "maintenance van" parked across the street of the austere limestone and glass structure and two agents reading today's newspapers in the lobby.

Then there was Neal's clincher: since it was to get Giraldi, Organized Crime would be responsible for the bill. Peter regretted he hadn't been there to witness Hughes telling Rook. Neal had suggested a camera but Peter'd had to veto it.

Besides, when Jones returned with Elizabeth, he'd promised to record it with his cell phone.

Peter eyed the complicated-looking coffeemaker in the wall alcove that the suite offered as a pantry. "Neal," called Peter, louder, when it appeared Neal conveniently didn't hear him, "this isn't the room we ordered."

"Hm? Oh. I was given an upgrade," Neal said distractedly as he turned a critical eye to the paintings on the wall.

Peter glanced over uneasily, but the paintings were only generic portraits of the Manhattan skyline. Still, Neal was staring at them as if they were hanging on the walls of the Met.

Peter covered his mouth with a hand as he took in the high ceilings, picture window and the statue balanced on a marble table at the foyer. It looked authentic enough that Peter pursed his lips at Neal, who was circling it with an unconvincing look of disinterest.

"You or…" Peter checked the ivory cardstock statement the concierge handed to him in a complimentary leather portfolio, "Henry Turner?" He glowered at the offered toothy grin. "Cute, Henry." He gestured to the large suite with the statement clutched in his hand. "Neal, this isn't a vacation."


"Not in Manhattan, amigo."

"Mental health day?" Neal asked hopefully.

"I need one of those."

Neal sighed and poked his head into the mini-fridge in response. With a little triumphant sound, he waved a tin over his head.

Peter stared. "Is that…?"

"Yup. Beluga." Neal tilted the tin up, eyebrow up in invitation.

"No thanks. I like my fish grilled and my eggs scrambled." Peter folded his arms across his chest. "The FBI is not paying for this, Neal."

"That's the idea." Neal's smile faded. He sat down on the couch and cradled the tin of caviar between his hands.

"And what idea is that?" Peter asked slowly as he dropped down next to him.

Neal checked Peter out of the corner of his eye. "Someone knew I was at your place. Docks knew my aliases or at least about Nick Halden." Turning back to the tin in his hands, his knuckles whitened briefly around it. "He knew about me."

"And you think it's someone in the FBI," Peter concluded. At Neal's nod, Peter shook his head. "Giraldi thinks you have his millions. There are ways to find out things with that kind of desperation, Neal."

"Like with someone in the FBI," Neal countered.

"Look, not everyone in the FBI's dirty."

"Fowler was."

Peter's words died in his mouth.

Neal averted his eyes. "Sorry. That wasn't fair."

No, Peter thought heavily as he rubbed his palms on his thighs, it probably was.

"Giraldi could have been watching Docks at first and I wandered into his crosshairs," Neal reluctantly agreed.

Peter wished Neal's acquiescence made him feel better, but now his mind was rattling out scenarios he didn't like. "He was probably waiting for a chance to get that list. Killing Docks would have automatically drawn suspicion on him."

"Unless everyone thinks someone else killed him." Neal gripped the tin in his hands until it shook.

Peter nodded curtly. "But then someone gets away with the list before Giraldi could and pins it on you."

There was a quicksilver smile that was an applause-worthy effort. "Everyone is focused on me and the real murderer gets away. Classic Kansas City Shuffle," Neal commented. "I'm impressed."

"I'm not," Peter bit out. He scratched his jaw, looking elsewhere, when Neal shot him a knowing smirk.

Peter wanted to say this was good; it proved that what they feared had happened, didn't. But looking at Neal studying the dull, flat can like it was something to forge, his words felt woefully inadequate.

A quiet knock on the door made them both look up. Peter stuck a finger to his lips and waved Neal back.

Peter glided up to the side of the door and pulled out his gun. He sharply waved Neal back when he spied Neal trying to peek around the corner into the foyer.

"Who is it?" Peter asked cautiously against the door frame.

"You should have a secret password, Suit."

Peter rested his forehead on the door before glaring over at Neal, who was still looking out from the bedroom. Neal's head ducked back in.

"What are you doing here? How did you get pass my agents?" Peter groused as he peered into the peephole (just in case) and opened the door to the last person he'd expected.

Moz stood there, still dressed in that damn jacket of his, hands clasped in front of him.

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool." Moz smiled enigmatically.

Peter frowned. "What?"

Moz pursed his lips like a social studies teacher he'd once had. "You should answer with—"

"How about 'You have the right to remain silent,' Mr. Clemens?" Peter offered archly.

Moz appeared to actually give it some thought—for about three seconds before he entered with that narrow, almost robotic stride of his. He paused over the statue, his head canted speculatively until Neal cleared his throat meaningfully. Moz didn't miss a beat and continued on to the mini-fridge.

Peter spread his arms wide toward Neal. "All right, what's he doing here?" He aimed that question at Neal because the little guy was now blustering outraged over the poor caviar selection and something about the true amounts of mercury samples. Peter didn't want to know.

"I thought we could pick our brains together and figure out where Docks' list really is."

Peter's stomach lurched. "No."

"Everyone's thinks I have it anyway—"

"And if you do get it, guess what will happen to you if Giraldi catches up to you?"

Neal stared blankly at him.

"Isn't that the point?" he countered. "The hotel room? The van outside? To make it look like I have the list so Giraldi or his men—What?"

Peter motioned Neal to sit down. He didn't.

"He's not coming to this hotel," Neal said flatly.

There was a pounding behind his eyes. Peter tried to ignore it as he met Neal's accusing gaze. "We have another hotel room, by Riverside, under the name Nick Halden."

"Who's there?"


"Who's taking my place?"

Peter cast about the room. Moz huddled like a safecracker behind the wooden panel of the fridge.

Peter met Neal's narrowed gaze squarely. "Diana and Agent Levens are in the room."

"You're pulling a shell game?"

"Amateurs," Moz commented from behind the fridge.

Neal made a sound that was supposed to be a laugh but it died too abruptly. "You're wasting your time." He veered around Peter, avoided his extended hand when he swayed, and staggered into the bedroom.

Peter held up a hand when he sensed Moz straightening up. He rubbed the back of his neck before he followed Neal in.

Neal didn't look up when Peter entered. He was struggling with the zipper of his overnight bag. The zipper was winning.

"You want me to—"

"I got it," Neal said tightly. With a jerk, the zipper surrendered and Neal started pulling out shirts, ties, a tie clip—Geez, didn't he have any normal clothes?

"I would think," Peter remarked quietly.

Neal stilled.

"I would think you would prefer to just sit tight and let someone else do the dirty work."

Neal's shoulders raised a fraction.

"Just…I don't know…watch a movie…" On the large flat screen. "Read a book…" On the suite's library—who the hell has a library in their hotel room? What do genius cons do in their spare time—maybe plot to take over the world?

Neal made a face at each suggestion. He sagged when Peter dropped a hand on his shoulder.

"Look," Peter reasoned, "you've still got all that stuff in your system. You're not a hundred percent. By all rights, you should be in the hospital—"

"Hah!" Moz commented from outside.

Peter tried counting to ten but lost track after he heard a clang and a pop when Moz discovered the suite's complimentary wine bar and reviewed the selection out loud as not being "too disastrously pedestrian."

Neal had the decency to look embarrassed.

"While I appreciate the initiative to find yet another way to put your neck under the guillotine," Peter went on, "I'd rather you find other less life-threatening ways to distract yourself." He knew he struck a nerve when Neal's eyes slid away. Peter gripped Neal's shoulder. "Let me handle it. Get some rest."

"Or I could look for the list for real," Neal said low.

Peter's hand tightened over Neal's shoulder. "No." He dropped his hand when he felt Neal try to fidget away. "Neal, let me handle it."

"I don't like sitting around doing nothing."

Peter nodded. "Well, you'll like a gun pointed at you even less." He sighed when Neal kept on emptying his duffle, but at least he was taking care to sort them into piles now rather than tossing them onto the bed like they were grenades.

"Why don't you lie down on the bed and get some shuteye?" Peter suggested. He caught Neal's knuckles turning white around the shirt he was holding. Neal wouldn't look at the bed and when Peter glanced at it as well, the back of his mouth soured. Yeah.

"Or we could see if there's a game on," Peter continued casually.

Neal gave him a longsuffering look. "There's always a game on."

Peter smirked. He threw an arm over Neal's shoulders and led him into the living area.

* * * * *

Sure enough, there was a game on. And, shockingly, Mozzie didn't object. He sat in the armchair to Neal's left, the tiny players running from one end to another reflecting off his glasses as he gingerly thumbed through a leather bound book. Peter warned Mozzie it better still be here after the case was over. He didn't look appeased when Moz scoffed.

Neal sat on the couch, staring blankly at a spot above the screen. He tried hard to pay attention, pointedly staring at the screen because he could feel Mozzie and Peter staring at him. Plus, Neal figured if he stared hard enough, the increasing roil and toil of his stomach would leave him alone to feel safe about standing up.

The late afternoon sunlight streaming in from the picture window was warm against Neal's skin. He could feel its progress gliding languidly down his side as time passed. He wondered if he looked outside, would he catch the sunset. He wondered if a bridge was available against the skyline. He wondered if the hotel offered a thousand dollar hamburger and what Rook would say if he ordered six.

Neal snorted.

"What's so funny?" Peter grumbled next to him, disgruntled because one tall player in a blue shirt threw the basketball to another tall player in a blue shirt in an apparent egregious move.

Neal tried to gesture toward the television but he couldn't hold up his leaden arm long enough. It flopped back down onto his lap after a few inches. It looked more like he was referring to the carpet.

Peter grunted in agreement to what he thought was Neal's ire over the game. He sat there, a newspaper folded to the crossword propped up by a knee. He alternated between the television to 40 across and to Neal when he thought Neal wasn't looking.

Neal could feel his eyes closing. He jerked.

"You okay?" Peter murmured, riveted to the screen but Neal knew better.

"Yeah." Neal stretched his eyes further open. The corners burned with the strain. "Peter," he murmured after a few moments of trying to focus on who threw what and their importance.

Peter straightened from his slouch next to him.

"How…" Neal pinched the bridge of his nose. "How did Giraldi know I would be there? Or Docks?" He could feel Peter tensing. "Even…" Neal's yawn interrupted himself. "Even if Giraldi was watching Docks, how did Docks know where to find me? He must have planned this ahead of time."

Peter heaved a sigh. "Neal, it doesn't mean someone in the FBI did it."

Moz muttered darkly about the "brotherhood."

Neal forced his eyes to open wider. The television blurred to orange and blue dots zipping left and right. "It doesn't mean someone in the FBI didn't do it."

The couch shifted under him.

"I'll have to go back to the office and check," Peter said finally. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but you might have something there."

Moz began to hum Sousa's Semper Fidelis under his breath, but Peter turned in his direction and the humming stopped.

"I don't like leaving you alone here."

Neal bit back a smile to that. Peter would squirm otherwise. "You have agents outside and downstairs."

"And we're not indefensible," Moz announced. "I'm carrying."

"What?" Peter just missed getting whiplash. He rolled his eyes when Moz pulled out a pair of chopsticks. Neal offered him a fraction of a shrug when Peter shot him an exasperated look. Moz mumbled something about "ninjas" and slipped them back into his jacket.

"Right," Peter said in a long drawl. "You're in safe hands."

"There's no one else I can ask to look into this," Neal said quietly. He squinted toward Peter.

Peter cleared his throat. Knowing Peter and his steadfast fidelity to the law, he was going to defend his fellow agents. His throat worked.

To his surprise, Neal felt a hand on top of his head, but it was so brief that, when he glanced up, Peter was already getting up to his feet.

"Let me check in with both teams first."

Neal tracked Peter back and forth as he called every agent posted on both hotels. It was hypnotic, Neal decided, the pacing like the pendulum swing of a pocket watch. Oddly fitting, considering Peter's often obsessive attention with time down to the second. Actually, Peter's manic punctuality could be useful in a heist.

A warm hand wrapped around Neal's ankle and scattered his musings of Peter, a Matisse and a Gregor V900 alarm system. He started.

"Easy," Peter rumbled by his ear. "Just trying to get you comfortable here, buddy." Carefully, hands swung Neal's legs up onto the couch. Something heavy floated down across his body.

Neal's eyes cracked open. He was confused as to when he had closed them, but was tempted to close them again. The faces were getting increasingly out of focus, moving too languidly to be real, but the voices that hovered over his head soothed the cold unease knotting prickling under his skin.

"You keep the door locked," Peter was telling someone. Who? Oh, right. Mozzie. "Go ahead and order room service if you want. One of our guys in the kitchen will bring it up."

"Oh, I feel much safer knowing that."

"Funny. And keep those chopsticks to yourself. The only thing I want you waving those things at is a pile of sweet and sour pork."

Neal smiled drowsily at Moz's scoff. "Unlikely. I'm allergic to what they put in there."


"The salt substitute they secretly put in to replace MSG."

Peter sighed. "Just be careful, all right? Watch yourselves. Don't go anywhere, do anything or even think about doing anything."

"That sounds restrictive."

Neal murmured wordlessly, agreeing.

A warm weight dropped carefully on his shoulder.

"Stay put, Neal," someone whispered, low and reassuringly deep. When Neal nodded, his eyes sliding shut, a hand made a messy swipe at his hair.

"I'll be back."

"Bye, Arnold," Moz quipped.

Neal wanted to say something as well but what came out instead was a yawn. He gave up, figuring he could say whatever he was going to say to whoever it was later.

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Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?

~ Gandalf "The Hobbit"

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