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04 June 2011 @ 11:59 pm
White Collar/Firefly/His Dark Materials Fic: The Consummate Companion Part 2  
Written for crossbigbang Crossover BigBang 2011
Crossposted to whitecollarfic, firefly_plus and withdaemons

Title: The Consummate Companion Part 2
Pairing/Characters: Neal/Elizabeth/Peter, Neal/Kate/Vincent, Neal/Alex, June/Byron, Mozzie, Diana, Clinton, Reese, OCs
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: Seasons 1-2 (White Collar)
Summary: Neal Caffrey, with his daemon Keaira, is a professional Companion assigned to the Burkes when his past with Vincent Adler returns to haunt them all (AU)
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ

Part 1

Neal was warm and safe in bed. He was loved and in love. The world was perfect.

And then Vincent barged in - apparently having skipped out on his business trip - and caught him and Kate happily curled up in bed.

Without him.

Nothing had prepared them for the wild fury that overtook Vincent in that moment, but every worry they'd had about things not being quite right was proven in spades as he grabbed both of their sleepy daemons from the foot of the bed and pulled them away.

The wrenching sickness of his very soul being torn in two made Neal scream out in helpless agony.

"Neal! Neal! Wake up!"

Through the fog Elizabeth's voice and her insistent hand shaking him finally drew Neal out of his nightmare and back into wakefulness. He was covered in a cold sweat and Keaira was trembling against his chest; she couldn't help but feel it too, even if was just a memory.

"I'm awake," he finally managed to answer her.

"You scared me," Elizabeth admitted, her voice gentle. "That nightmare... It seemed like the pain was so real."

"It was," Neal said before he realized he was about to spill what the dream was about. "But it's over."

"What was it about?" Elizabeth asked, rubbing his back gently in circles to soothe him.

"It was about being separated from Ke - how much that hurt." The answer wasn't a lie; she didn't have to know this was the second time they'd endured such anguish.

"Oh, Honey. I'm so sorry!"

Ramiro floundered on the side of the bed, pacing back and forth like he felt useless, but wanted to do something anyway. Keaira was so tightly wrapped in Neal's arms her tail was likely the only really visible portion of her body.

"Never again," Keaira whispered. "I couldn't bear it."

"Me neither," he whispered back to her. "It almost killed me."

After a moment they finally loosened up a little and Keaira allowed Ramiro to come near and stroke her fur consolingly with his paw.

Elizabeth pressed little kisses to Neal's face, adoring and sweet.

"You'll be fine," she assured him. "Just be patient. It's a once in a lifetime thing so give yourself a chance to forget." Either she was particularly perceptive or Neal had let his guard down, because as she gazed at him she apparently figured it out. "This wasn't the first time was it? That's why it's haunting you. It's happened before."

Too tired to lie and not wanting to hide anymore, Neal let out a breath. "Yes. It has happened before. And it was worse. Someone tried to take Ke away forcibly."

The gasp of pain that escaped from Elizabeth's lips was genuine and Ramiro rushed to her, throwing arms and tail around her neck to calm her.

"Who would do such a horrific thing?" she finally breathed, clutching her daemon close.

"A horrible man who cared about nothing but power and sating his own desires." Neal finally went the rest of the way, damning protocol. "My first client."

"Oh my god..." Elizabeth's hand was over her mouth in shock for a moment then she threw her arms around Neal, Ramiro and Keaira barely getting out of the way in time. "Neal... Oh, god... I didn't know... How could they do that to my beautiful boy?" He held her close, letting her sniffle into his neck for a while before she pulled back, wiping her eyes. "Peter and I? We're going to do everything we can to erase that bastard from your memory. Do you hear me? You deserve so much better than that."

She hugged him again and Neal found such wonderful solace in her arms he almost believed they could do it.

"Thank you, Hon."


Neal woke feeling better than he had in a long time, even able to sit up without wincing in pain.

Peter was sitting in a chair beside the bed flipping through a file.

"Morning, sunshine," he drawled affectionately. "You slept through breakfast and damn near slept through lunch!" He gestured to a carafe and glass by the side of the bed. "Drink your juice or El will kick both our asses."

Neal chuckled. "Not going to risk the wrath of El." He poured himself a glass and downed it fairly quickly, feeling even better once he was done. "So El's at work this time and you're on babysitting duty?"

"I think even you would argue the term 'babysitting'," Peter said, raising an eyebrow wryly. "But yes. El had an important meeting so I took the day off. I can read files just as easily here as at the office."

"Doesn't sound like much of a day off." Neal cocked his head towards the one in Peter's hand. "What are you working on?"

"This one?" Peter laid the open file on the bed. "He's a high end thief who calls himself..." He referred to the file again. "The Deutschmann. Apparently the name's in some sort of ancient language from Earth That Was."

"What does he steal?"

"He insinuates himself into high society claiming to be some sort of expert like an art appraiser. Once people trust him, they give him access and he wipes them all out at once and disappears."

"Wow. How can he do that?" Neal marveled. "I mean, they've got to have an image of his face to track him with!"

"All we can think is that he's using underground transportation - perhaps hiding his goods in an old Browncoat ship that's got no problem transporting illegal shipments to make money."


Peter sat back in his chair. "How would you catch him?"

Neal sat for a moment thoughtful. "I'd review all the places he's hit already; he can't go back there. He's already burned his bridges. There are only so many places where the rich congregate. I'd rank his future targets and inform key people in those areas to be on the lookout for someone who looks like him or presents the same way: an expert yet with no verifiable local background. He could be resorting to a disguise at this point in hopes of throwing people off."

"Very nicely done," Peter said, nodding. "That's exactly what I recommended they do."

Neal furrowed his brow. "Is it okay for you to be sharing classified case files with me?"

"Don't worry," Peter told him, closing up the file. "I had you checked out; you're not a security risk."

Neal eyed him. "When did you check me out?"

"After the first time El talked to you over the Cortex," Peter admitted. "With my job, I can't risk any surprises or be associated with someone with a criminal past."

"So what did you find?" Neal asked, suddenly uncomfortable.

"If you're wondering did I know about Vincent Adler? Yes. Adler showed up to enough events with two companions on his arms for me not to find photographic evidence you were with him."

"Kate and I wondered if he was under investigation for anything. He seemed..." Neal paused briefly. "I don't know. Things didn't seem quite right."

"Your instincts were spot on," Peter told him. "Adler was under investigation when he disappeared." He let out a resigned sigh. "I doubt we'll ever get a chance to go after him though. He's vanished without a trace and he took all his money and records with him. We've got nothing."

The room fell silent and the only sound was of Theodosia and Keaira shifting position where they were curled up at the foot of the bed.

"I don't hold anything Vincent's done against you," Peter said quietly. "You did your job. You weren't involved in any of his questionable activities."

"Does El know?"

"That you used to be Vincent Adler's companion? Yes." Peter leaned forward. "But I didn't share with her what I suspected, but didn't know for sure: that you were in love, not with Vincent, but with his other companion, Kate Moreau."

Neal closed his eyes, his worlds crashing together after he'd tried so hard to keep them apart.

"Yes," he said finally. "I loved her. And I lost her. Can we please not bring her up again?"

He felt Peter's hand, reassuring on his arm.

"Of course."


"Let me help."


Neal shooed Elizabeth out of the kitchen.

"Just a little help?"

"No," Neal repeated. "I'm fine. I got a clean bill of health from the doctor and I'm more than capable of taking up my duties making dinner again. Now go! Before Peter gets the idea he wants to help too and the meal burns while I chase you both away."

Elizabeth laughed. "Fine, but don't complain if Peter and I want to go out for dinner tomorrow to celebrate you finally being well again."

"You've got cocktails with the MacNairs tomorrow evening and you know that always runs late," Neal reminded her. "And even with my best companion skills I can't get those two to stop talking." They shared a chuckle before Elizabeth conceded.

"Fine, this weekend maybe."

Neal went back into the kitchen and started preparing the main dinner platter. He'd vacillated between using his contacts to procure some special items and making one of their best loved home style meals. Elizabeth might be an expert on caviar and champagne, but Peter really loved his meatloaf and his roasted chicken. In the end he'd compromised and made Cornish game hens, roasted rosemary potatoes, sauteed green beans and an apple pie for dessert.

Carrying out the platter with a flourish, he was delighted to see Elizabeth and Peter's faces both light up.

"Ta da! Dinner is served!"

He laid the platter in the middle of the table to appreciative oohs and ahs.

"I have missed your cooking," Peter admitted as Neal started serving, filling their plates for them. When he got close to Peter, Peter tugged on his sleeve. "It's good to have you back."

Neal bent over and pressed a kiss to Peter's lips. "It's good to be back, Hon."

He finally took his place at the table, Keaira sliding beneath to hang out with Theodosia and Ramiro who normally reclined down there together during meals.

He looked down the table, each place setting sparkling, each plate glistening with beautiful food, the wine sparkling in each goblet - the wine from the wine cellar he and Peter had built together for their beloved Elizabeth... It all just seemed too right.

"Is everything all right?" Elizabeth asked, noting his hesitation.

"Everything is perfect," Neal told her. "I wouldn't change a thing."


"So now you're going off planet Thursday instead of Friday?" Neal asked as the doorbell rang. He headed for the door and Elizabeth followed, referring to her handheld computer.

"Yes, I need the extra day for setup."

Neal opened the door to find two men standing there, one with a German Shepherd daemon and the other a Dalmatian. "Yes?"

As he and Elizabeth watched they both drew out badges.

"Alliance Police," the taller one announced.

"Oh!" Elizabeth gestured to the rest of the house. "My husband's not here right now."

"We're here for Neal Caffrey," the man continued. "We have a warrant for his arrest."

"A warrant? For my arrest?" Neal spat out the words in a haze of disbelief.

"On what charges?" Elizabeth demanded.

"For the murder of Kate Moreau."

All the air went out of Neal's lungs at once and Keaira fell limp at his feet as if she couldn't keep herself up any longer. If the weakness in his knees was any indication, Neal wasn't sure how much longer he himself could stay up.

"Kate?" His voice was a broken whisper. "But... But... Kate killed herself!"

"New evidence has come to light that shows that her suicide was staged. Now please, sir. Come with us and don't make a fuss."

Neal turned to Elizabeth, lost. "El?"

"Go," she told him, showing her strength under adversity. "I'll go get Peter from work and we'll come figure this me out, come get you released."

Neal just nodded. He barely managed the strength to scoop up Keaira, curling her shaking self against his chest.

"Okay, I trust you." The officers beckoned him to step outside, but as he did, he called back over his shoulder. "Get June on the Cortex as soon as possible! She needs to know!"

They led him down to the police vehicle below and opened the door to the inside.

"Daemon on one side, you on the other," the policeman ordered.

Neal could see was it segregated into halves with a metal mesh door, which stood open and waiting, separating them.

"No!" Keaira clung to Neal's shirt with her little claws in raw terror.

"You can't do this!" Neal shouted.

"I'm sorry. It's just protocol," the policeman explained.

"I don't care if you bind me hand and foot and gag me or whatever, but I am not letting you put my daemon in a cage away from me!"

A wail came up from Keaira, an almost human sounding keening, and both the officers visibly winced as their dog daemons whimpered.

"Please!" Elizabeth called out to them, pleading. "Don't separate them! It will kill them!"

Neal just stood his ground, more out of stunned shock than anything, and clutched Keaira to his chest in a death grip. It was only when one of the officers started to push him towards the car again that he responded, planting his feet firmly so he could not be budged as Keaira cried out in protest all over again.

It was the Dalmatian who broke, brushing her muzzle against her human's hand.

"Please," she murmured. "It hurts me to feel her pain. I know you can feel it too. Don't do this."

They ended up binding both Neal's hands and feet as Elizabeth watched weeping from the house, but in the end Keaira got to wrap herself tight around Neal's neck, petting him because he couldn't touch her on the way to the police station.

"It will all be fine," she whispered. "Peter will come for us."

Neal took a deep breath, forcing that scant positive thought.

"I know."


"You have to come out sometime."

Neal paced the tiny jail meeting room holding the bundle that was Keaira, snuggled under his shirt, against his body as he walked.


"Peter and Theodosia will be here soon."

That got her to peek her head out of his collar.

"You think so?"

"Why else would they move us to a conference room from the cell?"

Keaira pulled her head back in. "Don't talk about the cell. I hate the cell."

Neal finally fished her out and laid her gently on the table. "Look at me. Peter will get us out of this. Have faith."

"I do." Her voice was tiny in the barren room. "I'm just scared about what might happen until then."

There was a knock at the door and a police officer with a raven daemon opened the door, ushering Peter and Theodosia in.


He closed and locked the door as Keaira scurried across the table right into Theodosia's open arms.

"There, there, Ke," Theodosia soothed. "We're here."

Peter stepped forward, offering a manly embrace as if he knew they were being watched, but let it linger a little longer than normal.

"How are you holding up?"

"Not well," Neal admitted. "Can you get us out?"

"I'm working on it. But for now, you can help me out by telling me what you know about this." Peter pulled out a screen and tapped a few buttons to get a video to come up. "This is surveillance video from Vincent Adler's house, specifically the wing you and Kate lived in."

Grief stabbed Neal like a blade as he watched Kate - his Kate, and how could he have already started to forget how gracefully she moved - pour herself a glass of wine from their special bottle. She went in and out of frame a few times - coming back to refill her glass. Finally she faltered, the glass falling from her hand, and collapsed on the floor: dead.

The hand covering Neal's mouth trembled, but he managed to force back the threatening tears and keep his composure somewhat. A broken whimper rose up from Keaira as her beloved Solomon - Kate's mink daemon, who had almost been a twin to her in life - disappeared into the ether as Kate took her last breath.

"Later we have this." Peter fast-forwarded to where Neal found Kate's body. There was no sound, but it was painfully clear - the shock and anguish in the lines of his body on the screen - and tears sprung to his eyes all over again.

"Why are you showing me this?" he asked, unable to keep the bitterness from his voice. He recognized that this was Peter in work mode, analyzing the evidence, but it was still hard to watch him act so business-like at a time like this, even if a cool head was what he and Keaira needed to help them.

"Because what the police have as evidence is what happened before." Peter rewound and then played a section where Neal walked into the scope of the camera and picked up the bottle. "They said they were given a copy of this tape and a suggestion to test the bottle in evidence for traces of drugs. Apparently the pills spilled in her bedroom were a cover-up. Kate died from drugs in the wine." As they both watched, Neal poured wine from another bottle into the bottle Kate had drunk from and recorked it. "You can see why they can find your behavior suspicious. You tamper with the wine bottle, Kate drinks from it, Kate winds up dead."

"But I didn't tamper with it!" Neal exclaimed. "Listen, we had that same bottle for years. It was an old Earth That Was vintage that we could never in a hundred years have afforded to buy. So when I got the chance to get an empty bottle I took it and we just kept putting cheaper wine in it over and over, pretending it was the real thing."

"Did anyone else know about this pretend thing?" Peter asked.

"We didn't tell anyone." Neal huffed out a chuckle. "Living with all that wealth in Vincent's mansion? No, it would have been embarrassing. Still, we never hid the bottle. It just sat on our rack like all the others that didn't require special temperature handling."

Peter let out a long breath. "It's going to be hard to prove. Can you at least give me a witness who knew you were in love with Kate before she died? It would go a long way to help me break their idea of motive."

"I can," Neal said, perking up. "Our handler, June. She knew about Kate and I before anyone."

Peter nodded, looking relieved.

"A high ranking manager in the Guild? I can work with that."



June swept into the room, arms open, and Neal went into them with a sense of relief. Even though he worked for June Neal always saw her as more of a maternal figure than a boss, looking out for all her companions as if they were also her children.

"I'd say I'm sorry for all this, but I didn't do anything," Neal protested as she finally released him from her embrace.

"Well, I've brought along a Guild lawyer. He's waiting outside; I told him I wanted to see you first." She clasped Neal's face in her hands. "My dear boy... The last thing I ever wanted for you was more grief and trouble in your life."

Neal placed his hands over hers. "It's like a nightmare I can't wake up from. The idea that I, of all people, could have..." He couldn't continue and she pulled him back in to her arms, letting him bury his face in her neck.

"Don't worry... We'll knock some sense into these idiots. I've been getting almost nonstop updates from Peter via the Cortex so the lawyer spent most of the shuttle trip here preparing. We think we've got enough to get them to release you into Peter's custody. At least that way you won't be stuck in here while we figure this all out."

"That would be great." Neal felt some of the tension release from his body; he'd been taut from the moment he arrived, sick with worry. "Did you hear that, Ke? We might be out soon."

He glanced under the table where Keaira had been hiding and found her almost completely enveloped in Anteros' fluffy fur, the lynx curled around her looking so protective even Neal dared not come close.

"Can soon be now?" The tiny voice from the fur was heartbreaking and Neal heard June give a little gasp of sorrow beside him.

"We're working on it," she managed. "For now, let me get your lawyer in here so you can get started working on things. I promise, I swear to you," her voice stressed every syllable, "that I am not leaving until you're free, do you understand me?"

Neal gave her a kiss on the cheek and another firm hug.

"Thank you, June. I don't know what I'd do without you."

With a sad smile she cupped his face in her hand briefly.

"Be careful," she told him in a warning tone of voice. "Someone's pulling the strings and until we know who, you're not safe."


"Oh, Neal, baby..." Elizabeth could barely do more than hug Neal in the first five minutes of her visit and Ramiro was no better. He had his whole body and tail wrapped around Keaira, having darted through the door ahead of Elizabeth to get to her.

As much as Neal relished the comfort she brought what he really wanted was news - news of an impending release hopefully.

When she finally pulled back a little she wiped her eyes and looked a little bashful. "I'm sorry, Hon. I'm supposed to be strong for you, but I hate this so much! Having you and Ke locked up like this!"

Sad little whimpers came from both Keaira and Ramiro on the floor as the two of them continued to cling to each other.

"Please," he said, trying to force her attention, "can you tell me if there's any news at all? Anything about getting me out of here?"

"Just that the judge whose jurisdiction this is had already gone home before Peter could reach him. But don't worry. The Guild is more powerful than you realize. With one phone call June got the judge to turn around and come back into work from home. So once he's back in his chambers Peter and the Guild's lawyer - who Peter is really impressed with, by the way - have a writ to get you released into Peter's custody based on lack of concrete evidence and a character witness from the Guild who can disprove any motive they've got."

"Just so you know... I didn't kill her," Neal managed to get the words out after much mental practice, but they were still hard to speak and harder to hear.

"Honey, I know that! And Peter does too! You could never! Not if you felt even a fraction of what you feel for us for her! We know you! There's too much love in you to destroy another living being." She pulled him back into her arms again, holding him tight. "Why do you think we love you so much? You're a good man, Neal. And we'll see you though this - all the way 'til the end. I swear."


The guards escorting Neal to the courtroom held him by each arm as they walked on each side of him, their Rottweiler and Doberman daemons mirroring their formation in front of them, walking on either side of Keaira, making her look tiny in comparison to the bulky canine daemons.

The wide double doors opened in front of them and as they entered, Neal could see Peter, June and Oliver - the Guild's lawyer - standing in front of the judge with a woman in a stern suit and crow daemon who likely worked for the city as a prosecutor.

"Neal Caffrey," the judge began once he was in front of his desk. "I have before me a writ that requests you be released into the custody of Alliance Police Investigator Peter Burke. Do you agree to return at the court's request for any and all proceedings in regards to this case?"

"I do," Neal swore.

"You are hereby prohibited from leaving the planet until this matter is resolved. If you break the terms of this agreement the Alliance Police will remand you to jail where you will remain until your case completes its trial by jury." He brought down his old fashioned gavel with a resounding boom. "Court adjourned."

"Yes!" Neal heard Peter say under his breath while they waited for the judge to leave so they could speak freely. Once he and the bailiff were gone, Neal and Peter shared a brief hug then Neal and June a longer one.

"Can you tell me what happened?" Neal asked.

"Can they tell us on our way out?" Keaira piped up. "Please, I really need some fresh air."

"Fair enough."

They began their march out of the building in an odd sort of mirror to their way in only this time it was Peter and June flanking him as Theodosia and Anteros escorted Keaira out.

Once they hit the front steps, Oliver came up from where he'd been walking behind them to talk where they could hear him.

"Just so you know... June got us the judge and destroyed their motive, Peter got us the writ and put his career on the line taking responsibility for you and I just got the judge to see that the case against you was weak and that you were a very low flight risk." Oliver ducked his head down and for a second all Neal could see was his garter snake daemon flicking his tongue out from where he sat in his suit pocket. "I'm sorry, but I used the shuttle crash fear. I know that was personal, but I also knew that the judge would view anyone with a fear of flying who later was in a shuttle crash as an extremely low flight risk."

Neal clapped him on the arm. "I don't care what you had to use. I'm just glad to be out."

"You're out for now," Peter said darkly. "But this is all far from over."


After an extremely enthusiastic homecoming at the Burke house, Oliver and June showed up at the door looking somber. Their expressions drained all the joy from Neal, replacing it with dread as he ushered them into the living room.

"What's going on?" Elizabeth asked as soon as she saw them. Even Anteros was growling his displeasure.

Peter gestured them into seats and Oliver opened up his briefcase.

"I came across a piece of troubling information that will both likely exonerate Neal and tremendously complicate the case."

"How can Neal being exonerated be bad?" Peter asked, confused.

"I subpoenaed the records from the security company that stores the surveillance video the prosecution obtained to charge Neil. It ends up that the clip they were sent was downloaded over the Cortex two days before Neal was arrested." He glanced at all of them, his expression grim. "According to the company only one person has the security code to enable them to access and download the video remotely: Vincent Adler."

Neal's heart almost pounded out of his chest and he heard Peter draw in a sharp breath.

"So he's back then," Peter murmured.

"I'm afraid it looks that way," June piped up. "And it seems that he's bound and determined to make Neal suffer."

"Tell them the rest," Oliver prompted.

"I shouldn't say this, since it was told under an oath of confidence..." June hesitated. "But Neal's life is at stake now and I don't think that's what Kate would have wanted."

"Kate?" Neal's hand automatically reached out for the arm of the couch to steady himself as his other hand automatically went to Keaira.

"Yes." June gazed at him sadly. "You were so upset at losing her, I couldn't make it worse by bringing suspicion on her death for no good reason." She took a deep breath and addressed them all. "The day before she died Kate contacted me over a special secure line used only for Guild emergencies and asked to have Neal removed from their joint assignment for conduct unbecoming a Companion. When she failed to provide any evidence I told her I couldn't ruin Neal's career like that. She seemed anxious, looking around a lot. She asked if she put together a package with information on why Neal needed to be removed from Adler's house, would I do it as quickly as possible?"

"She wanted me out, but not herself?" Neal marveled.

"She didn't say why," June continued. "But she did confirm the code and procedure for an emergency extraction, which worried me more than anything."

"So you didn't think it suspicious when she died so soon afterwards?" Peter asked.

"I was torn," June admitted. "During the whole call she'd been morose and hopeless, saying things like 'It's all over' and 'I've lost everything.' No matter how much I tried to cheer her up she was doom-ridden and would hear nothing of it. When the coroner said all the evidence pointed to suicide..." She let her head hang down. "I guess I was too lost in my own guilt for not saving her to wonder if he'd been wrong about cause of death."

"I take it the package never showed up?" Peter inquired.

June shook her head. "If it had, I'd have had reason to look further."

"Adler must have found out about Kate planning to betray him..." Oliver contributed, letting his voice trail off.

Peter looked grim as he picked up the thread. "So he found and destroyed the evidence then killed her, making it look like a suicide, to silence her - for good."

June's always perfect poise was clearly crumbling as emotion swelled up inside of her.

"I just keep thinking... If I'd only... Kate might still..."

This time it was little Keaira consoling Anteros as Neal put his arm around June, pressing a kiss to her hair.

"Shh... It wasn't your fault," he told her. "It's all on Adler and we're going to make him pay."


"Based on the overwhelming evidence uncovered on this case and the character witnesses presented by the defendant, I request the court dismiss all charges against Mr. Caffrey and expunge the record of his arrest to clear his name."

Oliver stood up in front of the judge, looking confident and proud, his snake daemon mirroring his posture as her head stuck out of his suit's breast pocket.

"It is this opinion of this court that justice be best served by a full dismissal of all charges. File the paperwork for the expunge order and it will be processed by the court at a later date. Court adjourned!"

Neal all but leaped to his feet, dislodging Keaira on his lap who jumped up onto the defendant's table just in time. They managed to maintain decorum until the judge and bailiff left and then turned to where Peter, Elizabeth and June and their daemons were waiting in the row behind them.

Embraces were exchanged and happy little animal noises rose up from the playful daemons as Ramiro and Keaira ran around in delighted circles around Theodosia, who waved her thick paws in the air out of joy.

"Thank you," Neal finally said, shaking Oliver's hand. "I owe you."

"Just doing my job," Oliver said, nodding. "I wish all my cases were this easy and turned out this well." He stepped in closer, lowering his voice. "I agree with Peter. This isn't over. While we may have left the courtroom behind, I fear there more lawlessness to come. If Adler was desperate enough to frame you?"

"He might try worse next," Neal said soberly. "I've thought of that. June assures me she can put some private security in place for the short term, but I'm more worried about them."

His glance turned back to the jubilant Burkes, still celebrating their success.

"I'm afraid you have good reason to be worried." Oliver looked over to them as well. "Peter may be a trained police investigator, but if Adler's anything like other revenge-obsessed men, he's going to strike at the heart of the family - the person most like the one you both lost."

Their gaze shifted to Elizabeth who looked blissfully unaware.

"Look after her," Oliver said. "And look after yourself."


"Are you going to get in trouble for having me in a briefing?" Neal asked as Peter's Alliance Police team settled around the conference table.

"If Hughes asks, we're using you as an informant to suss out Vincent Adler's possible location."

Neal turned to Clinton sitting next to him, lowering his voice. "Hughes?"

"The big boss," Clinton explained. "Reese Hughes: tall, thin, older, white hair, huge gray Irish Wolfhound daemon. And let me tell you, Hughes aside? Ailish herself is not to be messed with." Clinton's dormouse daemon Beatriz shuddered at the name and went and hid in his shirt pocket.

"Shh, we're starting," Diana chided, her hawk daemon Afolabi ruffling his feathers in irritation where he sat on the corner of her chair.

"Vincent Adler," Peter began, running the image show on the wall at the front of the conference room, starting with a picture of Vincent in a bespoke suit exiting a bank with his arctic fox daemon Teagan by his side. "Suspected of numerous white collar crimes including financial fraud. Skipped out before we could build a solid case. Hasn't been seen or heard from in over a year." He turned from the image to the group. "Until now."

Diana took over, changing the display from the computer in front of her to a frozen image of one of the rooms in the luxury suite he once lived in in Vincent's mansion.

"This is a copy of the surveillance video showing what happened both before and after Kate Moreau's death. We're going to need to study it in detail for any clues we might have missed."

Neal steeled himself for this; he'd know it would be hard to dredge all of this back up, but it was the only way to end it - for good.

Peter continued. "We have proof that only Adler could have accessed the footage remotely to give to the police, but the download wasn't traceable. So now we're left knowing Adler's in the area, but where?"

"Peter." The doorway was suddenly filled with a huge dog, more like a small horse than anything, and a thin older man who had to be Reese Hughes. "A word?"

"Of course, sir." Sitting fairly close to the door, Neal could just barely overhear the conversation.

"You brought your companion here? Into a work meeting?"

"Only as a material witness," Peter assured him. "No one alive knows more about Vincent Adler's habits so we're hoping he can provide us with some leads as to where he might be hiding out."

Reese glanced over at Neal who pretended to be looking at the computer in front of him. He could feel the weight of the man's gaze and his daemon's too. Clinton hadn't been kidding when he said Ailish wasn't to be trifled with either. Neal had rarely met a man and daemon with such a powerful presence. In fact the last ones had been Vincent and Teagan: the fox and the fox - a perfect pair.

"Carry on." Reese and Ailish withdrew, giving their tacit approval, and Peter addressed the room again.

"Okay, people! Let's start by going over Vincent Adler's habits and see if we can match him to any geographic areas to focus our search..."

Peter's voice trailed off when his phone beeped with a message. He pulled it out and blanched. Neal went to him immediately, deeply concerned.

"It's from El..."

Peter handed over the phone, still shaken.

The message read: "I'm prepping an event at the Kingston Hotel this afternoon and am short staffed. Can you come help? Love you!"

Neal stiffened, terror swamping him. Since Hon or Honey meant 'I love you' in Burke shorthand, they'd agreed that actually saying 'Love you' instead was a call for help. They'd had three security agents on her, but still Adler had gotten to her.

And now Elizabeth was in danger and neither of them was there to protect her.


"Honey, I'm here!" Peter walked into the ballroom at the Kingston Hotel as if everything was normal even as Neal, positioned at the back entrance, watched the carefully choreographed operation unfold.

"Peter!" Elizabeth's voice was shrill and loud as she called out to her husband. A second later Vincent stepped from behind one of the floor to ceiling drapes, holding a knife to Elizabeth's throat as he held her tight against him like a shield. Ramiro was all but plastered to her chest, trying to keep her calm as she stepped stoically into the light where Peter and Neal, hidden away, could see her.

"Adler," Peter said, acknowledging her captor.

"You know who I am," Vincent nodded, pleased. "Then we can skip that part and move ahead to where you throw your gun away and I tie you and your lovely wife up while we page Neal to come next."

Peter wordlessly removed his gun from its shoulder holster and tossed it aside on the floor, approaching slowly with his hands raised.

"Don't hurt her."

"Keep doing what I ask and I won't have to," Vincent said.

Neal waited for the sign that everyone was in position: tiny dormouse Beatriz soundlessly moving behind Adler where he couldn't see her. When he saw it he stepped out of the back so Vincent could see him.


Vincent turned his back on Peter, pulling Elizabeth along with him. "Ah, so I don't have to wait! Get over here beside Peter. I've got a show for you two to watch."

Peter spoke up behind him.

"Us first. Go!"

At his signal Diana and Clinton emerged from their own hiding places and threw a handful of smoke grenades at Vincent's feet, enveloping him and Teagan almost immediately.

Theodosia sprang out of her hiding place behind a table with a roar and pounced on Teagan, wrestling the fox to the ground. Ramiro bit down hard on the arm Vincent was using to hold onto Elizabeth just as Afolabi swooped, talons aimed at Vincent's face. Staggered and bleeding, Vincent's knife clattered to the ground as he fell helplessly to his knees from both Keaira and Beatriz sinking their sharp teeth into his calves.

When the smoke started to clear, Elizabeth and Ramiro were free, Vincent was on the floor curled up in pain and Theodosia had her jaws locked over Teagan's throat, her growl a low warning not to move or risk certain death.

Diana and Clinton came forward to take both Vincent and Teagan into custody as little Beatriz stood guard over the fallen knife, baring her tiny teeth in warning to Vincent not to even try.

Vincent had expected to win out over his human prey. He'd completely underestimated how far their daemons would go, even to the point of enduring touching another daemon's human, in order to save their own.

As Diana and Clinton half-led, half-carried Vincent away, the remaining daemons ran to their humans to be comforted by reunion.

Watching Peter down on the floor with one arm around Theodosia and the other around Elizabeth, who was holding Ramiro tight to her chest, Neal was swamped with guilt and grief even as Keaira was safe in his arms again.

The people he'd loved had come to harm because of him: first Kate now Elizabeth and Peter.

Neal walked over and pressed a kiss to Elizabeth's hair. "I'm so sorry," he whispered, each of her sobs opening a fresh wound in him - wounds he felt certain he deserved for his role in her traumatic experience.

Under cover of the lingering haze, Neal turned and walked out the back door, Keaira looking longingly back over his shoulder.


The Guild training facility was the closest thing to home Neal had, so as much as he hated shuttle rides he booked the first one out to run back to June and solitude in which to salve his grief.

She'd accepted him without question, and even offered to bend the rules and allow his friend Mozzie to come visit. Alex had sent a call down the Cortex from her assignment, offering to come right away, but Neal told her not to come either.

So he and Keaira mostly wandered the grounds, morose, eschewing all company. When he'd been grieving Kate he'd stayed with her father, the two of them silently feeling their loss in the same house, both unable to assuage each other's pain save by their meager presence. But he'd died as well not long before Neal decided to return to the Guild. His health had plummeted and Neal almost could have believed he'd died of a broken heart. His own had felt almost fatal as it was.

Now he'd suffered doubly, almost losing two loved ones at once. He'd sworn he wasn't going to let his clients in and he'd folded just as easily as he'd folded with Kate. He'd been weak and he hated himself for it. His selfish desire had almost cost the Burkes their lives. No more.

All that remained was to figure out if he needed to quit the Guild forever or just switch to single night engagements. There was good business in being a society party escort and as long as he turned down any gala run by Burke Premiere Events he should be fine.

As he and Keaira sat in one of the gardens near a fountain, plucking petals and dropping them onto the cool waters, a voice interrupted Neal's reverie.

"You didn't say goodbye."

"To either of us."

He closed his eyes at the sound of Peter and Elizabeth's voices. He should have known they'd come after him. He should have prepared himself with arguments as to why he couldn't go back with them. But all he wanted to do was rush to them and let them fold him into their waiting arms and make it all go away like they did before.

"Please go," he forced out, keeping his eyes shut. "I'm quitting the Guild. I'm no longer available as a companion."

"We're actually glad to hear that," Elizabeth said, confusing Neal to the point of getting him to look up and stare at them in bewilderment.

"Because we wanted to ask you if you'd join us," Peter continued. "As a full partner."

"We love you, Neal," Elizabeth said, eyes tearful. "We want you back, for all time."

"What she's saying," Peter continued, "is will you marry us?"

The tears came so hot and fast Neal couldn't even speak, the drops falling into the fountain as Elizabeth and Peter rushed to his side, rubbing his back and pressing little kisses to his face.

"I can't," he finally forced out. "I can't put you in danger again. I can't risk losing you!"

"What makes you think there's any danger?" Elizabeth soothed. "That's all over."

"It doesn't matter," Neal bemoaned. "As long as Vincent's out there he's going to use his resources to try to hurt me. Prison won't stop him."

He sensed more than saw Elizabeth and Peter glance at each other over his head.

"June didn't tell you then?" Peter said quietly. "When they transferred Vincent and Teagan from a holding cell into the county jail populace Teagan started a fight with another prisoner's daemon. It escalated and... Well... Vincent and Teagan are dead."

Neal blinked up at them, mouth gaping open. Of all the feelings he'd had over time for Vincent, he'd never expected to hear of his death. The emotions swamped him and left him unable to speak for a while longer so he sat, accepting the warmth and care of the Burkes as Keaira finally came down off his lap to go to where Theodosia and Ramiro were waiting for her, curling up with her with such love it resonated in Neal as well.

He and Keaira really were a part of them now. He'd felt that void Peter explained when they met about being lonely when it was just Theodosia in the house with him. Neal had never before felt lonely with Keaira by his side, but now he knew that sort of emptiness. He felt it when Kate and Solomon were ripped out of his life and he felt it when he fled from the Burkes days earlier.

In a flash, Neal realized he never had to feel that way again.

He just had to let the past go and say yes to the man and woman who loved him.

Keaira withdrew from the warm embrace of her beloved daemons and climbed up into Neal's lap.

"Neal?" Her question was more a request, asking for a chance to be happy too.

He drew her in close, hugging her to his chest, letting out a long breath filled with tension and doubt and anguish.

"We're yours," he finally said, lifting his eyes to Peter and Elizabeth. "For as long as you'll have us."

"How about forever?" Peter responded, smiling.

"Yeah, forever sounds about right," Elizabeth chimed in, beaming.

Neal managed a smile as Keaira made happy little noises against his chest.

"Forever sounds just perfect."


Neal still didn't like shuttles, but with Peter on one side - busily checking all their safety harnesses - and Elizabeth on the other, he felt better than he had since before the crash.

June had had the Guild fashion leather harnesses and leashes of a sort to hook onto daemons and offered them to all the companions as a safety measure. She'd had ones made for Theodosia and Ramiro as well, with Keaira's being the sturdiest of all.

Though none of them liked being bound, they all felt better for knowing no matter what they could not get more than six feet away from their humans, no matter what went wrong with the shuttle.

Relaxing on the floor before take-off, Theodosia and Ramiro tried to make sure they didn't get tangled with Keaira's leash as she clung to Neal's ankle, nervous.

"It's going to be fine," Peter assured them. "I personally checked this shuttle's record for repairs and it's one of the newest and best maintained in the fleet."

"Is looking up that information for personal reasons allowed in your job?" Neal asked.

"Not really," Peter admitted, "but I'll be damned if I asked you to get on a shuttle without feeling safe about it getting to its destination." He squeezed Neal's hand and reached over to squeeze Elizabeth's as well. "We've got precious cargo."

"Most definitely," Elizabeth agreed. "Now, we've got a long flight ahead. I think we should get started on planning." She pulled out her handheld computer. "I think I'd like to use my friend Crystal as our wedding planner. She did my and Peter's wedding so I'm sure she'll do a lovely job for our joint wedding. I'm promoting Belinda so I'm having her do all our catering and then run the shop while we're on vacation. Oh!" She stopped herself, looking surprised. "We haven't given any thought as to where to go on our honeymoon!"

"Anywhere I can be with the two of you is fine with me," Neal answered, gazing at them both affectionately.

"Such a dear." Elizabeth kissed him on the cheek.

"Why don't we make it a surprise then?" Peter had a mischievous look.

"Ooh!" Elizabeth perked up. "That would be great!" She turned to Neal, ear to ear grin on her face. "We are so looking forward to spoiling you!"

Neal opened his mouth, but his normal retort failed to come. He no longer had any reason to spoil them and not allow them to spoil him in return. That's what people who loved each other did and they were no exception.

The shuttle whirred to life beneath them and Neal tensed, preparing himself for lift-off.

He'd almost died in a shuttle, but this time, this one was taking him to his new life.

"Are you ready?" Peter asked, taking his hand as Elizabeth held the other tight.

Neal could feel Keaira settled by his foot, being taken care of just as well as he was.

Taking a deep breath, he spoke just as the world began to fall away.

"I'm ready."

Yamxyamx on June 7th, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)
*patpats* That's okay. Your public demands it! ;)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on June 7th, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC)
LOL Well, my fellow slashchatters demand it at least. /grins/