- Eternal – Episode 1, Parts 1 & 2 – Princess
- Work in Progress
- Death - Major Character
- Death - Minor Character
- Discussion - Murder
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
30 years ago
Guide Melissa Rogers stared at her Sentinel as he stood onstage, uneasy. She knew that Keith was not looking forward to the award ceremony, or the attention that came with it. Keith looked over to Melissa, giving her a smile that did not reach his eyes. Melissa opened her mind, attempting to sense Keith’s emotions. Startled by the mental block Keith has put up, Melissa inhaled sharply and began to stand up to go towards the stage. Before she could move, the ceremony started.
The first ten minutes of the general’s speech were barely heard by Melissa as she kept tabs on Keith. Keith remained motionless, his eyes on the speaker. Only when the general began to wrap up his comments did Keith straighten.
“And now, without any further adieu, please welcome the Secretary of Defense!”
Applause filled the auditorium as the Secretary of Defense walked to the podium. A popular man, the Secretary of State gave the crowd a genuine smile.
“Hello and welcome,” he began. “There are many aspects of my job that I enjoy, and some aspects that are difficult. Today, however, is a day where I get to do one of my favorite things: honor those who have gone above and beyond in service to our country. Sentinel Keith Johnson is one of those people. His actions when cut off from support led to the rescue of seven soldiers and aided in the defeat of our enemy.” The Secretary paused, waiting for the applause to die down. “He has proven again and again that you cannot defeat the spirit of a soldier of the United States of America. He is a soldier, a patriot, a Sentinel,” the Secretary paused and smiled at the crowd, “and a man I am honored to call my friend. Sentinel Keith Johnson, please come forward.”
Keith stood and walked slowly to the podium. The Secretary of Defense gave the man a large grin and held out his hand. Keith shook his hand.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly to the man.
“What?” the Secretary asked, leaning towards Keith.
And without hesitation, Keith withdrew the knife he had hidden on his body and thrust it between the other man’s ribs, piercing his heart. He slowly lowered the man to the ground even as security and Secret Service rushed the stage. Tackled, Keith looked over at his Guide, noting the tears running down her cheeks.
“Keith!” she shrieked, unable to get past the human barricade that had formed in seconds.
Keith closed his eyes and severed the bond with his Guide. Her piercing scream was the last thing he heard.
“Sophie! Hey Sophie, where are you?”
Sophie giggled as her uncle passed by the kitchen. Their nightly game of hide and seek was a ritual, and more often than not the young girl beat her uncle.
“Gotcha!” a voice behind her said, grabbing and tickling her.
Sophie shrieked and kicked, laughing as her uncle tickled her stomach.
“Oof,” the man grunted, nearly dropping with wiggling girl.
“You got me, Uncle Patrick! How did you get me?”
“It’s a secret,” he told her, flashing a smile at the seven year old. “How about a drink and then it’ll be time for a story and bed?” he suggested, noting her pout. The little girl had her mother’s spirit and her father’s competitive nature, which sometimes resulted in scenes when she didn’t get her way.
“Fine,” she said, sulking.
“Hey,” her uncle said, grabbing the end of her ponytail and tugging gently. “No pouting. You win some, you lose some. That’s life, my little princess.”
Sophie sighed. “Okay,” she replied, less than gracefully.
Sophie took the glass of water her uncle gave to her and drank it, handing the glass back to him. He placed it in the sink.
“See ya in a few,” he told her, and Sophie ran up the stairs to change into her pajamas and brush her teeth.
He walked over to the picture of Sophie’s parents that was displayed on the end table. He sighed.
“I don’t know how you did it,” he told the picture. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it. She’s just so….” He sighed. “God, she’s so much like both of you. I don’t know how I’m going to keep her safe.”
He heard her quiet footsteps as she tiptoed back down the stairs.
“You talking to my mom and dad again?” she asked the man who had taken care of her for the last six years.
“Yeah, Princess,” he replied.
“Oh,” she replied, tilting her head to the side. “Can you come tell me a story now?”
“Sure, sweetie,” he replied, guiding the girl towards the staircase. “Come on, it’s past your bedtime.”
Sophie jumped into her bed and pulled the covers up. She spent several minutes carefully arranging her stuffed animals around her, moving some around several times until they were just right. Her uncle had to bite back his laughter as she concentrated completely on her task. Finally she nodded once and looked at her uncle.
“All set,” she told him decisively.
“Okay,” he replied, nodding back.
Sophie put her head on her pillow and waited for her uncle to pull the covers over her shoulders. He tucked her in carefully, brushing her hair out of her face.
“So what do you want me to read tonight?” he asked as he settled down into the chair by her bed.
“Tell me a story,” she told him.
“What kind of story?” he asked her, already having an idea of what she would say.
“About the king and queen and their princess,” she told him. “But don’t leave out anything this time,” she said seriously.
“It’s kind of late,” he replied, “how about if I start it and see how far we get?”
“As long as you don’t leave anything out,” she agreed.
“Okay,” he replied. He settled back into the chair. “Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a future king. He had been looking for his queen, although neither of them knew it yet…..”
25 years ago
“It’s just so hard to believe that he was taken away like that,” the man said to Lucas Burke.
“What’s so hard to believe?” Lucas replied. “This is our government we’re talking about.”
“How did they find out?” the man insisted.
“The same way they always get their ‘facts,’” Kelly Burke chimed in, putting her arm through her husband’s. “Rumor, suspicion, and not enough evidence.”
The people around them nodded humorlessly. In the past four months, there had been seventeen Sentinel and Guide arrests in Baltimore.
“Mom,” eleven year old Peter tugged at Kelly’s dress. “Mom, I’m bored. And thirsty.”
Kelly rolled her eyes. “Give me just a few minutes and we’ll get you something, Peter,” she told him. He pouted, and Kelly couldn’t help but smile at the boy who had come online only a week earlier.
The door to the room opened, and an unfamiliar man walked in followed by a woman and a small child. Everyone froze and looked at the new arrivals. Lucas slowly maneuvered himself so that he was standing in front of Kelly and Peter. Lucas extended his senses and relaxed when he felt them being gently repelled, most likely by the woman.
“Hello,” the man said firmly. “My wife and I are new in town and we got turned around. We’re looking for an antique shop.”
Lucas recognized the beginning of the pre-arranged code for what it was.
“We have several antique shops,” he replied, issuing the challenge. “Are you looking for anything in particular?”
“My wife is searching for a tea set,” the man responded. “Particularly one from the nineteenth century that is gold embossed.”
Lucas nodded as the response was completed, and the room let out a collective sigh of relief.
“Welcome friend,” Lucas said, stepping forward. “Please come in.”
“Thank you,” the man replied as he stepped aside to let the woman and child enter. He closed the door. “My name is Alan Mitchell, and this is my wife Lara and our daughter Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth giggled and waved. Peter peeked out from behind his father and suddenly the entire atmosphere of the room changed. Peter walked towards the new arrivals.
“Peter,” Kelly said, starting towards her son.
Lucas held her back. “Don’t,” he told her.
“I know,” he said, watching his son and Elizabeth meet halfway. The room was oddly silent.
“I’m Peter,” the boy said as he stopped right in front of the girl.
“I’m Elizabeth,” she replied. She cocked her head to the side. “You’re going to be my Sentinel.”
Elizabeth nodded. “And I’m going to be your guide. How long have you been online?”
“A week yesterday.”
Lara looked at her husband. “The same day we got into town,” she said softly.
“You’re pretty,” Peter said.
Elizabeth grinned. “I know,” she answered.
Alan snorted softly.
Peter held out his hand. “You want to get some juice and then go play?”
Elizabeth looked at her mother. Knowing that it was a lost cause, Lara smiled sadly and nodded.
Elizabeth took Peter’s hand, and the room crackled with psionic energy as the beginning of their bond was formed. Not understanding the significance of the event, the two children went off to get their refreshments and play quietly. More than one adult smiled at what had just taken place.
The Burkes and Mitchells went to the other side of the room to talk as conversation returned to normal.
“Well,” Lucas said, “since we’re practically in-laws, I guess I should say hello and welcome.”
“Thank you,” Lara said, smiling sincerely. “I can honestly say that I did not see this happening.”
“How long has Elizabeth been online?” Kelly asked the other woman.
“About two months,” Lara replied. “We’re not sure what triggered it, but with the increased raids in our hometown, we decided to travel.”
“It is a concern,” Lucas agreed. “They’ve increased here. But we do what we can and we look out for each other. The best thing you can do is get Elizabeth enrolled in school and live as the mundanes do. Hopefully our kids will be in the same class and they can watch out for each other. There are a few Guide teachers at their school, but not many.”
Alan and Lara looked at each other.
“That’s good to know,” Alan told his fellow Sentinel. “We were on the fence about whether or not to send her to school, but if we’re trying to blend in, then maybe we should.”
“We will need to meet officially in public,” Kelly broke in. “Your safest bet is church on Sunday, that way the kids can meet and we can ‘welcome’ you to the neighborhood. The children can hit it off and we can make plans for play dates before school starts.”
Lara nodded. “That will work. I’ll get the details from you so that we can make sure we attend the correct service. I’ll have to coach Elizabeth on what to do and say; we’re not church goers.”
“Neither were we,” Kelly replied, “until…..until everything happened. Now it’s safest to blend in, and that includes attending church on Sundays and small group meetings on Wednesdays.”
Lara nodded, and the adults continued to discuss logistics while keeping an eye—and an ear—on their children.
Peter kept looking at Elizabeth. She sighed.
“You know, it’s kinda rude to keep staring,” she told him matter of factly.
The boy blushed. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s just, everything is so much quieter for some reason.”
“It’s because I center you,” Elizabeth said matter-of-factly.
“Oh,” Peter said. “Why?”
“I’m not entirely sure,” Elizabeth replied, crinkling her nose. “But it has something to do with me being a Guide. We’re supposed to balance each other or something like that.”
“Oh, okay,” Peter replied, accepting her answer. “Hey, El, look what I have,” he said, pulling several marbles out of his pocket. “You ever play?”
Elizabeth looked at him strangely.
“What?” he asked.
“Why did you call me El?”
Peter shrugged. “I dunno; you just seem like an El. I don’t have to call you that,” he added quickly.
Elizabeth thought for a moment. “I don’t mind,” she told him. “I guess I kinda like it.”
She grinned at Peter, and he flushed. Elizabeth laughed happily and grabbed the marbles.
Soft snores from Sophie brought her uncle’s attention back to the present.
“To be continued, my little princess,” he said softly, standing up. He kissed her head softly and headed downstairs, leaving her door cracked.
He went into the kitchen to finish doing the dishes from dinner. He had just filled the sink with soapy water when the phone rang.
Damn it, who would be calling this late?
He grabbed the phone on the third ring.
“Hello?” he asked.
“Is this Little Earl’s Pizza?” a voice asked.
He felt his heart drop. “No,” he croaked out. He cleared his throat. “No, I’m sorry but you must have the wrong number.”
“Okay,” the voice replied. “Thank you.”
The line disconnected. He stood still for several seconds and then raced up to his bedroom. There, he went to his closet, keyed the password into the small portable safe, and took out a never used burner phone with only one number programmed into it. He took a deep breath and hit the “send” button.
“Hello,” answered the familiar voice.
“Moz,” he answered.
“Neal, thank God,” Mozzie replied. “It’s been a long time. How are you?
“I’m fine. We’re fine. How are you?”
“Oh, the same. I have news. It’s not good.”
“I figured as much when I got the phone call. What’s going on?”
“I got a ping on your alias, Neal. Someone is looking into Patrick Jones and his niece. There have been three pings since then. You need to leave town. The sooner the better.”
“God, how, Moz? I’ve been so careful.”
“We knew it was a matter of when, not if, Neal. You guys have stayed in one place too long. When can you leave?”
“I repacked our bug out bags last week—Sophie just went through a growth spurt—so in theory we can be out tonight.”
“Do it,” Mozzie told him. “We’ll meet at Rendezvous Point Alpha by twenty-two hundred tomorrow, local time.”
Neal was silent for a moment.
“Okay,” he finally agreed. “Twenty-two hundred tomorrow, Alpha site. Got it.”
“And be safe,” Mozzie said. “They’ll be tracking your cards and bank accounts now.”
“I know,” Neal said. “I have plenty of cash and fake IDs for both of us. And fake plates. We’ll get there.”
“Okay,” Mozzie said. “Good luck.”
There was a click as the phone call ended. Neal took the battery out of the phone and removed the SIM card. He broke the small chip in half and flushed it down the toilet. Then he got the bags and began to pack up the car.
Two hours later, the car was packed and the house was completely wiped down except for Sophie’s room. He wiped her room quietly, wanting her to sleep as long as possible. Finally, when he couldn’t delay any longer, he woke her up.
“Hey Princess,” he said. “Wake up, sweetie pie.”
“Uncle Patrick?” she asked sleepily. “What’s wrong?”
“We need to go on a little trip,” he told her. “It’s going to be an adventure.”
“Like a journey?”
“Just like a journey.”
“Can we take Mister JamJam?” she asked.
Neal smiled. “We can take Mister JamJam,” he promised her.
He picked her, and the stuffed animal with the unfortunate name, up and carried them to the car. He buckled her into the back seat and covered her with a blanket. Their journey had begun.
Neal kept stealing glances at the rear view mirror as he drove. Sophie had fallen back asleep almost immediately, which he was grateful for. Yawning, Neal took the next exit in order to go through a drive-through. He needed caffeine. Sophie, of course, woke up as soon as he drove into the parking lot.
“Uncle Patrick, where are we?” asked a sleepy voice.
“I just need some coffee, Sophie,” he told the girl. “Do you want to go in and go pee since you’re up?”
“Okay,” Neal said, pulling into a parking spot. Maybe it was better this way; stop now and then hopefully he wouldn’t need to stop again until it was time to refill the gas tank.
Stepping out of the car, he looked around the parking lot. It was mostly empty. He opened the back door and helped Sophie out of the car. Inside the fast food restaurant, Neal stuck his head in the women’s bathroom and called to see if anyone was in there.
“Sounds like it’s empty, sweetie. Go ahead and go to the bathroom, and I’ll meet you in front of the counter, okay?”
Sophie nodded and went into the bathroom. Neal went into the men’s room, relieving himself as quickly as possible. He waited in front of the counter, and Sophie exited the bathroom a minute later.
“You thirsty? You want anything to drink or a snack?”
Sophie tilted her head to the side slightly. “I’m tired,” she told him, “but I might want juice later.”
Neal smiled; the girl loved her apple juice. He paid for their drinks and hurried her back out to the car. After she was strapped in, he pulled back out onto the road.
Neal sighed; he had hoped that she would go back to sleep, but it seemed that she was wide awake.
“Can you tell me more of the story?”
“Sure, sweetie. Close your eyes, okay?”
“Okay,” the little girl agreed, yawning.
“Okay,” Neal said, “now, we know that the future king had met his future queen. But since the evil Sorcerer wanted to keep them apart, they had to be very careful……”
18 years ago
“You look so beautiful, El,” Lara said as she leaned against the door frame.
Elizabeth looked at her mother from her reflection in the mirror. She smiled nervously.
“I think tonight is the night,” she admitted to her mother.
Lara raised her eyebrow. “Are you actually nervous?” she asked the young woman.
Elizabeth huffed. “I’m entitled.”
Lara barely held back a snort. “Honey, you’ve spent the last, what, seven years with each other. You are his Guide.”
Elizabeth turned and looked at her mother. “You don’t want us to get engaged. You think we’re too young.”
Lara shook her head. “That’s not it, El. Not at all.”
“Then what is it?”
Lara hesitated and then entered her daughter’s bedroom, sitting on the bed.
“You’re eighteen, he is about to turn eighteen. You graduate three weeks.”
“You just said—”
“It’s about appearances,” Lara interrupted. “Honey, this has ‘shotgun wedding’ written all over it.”
An unexpected feeling of distress caused both women to look at the doorway. Peter was standing in the doorway with Alan. He looked at Lara and Alan.
“I would never—we haven’t—”
“We know, son,” Alan said, putting his hand on his future son-in-law’s shoulder. He glared at his wife.
“People are just going to think—”
“Lara,” Alan said firmly, cutting his wife off. He held out his hand. “Let’s leave them to talk,” he said.
Lara nodded and left with her husband, leaving Peter and Elizabeth alone. Peter closed the door and sat on Elizabeth’s bed. He held out his hand, and Elizabeth sat down next to him.
“I would never want to do anything to harm your reputation,” he told her quietly. “I guess I didn’t really think about what it would look like to others.” He looked at their entwined hands.
“I did,” Elizabeth said.
Peter looked up.
“And I really don’t care,” she said bluntly. “We love each other, we both got accepted to NYU, and those in our clan know that we need to bond. God, Peter, it’s hell knowing that you need help that I can’t give you yet. Our bond can only do so much while still mostly platonic.”
“I love you,” he told her. “And it’s not just because you’re my Guide. You’re my everything, El, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life making sure you know that.”
“I know,” she told him. “Now,” she said, looking into his eyes, “are you going to propose, or am I going to have to do that, too?”
Peter laughed. “I had a plan, you know,” he told her. “There was going to be wining and dining and embarrassing you at the restaurant.”
“Well, then, we should probably get going,” Elizabeth told him. “Just don’t hide the ring in food. It’s messy and cliché.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he told her. “But can you at least look surprised? For propriety’s sake?”
“The sacrifices I make,” she told him as she shook her head.
“I’ll make it up to you,” Peter promised with a grin.
“You know my dad is downstairs,” she told him. “You’ve seen his gun.”
“Yeah, he made sure to be cleaning it when I informed him of my intention to ask you to marry me tonight,” Peter replied with a grin. “I was properly horrified, of course.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Make sure to tell that story at our reception,” she told him.
“Of course,” he replied, standing up. He held out his hand. “Shall we?”
“We shall,” Elizabeth replied, allowing Peter to help her up and escort her downstairs.
“Sophie, hey Sophie. Time to wake up”
“Uncle Patrick? Where are we?”
“We’re at a gas station, sweetie. Are you ready for lunch?”
Sophie nodded and looked around. Neal helped her out of the car and took her hand, leading her into the convenience store with the attached fast food restaurant. Neal bought lunch for them and Sophie looked around as she ate, her eyes wide.
“Where are we going, Uncle Patrick?”
“I have to meet a friend,” he told her. “It’s important, which is why we needed to leave right away.”
“Something’s wrong,” she replied.
Neal paused. He knew that the little girl was too smart to be lied to, and he had promised himself that he would always be honest with her.
“Yes,” he replied, “but you need to trust me that everything will be okay, sweetie.”
“I trust you,” she told him. She stilled and tilted her head.
“Those men are bad,” she said softly.
“The men behind you,” she said without looking at them. “They have mean thoughts.”
Neal grew pale. “And how long have you been able to sense people’s thoughts?” he asked her, struggling to keep his voice even.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I’ve been having….. feelings for a while now. But they’re very clear.”
“Okay,” he told her. “We’ll have to talk about that soon. But, honey,” he lowered his voice, “it is very important that you do not mention that to anyone. Ever. Okay? Please.”
Sophie nodded. “Okay, Uncle Patrick,” she agreed solemnly. “I promise.”
Neal took a big breath and let it out. “Okay. Are you finished with lunch?”
“Then let’s go,” he told her.
She took the hand he offered and they walked out of the restaurant and out the convenience store entrance, bypassing the men she had pointed out.
They got back in the car and Neal merged back onto the highway. He looked in the rearview mirror and saw that Sophie was busy reading one of her books that Neal had made sure to grab when he packed. She looked so much like Elizabeth in that moment that his heart ached.
God, Elizabeth, if only you could see her now. I’m doing the best I can for her. And now…. I don’t know what to do.
Sophie looked up from her book and met his gaze in the mirror. She grinned, and he couldn’t help but smile back at the girl.
13 years ago
“El?! You home?”
“In here, sweetie. Don’t yell.”
Peter walked into the kitchen to find his wife slicing vegetables. She leaned back as he put his arms around her.
“I missed you,” he said in her ear.
Elizabeth put the knife on the counter and turned around.
“I missed you, too,” she replied, putting her arms around his neck.
“Guide,” he said softly, breathing in her scent.
“My Sentinel,” she responded. “You have news?”
“I was assigned a new case today.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
Peter hesitated. “It’s with the SGDU,” he told her.
Elizabeth froze. The Sentinel Guide Detection Unit had been formed three years ago in response to the rumors of the resurgence in the Sentinel and Guide community. Its purpose was to track down and neutralize any Sentinels and their Guides.
“I thought you did well with the White Collar division case.”
“I did. This is my ‘reward,’” Peter replied bitterly. “Evidently they were impressed that a rookie closed the case so quickly and they want to see what I can accomplish in the SGDU.”
“Oh, Peter,” Elizabeth said, guiding his head to her neck. She cradled him as he took deep breaths, grounding himself with her familiar scent. “I wish I could be there with you.”
“Me too,” came his muffled reply. He brought his head up. “But I can’t exactly introduce you as my Guide and demand you take your place at my side,” he finished with a wry smile.
“I could see if there are any administrative or clerical job openings at the FBI field office,” she told him.
Peter considered it and shook his head. “That’s not what you went to school for,” he told her. “Or what your passion is.”
“My passion is you, Guide,” she told him.
“And for that I am the luckiest man alive,” he answered. “But we must be careful, now more than ever.”
“How are your shields?” Elizabeth asked. “I kept sensing your discomfort today.”
“They are weak,” he admitted. “They need to be shored up a bit.”
“You need a Guide there with you,” Elizabeth muttered.
“I did meet an interesting person today,” Peter admitted. “My temporary partner. Her name is Diana.”
Elizabeth raised her eyebrow. “Diana,” she replied neutrally.
“There was something about her….”
Elizabeth tilted her head. “Do tell.”
Peter grinned. “Jealous?”
“Hardly,” Elizabeth shot back. “Just remember who you come home to at the end of each day, Sentinel.”
“Oh, I know, Guide,” Peter replied with a smile. “But maybe you should remind me anyway.”
“I need to finish dinner,” Elizabeth protested weakly.
“I’m not hungry,” Peter responded, kissing her.
“Then again, dinner can wait,” she decided.
Peter smiled and took her hand.
“Okay, sweetie, we’re just about there. We’re going to be meeting an old friend. His name is Mozzie. He can be kind of silly, but he’s a good guy and you can trust him, okay?”
“Okay, Uncle Patrick,” Sophie told him.
Neal pulled off the highway and turned left onto a gravel road. After several miles, he made another turn and then stopped. He turned the lights off, then on, then off again. Five seconds later, he saw flashing lights: on, off, two quick flashes on, and then off again.
“Showtime,” he muttered to himself. Keeping the lights off, he drove farther off the gravel road and stopped behind an old shed. “Okay, sweetie,” Neal said to Sophie, “stay here for just a minute, okay?”
Sophie nodded in the dark. Neal got out of the car, locking it behind him. He pulled out the gun he had brought along.
“Moz,” he called softly.
“Here,” came an equally soft response.
Neal walked carefully towards the voice.
“Hi Neal,” Mozzie said.
“Moz,” Neal said with relief, quickly putting the gun in his waistband. He pulled his old friend into an embrace. “It’s been too long.”
“It has,” Mozzie agreed.
“There’s so much to tell you,” Neal said.
“And I have so much to tell you,” Mozzie replied. “But we should get indoors. Where’s the girl?”
“Sophie’s in the car,” Neal said, gesturing behind him.
“Bring her,” Mozzie said, turning towards the house near the shed. “Quickly. We shouldn’t be seen out here.”
Neal retrieved Sophie from the house. Sophie clung to him, looking around the old house.
“Come into the kitchen,” Mozzie called. “I put on some hot water. Does she like hot chocolate? Or tea?”
“Hot chocolate would be good, thanks Moz,” Neal responded. He turned to Sophie and knelt down on one knee. “Okay, sweetie,” he told her, “you’re okay. I promise. You don’t need to be scared.”
Sophie nodded resolutely, jutting her chin like her mother used to. Neal sucked in a breath. He exhaled and forced a smile. They walked into the kitchen.
Mozzie turned around and stared at Sophie. “My God,” he said, “she’s a miniature Mrs. Suit.”
Neal bit his lip, trying unsuccessfully to hide his smile.
“Who’s Mrs. Suit?” Sophie asked.
“That would be your mom,” Mozzie replied, stepping towards the child.
Sophie’s eyes widened. “You knew my mom?”
“I did,” Mozzie said, his voice softening. “She was…… incredible. And lovely. You look just like her.”
Sophie beamed. “I like you, Uncle Mozzie,” she said decisively, and launched herself at the man.
Mozzie caught her and grunted as he barely managed to keep from falling over. Neal laughed outright.
“Looks like you’ve been adopted, Uncle Mozzie,” Neal said teasingly.
Mozzie glared at his friend. “Don’t start, Neal,” he said sternly, struggling to stay upright as the little girl wiggled in his grasp.
“Who’s Neal?” Sophie asked, confused.
Mozzie looked at Neal.
“Well, sweetie, that’s my real name,” Neal told the girl. “Maybe we should get our drinks and sit down,” he suggested.
Mozzie put Sophie down and went to pour drinks for them. They sat down at the table.
“Okay, Sophie,” Neal said, “I know this is a lot to handle, but I need to talk to you like a grown up. Can you handle that?”
Sophie nodded, her face serious.
“Okay, then,” Neal said. He paused and looked at Mozzie. “Honey, when you were born, your name was Juniper Sophia Burke. My name was Neal Caffrey. Some bad men hurt your parents and they had to go to heaven. I promised to keep you safe, so Uncle Mozzie and some friends helped me change our names and disappear.”
“You’re not my uncle?” Sophie asked, tears filling her eyes.
“Oh, honey, of course he is,” Mozzie said, getting up and sitting next to the little girl.
Neal looked at his friend in surprise. Mozzie looked at Neal and then back at Sophie.
“Sophie,” Mozzie explained, “family isn’t just about blood. Your parents loved your Uncle Neal, well, Uncle Patrick, and he loved them. They trusted him to keep you safe. He’s your family, and you’re his.”
“Okay,” Sophie said in a small voice.
“Sophie,” Neal said gently, “I’m always going to do everything I can to keep you safe.”
“I know, Uncle Patrick,” Sophie said. Her eyes widened. “Can I still call you Uncle Patrick?”
“You can call me whatever you want, Princess,” Neal replied.
Sophie yawned. “I’m tired,” she said.
“I have a room set up for her upstairs,” Mozzie said. “It isn’t much, but she should be comfy.”
“Thanks, Moz,” Neal said. He picked up the girl and carried her upstairs, her face buried in his shirt. He came downstairs a few minutes later.
“She will be,” Neal said, sighing as he sat back down. “Okay, Moz, what’s going on?”
“Have you kept in contact with anyone from the old clan?”
Neal shook his head. “It was too dangerous. After what happened to Peter and Elizabeth, I just couldn’t take the risk. Only you knew how to reach us.”
“They found Diana’s body last week.”
Neal sucked in a breath. “Fuck. Theo.”
“Jones grabbed him. They’re in a safe house.”
Mozzie shook his head. “We’re not sure. The only thing we can come up with is that someone got wind that she was investigating Peter and Elizabeth’s murder.”
“We already know who murdered them,” Neal said sharply.
“I know what I saw.”
“But Diana was following the money.”
“It’s always been about money, Neal. Neal….”
“Jones thinks that Diana was able to connect their murder with what happened all those years ago.”
“She had proof.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“Then be prepared to believe,” came a voice behind them.
Neal was out of his chair, gun pointed towards their intruder before he was even able to fully understand his actions.
“Hey, man, easy,” Clinton Jones said, shielding a boy with is body.
Neal lowered the gun. “Jesus, Jones. Give me a heart attack.” He took a step towards the man.
“Since when do you carry a gun?”
“Since I became responsible for a little girl.”
Jones snorted. “Not a bad idea. Neal, you remember Theo.”
Neal looked at the boy next to the former FBI agent.
“You’ve gotten tall,” Neal said to the boy.
“Ten next week,” Jones said.
“God, that old?”
“Yeah,” Jones said. “Hey, you have a room for him to crash in?”
“Sure,” Mozzie said. He took Jones and Theo upstairs. The two men came back down a few minutes later.
“So,” Neal said, “you have information about what’s going on? About why I had to pack up Sophie and leave everything behind?”
“Yeah, man,” Jones said. “We finally have a name,” he said.
“Who?” Neal said sharply. “Who did I see murder my friends?”
“Someone with a lot of power. He was once an FBI agent. He figured out what Peter and Elizabeth were and had them killed.”
“But now we know him as Director Fowler.”