I spent years of my life trying to catch you. Forged bonds – they were your earliest work, but by the time they finally caught you up you were a master. If you had a chance to do it again you wouldn’t have been caught, but it’s not possible to leave your past behind you, is it.
I learned so much about you over those years. I learned your aliases, your friends, and your habits. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little obsessed with you. Obsessions are dangerous things; they can be used against you. You had an obsession too, and it became your most dangerous weakness; the thing that finally got you captured.
I found out about Kate. I knew you would do anything for her – even walk into a federal trap. At the time it didn’t matter what I was doing. I didn’t realize what it meant that you would do that. To me it was just a means to victory and I savored it. Neal Caffrey, behind bars at last. My career was made. Yours was destroyed.
After your trial I didn’t pay much attention to you. You were in prison, I knew that, and as long as you stayed there it didn’t matter to me. I didn’t ever think about what happened to Kate, watching you be arrested just minutes after you found her again. I didn’t think what it meant to you to be behind bars for four years; the price you paid for your success of a search that had lasted three.
Until you escaped. Suddenly you were a part of my life again as I was told to capture you a second time. Your escape was brilliant, ingenious, but it came to an end days later. Once again you didn’t even try to evade arrest. You just sat there, and let me put you in handcuffs. You were led back to prison unresisting, and I could see the defeat in your eyes. Because without Kate – nothing mattered.
I didn’t know why you asked for that meeting. What was the reason for your request to be released into my custody? Were you just sick of prison, and ready for anything to be out in the open air again? Or did you think you manipulate your situation to escape and find Kate? You were obsessed, I knew that, but you were also honest. And suddenly you became a bigger part of my life than I ever realized was possible.
You’re a liar – that will never change. You’re also a thief, a forger, and a smuggler. You can’t be trusted – not with money, not with art; not with your freedom. You would double cross me in an instant to go after Kate. Putting you in the same room with valuables always set my teeth on edge. I didn’t know how this arrangement could ever work. And yet… you were human too. And I realized that you could change.
I don’t know when I started to think of you as a partner, rather than a prisoner. When you became a friend, instead of an obsession. I don’t know when I started to trust you; in spite of my better judgement. You still can’t be left alone in a museum, but when it counted I knew you had my back. I knew I could count on you, if not to do the right thing, at least to do what you thought the right thing was.
I don’t know when trust turned to affection. I don’t know when I stopped telling you not to do something as your parole officer and started telling you because I cared about you as a person. I don’t know when I stopped telling you to keep the law because it was the law but because it would be good for you. I don’t know when I started feeling responsible for you, not because you were in my custody, but because you’d found a place in my heart. I don’t know when I became a father to a thirty-year-old con man.
Fate has an odd way of tricking us with our obsessions. I went from being the agent obsessed with putting you behind bars to being the one most determined to keep you out. I want to protect you, even when you don’t want to be protected. I became willing to look the other way to keep you out of trouble. I became determined to keep you, not just safe, but also happy. You’re a danger to me, Neal. You’re a danger to this agency. You should be behind bars where you can’t get at these things that tempt you so. But I cling to the hope that you’re human and you can change.
I forgot that I, too, can be changed.