So, this story has nothing to do with my other fic "The Pain of Change." As I was writing that story, I came up an idea for another story and I decided I wanted to get started on it right away. I find that I like to write multiple stories in a fandom. I hope no one minds—this fandom has been really welcoming when I posted my first story. That being said, I hope everyone enjoys this one.

This first chapter is essentially a prologue, if you will. It's a feeler to see if anyone will be willing to join me for the ride. Thanks.

The Boy He Was Before

Neal watched in amusement as Peter burst into the warehouse, yelling "FBI," with his gun pointed straight at Johnny Mobbs. He was just caught trying to sell Neal counterfeit bonds.

"What is this, Jake?" Johnny yelled at Neal when he saw the look on his supposed friend's face.

Neal's slight smirk turned into a full-fledged grin and replied, "It looks like you've just been caught trying to sell horribly made counterfeit bonds."

Johnny struggled when Jones grabbed the suspect's hand, started to cuff him, and read him his rights. "Horribly made?" he questioned, clearly offended, but he couldn't say anything else, because Peter interrupted the conversation.

"Get him out of here, Jones."

"Yes, sir."

Peter looked at Neal and said, "You did good work, Neal. I think we'll have enough to keep Mobbs in jail for a long, long time."

Neal merely smiled and responded, "Glad to be of service."

=)=)=)

Peter walked back into the White Collar Division office within the FBI headquarters. Neal was slightly behind him, currently begging Diana to take him to a local art gallery to hear a lecture on Degas paintings, since it was out of his two-mile radius. Neal had already asked him, but he had plans with El that night to eat out. Besides, he really wasn't in the mood to sit on a hard folding chair and listen to someone chatter about something that was as appealing to him as a rubber steak.

Diana immediately went to her desk with Neal close behind her while Peter continued to walk to his office. By the time he reached the staircase, however, he saw Agents Fawkes and Reynard in the conference room with three civilians. He assumed these individuals were witnesses to the Friedman diamond heist that had happened only two days ago. "Hopefully, they're not suspects because Fawkes shouldn't be interviewing them together if they are," Peter thought to himself.

He didn't know why he was so concerned, though. Fawkes was a seasoned agent—he knew how to do his job. It's just that something didn't quite settle well when he studied the three people his coworker was interviewing: two men and a woman. All three looked to be in their early to mid-thirties. The men could be brothers for all he knew. They had brown hair and brown eyes, medium builds, with skin that had been out in the sun for too long. The female also had brown hair—but it had a lighter blonde quality to it—and pale skin, so he didn't think she was related to the other two. He had been wrong before, though. In any case, each person was dressed in t-shirts and a pair of jeans with sneakers. They weren't the typical people they brought in for questioning, ironically. Usually, they dealt with conmen and thieves. These types of criminals tended to dress very sophisticated and neat…or at least they tried to. So, he wasn't sure why these three unsettled him so.

By this time, Peter had ascended the stairs and he watched as the three stood up and shook both agents' hands. They, then, walked out of the room and began to walk past him to get to the staircase. Agent Fawkes walked out and stood beside him. "Witnesses?" Peter questioned.

Fawkes shook his head and was just about to answer when they heard what almost sounded like a shriek. Every agent in the room turned to see the woman rush down the stairs and squeal, "Oh, my God! Danny! Is that you?"

Peter stepped to the railing and watched as she ran to Diana's desk and threw her arms around Neal. The other two men walked up with smiles on their faces and said, "Danny, man, it's good to see you!" They then proceeded to give him handshakes and pats on the back.

That's when Peter saw Neal's face. He smiled at the three of them warmly, but every so often he would glance at him nervously. Peter had just decided that he'd walk down there to meet Neal's friends when he heard Fawkes mutter, "Danny? Don't tell me I've stumbled onto a case that has something to do with Caffrey! Do you think 'Danny' is one of his old aliases?"

Peter hadn't really thought about it until that moment, but he widened his eyes when it dawned on him that yes, "Danny" was an old alias! It was the original alias, the one given to him when Ellen, Neal and his mother went into Witness Protection. He looked at the individuals carefully when he realized they had to be friends of Neal's before he became Neal Caffrey. They were friends from his youth; they had to be!

Curious, Peter walked away from Fawkes without answering his question. He started making his way down to the main floor, because he wanted to meet them. He saw Neal look at him once more and he noticed his C.I.'s almost fearful expression. Peter wrinkled his brow in confusion. Was Neal afraid of them meeting? He had gathered through their time together that Neal didn't like to talk about the life he once had. He had heard about Neal's life from age eighteen until now—he knew how "Neal Caffrey" came into existence, but Neal rarely spoke about the life of Danny Brooks. He wondered why now.

As he pondered this, he realized without a doubt that the skills Neal used today—his art skills, among others—must have been developed when he had been very young. Maybe these three had known Neal while he was honing those skills.

He stepped into the group as he heard Neal say, "I don't go by Danny anymore; it's Neal."

Peter immediately noticed the group's questioning expressions at the news, but before any of them could question it, he put a smile on his face and stepped beside his C.I. "Are you going to introduce us, Neal?"

Peter watched as the conman in Neal took over. His face that was once cheerful when he saw the three and nervous when he realized he was being observed vanished. In its stead was Neal's cool persona and countenance that he used when he was in a tough situation that he needed to get out of.

Peter knew he hadn't liked the look of these people when he saw them, and he knew if Neal was hiding his true feelings at this moment, he had every reason to be suspicious!

=)=)=)

Let me know what you think! Anyone interested?