Summary: Done for the prompt party. For whatever reason, Neal is assigned a different FBI agent handler/liaison/etc. - whether permanently or on a temporary basis. Neal makes his life hell until he gets Peter back.
Characters/Pairing: Neal and Peter, gen
Spoilers: through the pilot
Author's Note: It has literally been years since I've written anything fiction, fan or otherwise, but this wouldn't leave me alone. Damn it, White Collar fandom, you are taking over my life. And I love it.
"So you're going to be partnered with Agent Brandon from now on." Peter's been dreading this moment – telling Neal – since he got the news of the reassignment. Neal's brows are creased and his eyes dart back and forth as he processes the information. It's taking a lot longer than it usually takes him to process something. Peter doesn't blame him; it doesn't make any sense. Where do they get off telling him that he's "too close" and "giving Caffrey too much leeway"? They close cases, Neal stays within his radius. That's all that should matter.
When Neal finally responds, it's to say "no" and pout in stubborn refusal. He looks like a child. Sometimes Peter feels like he is one. Which is why Neal can't be assigned to another agent; no one knows Neal like he does. Neal's not like most of the other criminals he's caught. He's just a brilliant young man who made a few mistakes and committed a couple felonies in the name of what he was young and stupid enough at the time to believe was love.
Which is why he gets so angry when Neal brings up the subject of Kate and finding her. He had so much potential and she let him throw five years of his life away for her. Five years in an eight-by-eight cell so she could have her '82 Bordeau. He still has potential. Peter sees it and he's determined to see Neal put it to good use.
The other agents don't see what Peter sees.
On the first day, Brandon doesn't let him out of his sight, not even when he goes to the bathroom. Neal feel like he's in prison again, except with a better wardrobe and slightly more edible food. He has Mozzie hack into Brandon's personal file and prods him with personal questions until he finally dumps him on Linda, his second in command. She gives Neal an apologetic smile and splits the cookie from her brown-bagged lunch. He likes her. She will be spared.
On the second day, he wanders off at a crime scene, following an interesting trail of dark blue powder almost indistinguishable from the black tile of the bank floor. When he turns around to go back and lead the team to the place where the inside man was hiding the papers, he gets a face full of Brandon's service weapon. Please. Like Neal would run from here; there's no public transportation stop within sprinting distance and the block isn't populated enough at this time of day to blend in with the crowd. Not that he's thought about it.
He never made hypothetical escape plans when he was with Peter. (Well, he does have one daydream about letting Peter track him to an Upper East Side department store and forcing him to give up that poor excuse for a suit, but that's neither here nor there.)
He doesn't like guns. Lucky for him, Brandon misplaces his sidearm sometime between then and the end of the day. Neal's sure he'll find it eventually. But not before filling out the mountain of paperwork that comes with a lost weapon. God bless beaurocracy.
On the third day, Neal is banned from crime scenes. Everywhere they go, he's told to stay in the car while Linda relays Brandon's questions through a two-way radio. It's not his fault the car alarm went off while he was trying to turn on the radio. Or that he was so startled by it that he jerked violently and rocked the car a bit, causing the two vehicles on either side of the tight parking space to go off too. Honest. Would this face ever lie to you?
On the fourth day, they're all stuck in the office doing research and building the case. Neal's glad because Brandon was probably going to leave him here if they went out into the field. He finishes his laughably easy assignment in ten minutes, which leaves him a whole seven hours and fifty minutes to fill. He divides the time between talking to Linda about her kids – Michelle's just started kindergarten and Luke got an A on his math test – and trying to send messages to Peter through the building's mail system, begging him to get him out of here. Brandon, the sneaky bastard, manages to intercept every single one.
On the fifth day, Neal is listening to another agent give an update on the BOLO while he absentmindedly plays with his hat, when suddenly there's nothing. His hands are empty. He turns around in his chair just in time to see Brandon close a file drawer and lock it. Of course, the hat is back on his head the minute Brandon leaves the conference room long enough for him to pick the lock, but he refuses to consult for the rest of the day. He just sits there and glares at Brandon and no, he is most certainly not pouting, no matter what Peter might imply about him and woeful, kicked puppies.
His justice is swift and merciless.
Bright and early Monday morning, Peter heads into his office to find that he's been beaten there. Agent Brandon is standing with his back against the wall while he stares daggers at Neal, who is doing his best to look ashamed of himself. When he spots Peter walking up however, his face breaks into a lop-sided grin. Brandon shoves the already-signed transfer papers into his arms the moment he gets through the door.
"Your little lap dog is more trouble than he's worth," he sneers, then storms out of the office, muttering under his breath.
Peter turns to Neal and executes what he likes to think is one of his better stern and scolding eyebrow raises. Neal schools his face back into something resembling shame, but the corners of his mouth are still turned up a fraction. Peter is able to put away his coat and set down his briefcase with some semblance of composure before he sits down in his chair and laughs.
"I've never seen him so angry. Jesus, Neal, what did you do to him?"
Neal gives Peter his best innocent angel face, which just makes him laugh harder.
Two floors down, Agent Brandon begins to search every available file in his office, looking for something out of place. Written on a yellow post-it and stuck to his computer monitor is a simple message:
Is this yours?, followed by a perfect imitation of his signature.
It will be two days before Brandon realizes that he hasn't signed any documents without his knowledge.