Special Agent Peter Burk was standing in front of his boss disgruntled, not that he was much else this early morning, and especially without coffee. Special Agent Hughes gave a long suffering sigh.
"Look, we need an objective perspective. You like him too much and most of the agents either are too suspicious or too charmed to give me an accurate risk assessment."
"Risk assessment?" Peter growled before he could consider that growling at his already irritated boss probably wouldn't get him what he wanted. But hey, he had already started, might as well finish. "He's not a damn car, he's a human being and an asset to this department."
Hughes straightened in his chair and gave Peter his best "boss" look, the one that made even the most seasoned agents sit down and shut up. Peter was too caffeine deprived to do the smart thing and shove his pride and sit down but he was sane enough to stop talking.
"This isn't just coming from me, Burke. The higher ups want this and they're going to get it." Hughes sighed again, this time inwardly. He didn't enjoy causing Burk grief. Though he would probably never completely trust Caffrey the kid was an asset and- though he'd never admit it out loud- not that bad of a guy. "My boss sent me a list of qualified people but since you know him best, I'm going to let you choose who gets the assignment."
Peter knew this was much more generous than Hughes needed to be, and as ridiculous as he thought this whole affair was, orders were orders.
"Thanks." This was met by another curt look. "Sir." Peter exited his boss' office and looked down at the list of submitted names. Choosing a shrink for Neal Caffrey was definitely not what he though he'd be doing today.
Neal Caffrey was in a particularly good mood this morning. He had successfully charmed Sandy, the young woman working the counter at his new favorite coffee house, into giving him a free Danish and, at least for the moment, the crushing weight of the perpetual roulette of mysteries that was his life was absent.
"Good morning, Peter," the con man chirped- chirped! What did they put in that Danish? The FBI agent didn't even look up from his desk. He was stooped over something, his expression a cross between annoyed and resigned. Neal sat in one of the chairs facing his partner, settling for the long haul. "I said, Good morning, Peter." Nothing. "What have you got there?" Not even a grunt. Neal considered the possibility that Peter had fallen asleep with his eyes open. "I think Elizabeth's planning to run away with a horse rancher from Yemen."
"El's allergic to horses." Neal rolled his eyes. At least he had gotten it to speak. He watched Peter slump back into his chair. "I'm trying to pick out a shrink." Neal suddenly felt like he had strayed somewhere he really wasn't supposed to be, and not in the good way.
"For you." This rudely jerked Neal's free Danish high away from him.
"Uhhh, that's really nice of you Peter, but I don't think it's necessary."
"Well the Bureau thinks it is." The younger man scoffed.
"Dare I ask why?"
"They want a risk assessment." It was clear exactly what the agent thought about that. This did not appease Neal's incredulousness. Suddenly the annoyed look on Peter's was gone from his face as a spark of ingenuity ignited in his eyes. "Wait. I got it." The agent practically jumped out of his seat in his enthusiasm. He called out a 'stay here, Caffrey' over his shoulder as he headed back towards Hughes' office.
Neal, too blind-sighted to protest, let himself sulk in his chair before trying to cheer himself up by messing with the things on Peter's desk.
Hughes looked up at Agent Burke who had unceremoniously burst into his office. "Excuse me?"
"Dr. Lyn Marrow. A Ph. D. in Psychology and a Masters in Criminology. She's a practicing psychologist who consults with law enforcement as an expert witness and as a profiler. She's plenty qualified." Hughes responded by closing his eyes and rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"She wasn't on the list." Peter was about to open his mouth to retort. "I'm sure she's plenty qualified but it's probably better for Caffrey to be evaluated by a man considering his… effect on women. And she's not FBI."
"But she has consulted with us before. And Lyn can handle Caffrey." At least he was pretty sure she could, last he heard she as getting married. "She has a highly sensitive bullshit sensor-" Hughes's eyebrows twitched in surprise at Burke's crudeness, "-her words, not mine. Trust me, she's good at getting inside these guys' heads. And besides, I think Caffrey would trust someone not directly associated with the Bureau more." Hughes looked at him suspiciously.
"Arrange a meeting. Let's see how this goes." Burke gave a sigh of relief after he exited his boss' office for the second time this morning. Now all he had to do was convince Lyn. Peter winced at the thought. He definitely needed coffee.
Lyn Marrow closed the door to her apartment with her foot and then unceremoniously dropped her suitcases on the floor. She blew a stubborn strawberry blonde piece of hair out of her face and scanned the living room. As she suspected, it was empty; Roger was still at work. The young woman fiddled with her engagement ring, like she always did when she thought of her future husband. She took the seven steps from the foyer to the couch and face planted. A trans-Atlantic flight would do that to you.
Dr. Evan Birsch, her former graduate advisor, had moved back to his native England and was working with Scotland Yard. Receiving a particularly interesting, a.k.a. convoluted, secretive, and nearly impossible, case he had wanted someone he knew, someone he could trust working with him. So he had called her and she had predictably jumped at the opportunity. She loved that ornery old bastard.
Now all that was left was blacking out.
Naturally, the universe was not that kind. The phone just had to ring, and ring and ring-
"What?" It wasn't the most graceful greeting, but she wasn't the most graceful person.
"Jesus, Lyn, what's eating you?" The voice registered in the back of her mind.
"Peter? Peter Burke?"
"Yeah, Lyn, it's me. Can you meet me at the office? I may have a job for you." Lyn groaned not caring that it was unprofessional.
"Peter, I just got off a plane from England. Is it urgent?"
"Yeah, it is." The woman sighed.
"Fine. Just… give me an extra twenty minutes."
"I'll give you ten."
"Go to hell, Burke." Lyn hung up after that abrupt statement but wasn't worried about backlash, Peter knew her well enough to know she didn't mean it. Sighing again the woman removed herself from the comfort of the couch and staggered into the bathroom. Her long limbs hit the counter with a soft thud but she didn't pay much attention. Water hit the basin and then was splashed on her face. Ah, cool relief. Ah, nice, soft towel. When she finally looked at her reflection the psychologist frowned. With her make up gone and hair up in a newly neat ponytail she looked all of sixteen; she blamed the freckles. And the fact that puberty had made her shoot up like a beanpole -5'8", tall for a girl- but refused to give her curves. So here she was, 28 years old and looked like a really tall high school freshman. Well, too late to do anything about it now. Duty and possible employment called.
The White Collar division of the FBI hadn't changed much. She had only consulted with them three times; normally she was called in on homicides and kidnappings. But Peter Burke had made an impression. The second case she worked with him took three months to close and they had gotten to know each other fairly well. She wasn't ashamed to say she had a crush on him at first. Tall, dashing, intelligent, no straight woman could blame her. That had all stopped, however, once she had met his wife, who she liked instantly.
"Hi, I'm Lyn Marrow. I'm here to see Special Agent Burke." The secretary smiled in response to her own and directed her to an office on the upper floor. She had managed to walk up most of the stairs before someone attempted to talk to her in her travel-logged state. A body sidled up to hers with a smoothness that could only mean trouble. Lyn turned to her new companion and was met with a pair of blue, blue eyes and one heart stopping, knee weakening, million mega-watt smile.
"Hi, I'm Neal Caffrey."
Neal had long ago gotten bored with snooping around Peter's desk. He needed cases, needed puzzles to occupy his mind. It was always going, going, going. If he didn't have something to focus on his mind tended to wallow, wallow, wallow; mostly about Kate.
The con man was now swiveling aimlessly in Peter's chair and observing the White Collar division below him. He enjoyed people watching, figuring out the motive behind their actions, what each wanted, what each was coning for; it was entertaining, and good reference material, and it delayed the wallowing for a little while.
Then Neal saw something particularly interesting. A new player came into the game. A tall, slender strawberry blonde with legs that went all the way up and all the way down. Time to introduce himself. After all, he did have extraordinary people skills and this mysterious new she might as well get the best first impression of the White Collar office, to smooth any dealings with her, of course. He quickly, gracefully, and quietly made his way to her side, as only Neal Caffrey could.
"Hi, I'm Neal Caffrey." His eyes took in every detail, observation was important in his line of work. Ten seconds of observation could save a con, even your life. Freckles -adorable-, wide hazel-green eyes –charming-, long hair gold and red and pin straight, even in that ponytail; an all around pretty girl. And she looked very tired.
What was she doing here? Was she a client? She looked like she should be teaching kindergarten or rescuing puppies. Not that looks couldn't be deceiving. He caught a flash of recognition in her eyes at his name. She had probably seen his photo in the paper but when dealing with an unknown person it was best to err on the side of caution. He gestured towards the remainder staircase and they began to ascend.
"What brings to the White Collar division?"
"I'm meeting with Special Agent Burke." Vague, and yet her tone was not rude. He gave her his most disarming expression.
"What for?" They reached the upper floor and he stopped walking and turned to face him.
"A job. I'm sorry, I can't really talk about it." Her tone and expression was pleasant, friendly but her eyes were sharp, observant, analytical, not the slightly dazed, doe-like look of someone bowled over by his charms. So maybe she shouldn't be teaching kindergarten. Or maybe he should kick it up a notch. He stepped closer so he was firmly inside of her personal space.
"Aw, c'mon, you can tell me." He lowered his voice and gave her that smile, that particular combination that made people want to lean in closer. He was rewarded when her pupils dilated and her mouth parted, just a little. And we have lift off.
"Lyn!" Peter's bark from his office seemed to shake her enough to break eye contact.
"Well," Neal stepped to the side and saw her eyes flicker back up to his, "I'll let you get to it." She gave him another of her smoke screen friendly smiles but it lacked all of the cool neutrality of her previous one. Neal smelled victory.
"Thank you." The woman pivoted purposefully, the force of it saying: "look, I'm completely cool and collected and you don't affect me at all." It would have made much more impact if she had turned into Peter's office and not the wall next to Peter's office.
"Oh look, a wall." Lyn knew her voice was supposed to sound dispassionate to counteract that fact that she had missed the door but she sounded more dazed than anything. And she really didn't want to sound like she felt. Lyn could practically feel Caffrey's grin burning into the back of her skull and she just wanted to hit him. That would, however, require her to turn around and face him. Instead she took a step to the right and walked through the door, like a normal person this time.
That guy was good.