This if my first fanfiction of any kind so please be gentle J I only knew fanfiction existed a few months ago, and when I got sucked in by White Collar, I thought I'd give it a go myself.

Sorry it's so short, I'll try to make the other chapters longer.

I'm from Ireland, and have tried to use the American versions of certain words, but if I have any mistakes let me know. Thanks

I do not own White Collar or its characters.

Peter took another sip of his coffee and stole a quick look at his watch without Hughes noticing. It was 9.15 and Neal was late - again. He tried to concentrate while Hughes briefed them on their latest case, but his mind kept drifting back to his partner and whether anyone else, though mainly Hughes, had noticed his absence at the meeting.

"I need you to find out where he is and what else he's involved in," Hughes said. "We lost a good man over this and no one was ever held accountable. We have to make it right." A murmur of agreement went up from the team, as they rose from the table and headed to work.

"Burke! Hold on a second, I need a word," Hughes barked. Jones, the only remaining agent in the room picked up his pace as he headed out, pausing only to give Peter a nod in sympathy at having to hear the same old "Where is Caffrey" speech.

"Yeah, boss," Peter replied, pulling his phone from his pocket to check if Neal had at least left a message or a voicemail this time to let him know he'd be late. He gratefully shoved it back in his pocket when he looked out the office door and saw an impeccably groomed, well dressed Neal rushing out of the elevator.

Turning back to Hughes, he said, "If you're going to ask me about Caffrey, he had an appointment this morning and was held up. I should have let you know earlier, but it slipped my mind, sorry. He should be in any minute now if you need him though."

Hughes arched his eyebrows at Peter, letting another blatant lie slip past. " Really? It would have been useful to know, so we could have rearranged the debriefing. We'll need him on this case. Make sure you get him up to speed. And more importantly - make sure you keep an eye on him. It was difficult enough to get him reinstated, and I don't want to give my superiors any more ammunition." Hughes shook his head as he left, no doubt recalling the long, difficult investigation after Project Mentor came to light.

Peter headed to his office to find Neal sitting at his desk, hat in his hands and apology already on his lips. "Peter, I'm so sorry. I got caught in traffic and - "

Peter interrupted him, his voice soft but firm. "You walk here, Neal. And even if you did catch a cab, you only live 1 mile away, and would have been here an hour ago."

Neal went quiet, his mouth set in a firm line as he contemplated what to say. This was one of the changes Peter had noticed in the recent months. Neal was lying less- at least lying less to Peter. In all the time they had been working together, Neal rarely told Peter a direct lie, he just gave him details and let Peter infer the lie himself. However, in the past two months Neal had been trying to be less deceptive, less cryptic. Well, as much as the great Neal caffrey could be. And if it involved emotions, or, god-forbid, Kate, he still reserved the right to spin a yarn.

"I did take a cab, Peter," he replied. "Just not from my apartment. And I really am sorry I'm late. Did I get you in trouble with Hughes again?"

Peter looked at Neal again and tried to keep the pity from his eyes. Neal was, as usual, nicely dressed in a crisp grey suit, hair neatly combed and was clean shaven, yet he still looked rough. He had lost a lot of weight off his already lean frame, his skin was incredibly pale and the dark circles under his eyes betrayed him. If Neal hadn't taken a cab from his apartment, Peter knew it was likely he had been visiting Kate, as he had done many mornings before.

"Never mind," Peter said. "But don't let it happen again or it's my ass on the line next time. And would it kill you to call and let me know."

He swatted the back of Neal's head with his file and Neal visibly relaxed.

"Did El catch her flight ok?" Neal asked as Peter stifled a yawn.

"Sorry. Yeah she did, I've been up since 4am to see her off. I sent her with my apologies to her parents but they're pretty understanding people." Peter was many great and wonderful things, but being able to tell a decent lie was not one of them. El's parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in Florida with a huge party, which Peter would not be attending. He claimed the recent economic downturn made it difficult to take his holiday leave, when he was really just concerned about leaving Neal alone since Mozzie was out of town.

"Peter, you're putting off social engagements to hang around with me - your concern is beginning to creep me out." It would almost be cute if it didn't make me seem so pathetic, Neal thought.

"Don't flatter yourself. Keith still hasn't recovered from his car accident and Hansen's on maternity leave. There's just no room for holidays at the moment." He hoped Neal didn't see through his transparent lies, but truth be told he wasn't sure if Neal was ready to be left alone for a weekend with no one keeping tabs on him.

"Thanks, Peter," Neal replied.

"Besides, someone needs to stay with Satchmo. Come on, lets get some more coffee and I'll fill you in on the new case. We really need you on this one."

"Don't you always," Neal smiled back, and they headed out into another warm summers day.