Accusations
===============

Friday rolled around and Peter stopped by Neal's desk at the end of the work day. The young man was missing though, his favorite fedora on a small pile of casework but otherwise no sign of him. Peter glanced around till he caught a glimpse of Neal waltzing back in from the break room with a yawn and what looked like a cup of coffee.

"Broke down and got a cup of mud did you?" Neal stopped and blinked at his partner and nodded. He looked more tired than usual but they had been working some long hours with case files and Neal had been a good scout and done his duty with little to no complaints. Peter was proud of him. Now it was Friday and he intended on making it up his partner with some much needed R&R.

He picked up Neal's hat and handed it to the young man, pulling the cup of coffee from his hand and dumping it in the wastepaper basket. Neal just stared at him like he had gone insane.

"You know I won't be awake if I don't have something in me, even mud. These case files are enough to make the most normal person narcoleptic." Neal made a face, stifling another yawn but Peter just smiled.

"Put the files in a drawer, we're leaving. It's Friday." Neal blinked at the agent again and looked around then back at Peter and reached up to feel his partner's forehead.

"Well you don't have a fever so that's not why you're not acting like yourself. You're usually the first person to say we should stick around and finish these off. What's your angle, Peter?" Neal narrowed his eyes at the man wondering if there was something going on he didn't know about. Peter just laughed and shook his head.

"Nothing's up, I just thought since El's out of town maybe we could just hang out for the weekend. Watch a game... or not." He saw the look on Neal's face when he mentioned "sports" and frowned ever so slightly.

"Anyway, we could do something "fun." I'll even let you choose if you'll stop looking at me like I've been replaced with a clone. I can be fun. I'm not all about work, you know." Peter crossed his arms over his chest then didn't unsure what to do as Neal looked him up and down curiously. The young man chuckled.

"Gotcha! Yeah, I guess that sounds like fun. I didn't have any plans. I suppose I could watch a game with you if it comes to that but we'll have to balance it out with a trip to a museum or a local wine tasting." Neal smirked when Peter made a face this time and shrugged.

"So it's settled. Let's pack up. We can stop by June's so you can pick up a bag and we'll hang out at my place." Peter grinned as Neal grabbed up his jacket and hat and they started out of the lobby. Jones waved at them on the way out, Neal whispering.

"Should we invite Jones so you have a sports buddy?" He watched Peter smirk back.

"Very funny. You just want me distracted so you can do something else, right?" Peter gave Neal a pointed look, the young man holding up his hands innocently as they entered the elevator.

()()()

Neal and Peter entered June's palacious estate where Neal held residence since his second day out of prison. June greeted them warmly offering up a cup of her famous Italian roast which both men could not resist after a long day of reading boring case files. Peter stayed downstairs and chatted with June about things while Neal ran up quickly and grabbed a few choice items to take with him. He settled on some sweats he kept around just in case he helped June with tasks around the house. They would fit in with Peter's less mod choice of clothing. He added some jeans, vests and a few sweaters and of course his toiletries then ran back downstairs. Peter was finishing his second cup of coffee or maybe his third. The man looked pretty happy which made Neal smile.

"Hey June. I'll be back on Monday unless Peter kicks me out sooner." He glanced over at Peter with an innocent puppy dog look to which the agent smirked back.

"I might just throw you back somewhere else if you keep dogging me." Peter's grin was just as broad and June patted both of them on the arm with a motherly look as they walked towards the door.

"Now now... you boys have fun and don't make me go over there and break anything up." She winked at them as Peter blinked and Neal just smiled.

"Yes Ma'am." Neal made the sign of a scout which made Peter roll his eyes.

"I'll make sure the Boy Scout here behaves himself. El's out of town with her sister and Satchmo's with her." He shrugged slightly and June patted his arm in understanding.

"I guess you'll be watching a game or going out? Byron and Jeremy used to love going to games or just spend time playing pool at one of the local clubs. Have a good time." Her voice was wistful and nostalgic, both Peter and Neal smiling back as she waved to them and they made their way back to the Taurus. Neal dumped his bag in the back then slipped into the passenger seat and leaned back. He looked sleepy, his eyes drooping slightly as he stared out the window at the lights of the city. Peter watched him out the corner of his eye as he drove the 30 minutes to his home.

"Get up sleepy head." Peter's voice was soft but his nudging was not. Neal turned with a little sideways glance, flicking his fedora up so he could see.

"I didn't realize I was that tired." Neal yawned, stretching slightly as he removed his seat-belt and slipped out of the vehicle. He opened up the back door and grabbed up his bag closing the door and following Peter up the stairs to his home. Peter hung his coat on the rack by the door at the foot of the stairs and pointed upstairs.

"Drop your bag up in the guest room. I'll get us some beers." Neal nodded although his lips tried not to frown at the mention of beer for Peter's sake. Beer just wasn't his thing but he would allow his taste buds to suffer for friendship's sake. Neal made his way up the stairs and opened up the door at the top of the stairs and walked in. It was dressed in tasteful variety of earthy colors. El had taste. He dropped his bag on the floor by a large dresser and closed the door. He changed into the sweats he brought and a comfy tee, hanging up his jacket and hat. He thought he heard Peter stomp up the stairs and across to his bedroom and close the door. Neal peered out and saw a light under the door at the end of the hallway. He could just make movement out under the door as he walked over to the bathroom. Neal glanced at himself in the mirror, splashing a bit of cool water on his face and smoothing back his hair before leaving and heading back downstairs.

Downstairs, Neal walked across the living room to the kitchen, grabbing a glass and filling it with water as he walked back out into the living room and sat on the sofa. He noticed two cold beers sitting on the coffee table on coasters. Peter came down a few minutes later clad in his own set of sweats and Yankees tee, both of which looked like they needed to be retired. Neal just smiled, sipping at his water.

"Hurrah for sweats. Best invention ever!" Peter exclaimed with a happy smile as he noticed Neal relaxing on the sofa. He dropped himself down on the other end and leaned towards his friend and smiled as he grabbed up a beer.

"So... what do you usually do on a Friday night?" Peter's question was answered with an arched brow from Neal. He finished his water and placed the glass on the coffee table.

"Hmmm... Friday night. Well I start off with some confidence schemes. As the evening progresses, I work up to the priceless art forgeries and... for a nightcap I usually uhm... Oh you mean a normal Friday night..." He saw the angry father look Peter was giving him, the kind that means someone was going to get grounded and chuckled. Peter smiled back.

"Very funny, Neal. Seriously though, I'd like to know what you do." Peter seemed sincere and Neal just blinked as if trying to think of something he hadn't thought about before.

"Hmmm... well drink a vintage glass of wine. Eat at a fancy restaurant... Take in an art exhibit at the Met. Maybe watch a classic movie..." Neal shrugged getting a weird glance from Peter.

"All of that? Wow... you live an interesting life, Caffrey." Peter looked impressed, getting up and walking over to one of the shelves and grabbing what looked like a deck of cards. Neal peered at his friend curiously.

"I'm not into Go Fish, Peter." Neal smirked at his friend who just made a face and sat down near him on the sofa.

"I was thinking, Poker. Matchsticks or pennies?" Peter was smiling like a little boy. Neal shook his head.

"We have to play for something higher than that, Peter." Neal's voice turned slicker like a carnie at the fair. Peter arched up a brow.

"Ah, trying to con a Fed. Neal, don't think I was born yesterday but I'll bite. What are we playing for?" Peter crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the young man with a "I'm not buying it" look and listened. He saw Caffrey grin.

"Well, it would be nice to get out and about on my own off and on. Say... the Met without having to ask. Maybe we could ante that up?" His blue eyes glittered devilishly but Peter nodded finally, his face stolid.

(Two hours later...)

"Wow... did I win again?" Peter's voice sounded surprised but only slightly veiled his enjoyment at watching his friend puzzle at how he kept winning. Neal looked like he was in the presence of the greatest enigma ever.

"I just... you tricked me, Peter!" Neal sulked slightly, throwing down his cards on the table and looking only mildly upset. His eyes kept looking at his friend and back at the cards.

"This isn't a trick deck. I'd know it if I played with one... I just don't get it! You can't be that good a bluffer, Peter. It's not possible!" Neal just seemed to keep trying to figure out what was going on, Peter's smirk growing larger.

"I guess now you know the saying: "Never con a con" isn't always true. I think I just gotcha!" Peter smiled broadly, all teeth as he leaned back against the sofa and gave a little yawn.

"Guess that makes it 3 and 0. You now owe me more time than you did before. Consider it community service for a good cause." The Fed just smiled as Neal opened his mouth then closed it again and smirked, arms crossing his chest.

"I'll figure out what you did, Peter. I know you had some kind of tell you were using." He glanced at his friend who just shrugged.

"I'm just that good. Trust me. I went regionals once as a teen but my dad wouldn't let me go all the way when he found out it wasn't the chess championship I lied about." He grinned, Neal's mouth gawking.

"Regionals? In Poker? Damn... you have to be good for that. Peter... if I didn't know any better, I'd say I should be checking your background out as a con." Neal was seeing his friend in a whole new light. The agent didn't seem quite so stuffy anymore. He gave a little yawn and looked at the clock.

"Did you know it's past 2 am? I think I'm ready for a little shut eye." Neal stood up and stretched. He picked up his glass of water and took it with him as he walked towards the stairs.

"See you in the morning, Peter." He wave sleepily, walking up the stairs and disappearing out of sight. Peter nodded in reply, continuing to lean back in the sofa as he dozed lightly. After a little bit, he heard a soft sound of footsteps approaching and sat up, opening his eyes.

"Neal, what are you still doing up?" Peter opened his eyes and found himself face to face with a gun. He would have said more but one of the figures reached forward and pushed something over his nose and mouth, pinning him down before he could make any more noise. Something sweet filled his nostrils and he slowly slumped over.

"Sounds like someone else is here. Check the upstairs."

()()()

Neal brushed his teeth and had barely walked back towards the guest room when he heard Peter's voice downstairs.

"Neal, what are you still doing up?" Peter sounded sleepy but it was the next sound that made Neal freeze.

"Sounds like someone else is here. Check upstairs." Neal quickly made his way to his room and quietly closed the door, locking it with a light click. He quickly changed into his street clothes again, hid his bag and placed his PJ's under the covers, ducking into a nearby closet. He heard footsteps coming up the stairs and then down the hallway. He heard the rattle of the knob to the room and then a slight splintering of wood as the door was bashed open. He had already locked the closet door and was peering out the keyhole at the intruder. This guy was big and he was carrying. Neal gulped quietly, staying as still as he could as the man walked around the room then exited. He heard the man call out.

"All clear!" He heard the man's footsteps vanish down the stairs and the two men talking quietly below.

"Take him down to the basement. Boss wants him to be found by the missus when she returns. A little surprise for putting him away." Neal gulped as he heard the muffled voice speaking through the wall. Peter was going to be killed and Neal was hiding in the closet. He had to do something other than cower in here from big guys with guns.

Neal waited till he could hear the slam of the basement door, unlocked the closet and exited as quietly as he could. He slipped out of the guest room and down the hallway silently into the Burke's bedroom. Neal poke around till he found what he was looking for: Peter's gun. He pulled it out of the holster and checked the clip as quietly as he could. It was loaded and he was going to have to carry it despite his dislike of firearms. He pushed it into his jacket pocket and crept back outside into the hallway.

()()()

Peter felt someone slapping at his face, something pungent under his nose waking him. He was groggy from the chloroform, weakly shifting his weight as he hung from the basement rafters. His feet just barely touched the ground, arms strung over him and tied securely. He gave a muffled groan, a rag stuffed into his mouth and tape pulled over his lips. Peter glanced around the room, head too heavy to move, chin resting on his chest as he hung there. There were two men. He didn't know who they were but they looked Italian and possibly Mafia hit men if he had to take a guess. One of them grasped his chin in their gloved hand and pulled his face up to look at them.

"Mr. Gambosa sends his greetings from the Supermax. Said to leave you in little pieces for the missus to find." Peter's eyes widened as he struggled weakly against his bonds and the man's hold. He felt a heavy punch to his back as the other man hit him hard and another as the man holding his chin let go and punched him in the stomach. Peter choked, his chest hurting as he tried to catch his breath with the gag in his mouth. His face turned a bright red, eyes bugging out as he struggled with the pain. The men kept punching at him till he finally collapsed, eyes closed and barely moving, just a minor twitch of his face indicating he was still living.

"You wanna shoot him or do I?" The second man sounded kind of eager, Peter just opening his eyes enough to see a blurry figure standing there cocking a pistol. He was too weak to do more than just watch as the gun was pushed up against his temple.

"Think this is too messy? It's quick but I think we should probably prolong his suffering for the boss' sake. What do you think?" The two men were discussing it when the one with the gun pulled the weapon from Peter's temple and held it to his shoulder. There was a soft report more wet than anything as the bullet passed through flesh and Peter thrashed against the agony. He felt fire in his shoulder and a stream of warmth soaking his shirt. He struggled a moment before the pain got to him and he felt the last of his strength leave him. Peter heard the two men continue to speak but it was fading into a murmuring sound like the parents from the Charlie Brown cartoons. His eyes rolled back into his head and he lost consciousness.