Author's note: This is written for Sarah because I haven't been that good a friend lately. It has also inspired me to start writing again so hopefully my other dangling stories will also get finished now. It's a teaser and there is more to come. Let me know if you like it.- J

Disclaimer:- I do not own White collar. . .yada yada. . . this is just a tribute to a great idea in the hope that no one minds.

Summary:- Neal puts himself in danger to right a wrong- so what's new there right?

Out of Character

The phone disturbed his sleep, dragging him slowly to wakefulness. Working White Collar had made Agent Peter Burke slower to react to the early morning call out. It was rare that forgeries or art thefts were sufficiently urgent to drag him out of bed. He fumbled for the phone.

"Peter?" The voice was slightly breathy but unmistakeably Neal Caffrey.

What the hell? Why would Neal be ringing him at. . .Peter scrubbed his eyes and shifted so he could see the bedside clock "2.46," glowed in bright green at him. His mind was still sleep fuzzy so it took a moment longer for any emotion to kick in. Anger seemed to hit first. Why would. . .

"Peter?" Neal's voice again, uncharacteristically uncertain, and there was an underlying something. . . was that tension? Peter had been about to respond with the initial anger, had been ready to chew the younger man out for middle of the night phone calls but there was something in the way that Neal spoke, something that just wasn't. . . . Neal.

Peter's mind finally connected the memories, as the events of the last couple of days replayed in an instant of time in glorious Technicolor and his tone softened before he'd even spoken his first word.

"Neal, what is it? You need to talk?"

There was an almost laugh from the other end of the line, choked off. "No, I just. . .I just wanted to say I was sorry."

"You have nothing to be sorry for, nothing in the last couple of days has been your fault." Peter shifted on the bed dropping his legs over the side as he used his free hand to pull himself free of the comforter. His head turned to look at Elizabeth as she shifted in her sleep, sensing his movement but she didn't waken. Peter turned his back to her and spoke a little quieter. If he could get away without waking her that would be good, not that she'd mind, she was always ready to support him, it was one of the many things he loved about her, but he tried not to abuse the privilege and he could probably handle this, could probably handle Neal on his own. . . probably.

Damn he wasn't good at this emotional crap, Elizabeth would. . .No, he would try it on his own first. "You don't need to be sorry for what happened," Peter reaffirmed, "None of us could have known. . ."

"I know that," Neal said, "and that's not what I'm sorry for."

"Then what. . .?" Peter asked as a handful of baby snakes started a dancing competition in his lower abdomen.

"I thought there'd be evidence, I really thought. . ."

"Neal what did you do?" Peter was standing and he'd taken a step away from the bed but he wasn't sure when or how. "Neal?" his voice was a little louder when Neal's instant response wasn't forthcoming, the snakes had been joined by some larger cousins and they were having a doozy of a party. He heard the sigh before Neal replied.

"It doesn't matter now," Neal stated and there was a defeat there that Peter had never heard from the younger man before, not even after he'd been sentenced and knew that he'd spend the next four years of his life in jail. Any number of nightmare scenarios tried to steal Peter's focus and between that and the serpent rave that was churning his insides he was finding it difficult to concentrate, especially since an urgent part of his brain was telling him that he needed to get dressed, that he needed to get to wherever Caffrey was and quickly because whatever was going on there was something very wrong.

"It does matter Neal, it matters very much." Peter trapped the phone between his shoulder and his ear as he pulled on his shirt and began fastening the buttons. "Now you tell me. . ."

"Look I don't have a lot of time," Neal interrupted, "And I just wanted to let you know that I was sorry, that if this doesn't pan out you shouldn't blame yourself, it was me that couldn't let it go and you warned me. . . ."

"Neal," it was Peter's turn to interrupt, "Please tell me you didn't go after Lightman. Please tell me. . ."

"Just make sure you find me Peter, You've always found me before, just promise me that you'll find me this time."

"Neal, you need to tell me just what the Hell is going on. I can't. . ."

"Peter, please, just promise me."

Peter drew in a breath there was something so plaintive in the younger man's tone that he couldn't. . . He'd stopped the frantic actions of trying to dress whilst still holding the phone. He closed his eyes. "I promise," he replied quietly.

"Thankyou," the single word was said with more sincerity than Peter had ever heard from Neal, the quietly added "for everything." More cutting than any goodbye could have been and even without a click he knew that Caffrey had cut off his phone.

TO BE CONTINUED. . .