What Lies In Trust

Author's Note: This is the first piece of fanfiction I have ever written (though I have been an avid fanfic reader for many years), which means that I'm quite the novice. That being said, I would be grateful for any reviews/constructive criticism you'd like to contribute. I'm sorely meticulous and spelling/grammatical errors particularly grieve me. On another note, White Collar is my absolute favorite television show and my current obsession (seriously, I'm so addicted, it's unhealthy). Ergo, I suppose it is fitting for my first work to demonstrate my love for the awesomeness that is Neal-and-Peter. Also, I'd like to thank all of the wonderful writers who have shared their stories with the Collars on this site. I've spent many an enjoyable afternoon reading through truly amazing WC fics.

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I claim no rights to anything White Collar, but there's "no law against thinking about it," is there? [Quote courtesy of Neal Caffrey in 2.01 "Withdrawal."] All recognizable dialogue is taken from 2.02 "Need To Know."

When Neal enters his office after his latest meeting with Jennings, Peter immediately senses that something is not sitting right with his partner. His first clue is Neal's expression. Usually, whenever Neal's brilliant mind suddenly whips up the solution to nabbing the criminal they're currently chasing, he'll saunter into Peter's office (or accost him in the hallway) wearing that ridiculously confident, satisfied grin, clearly very pleased with and proud of himself and – as their partnership and friendship grow toward I trust you and away from Can I trust you? – excited to share his findings with Peter for approval and commendation.

At this moment, however, Neal doesn't appear particularly happy with the development of their case. He isn't smiling and although Peter wouldn't deem the sentiment in Neal's blue eyes as cold, disappointed certainly comes to mind. Glancing at the photographs on his desk, Peter needs no hint as to why Neal is standing seemingly nonchalantly in front of his desk instead of plopping into his usual chair to confer with him. Damn, he thinks, because he knows and Neal knows and he knows that Neal knows that he definitely did not spend a late night with Captain Shattuck of the NYPD – but maybe he could try lightening up the conversation first.

"You told them Diana was a hooker?" A pregnant pause. Where's that witty remark?

"Captain Shattuck sure cleans up nice." Ah, direct. Neal's not playing around, and neither will Peter.

"The stakeout was cancelled. Diana came over to work. Why am I explaining myself to you?" He doesn't need to explain himself to Neal, but he can't deny that he becomes slightly flustered when Neal won't even crack a joke insinuating something about Peter having another woman in the house while Elizabeth's out of town. "Not everything's a conspiracy, Neal."

"I hope that's true." It is. Nonetheless, Peter feels a slight bit of guilt creeping into him. No matter; the issue of the photographs has been addressed and it's time to figure out their next step in securing evidence against the dirty politician.

"I've never lied to you." WHAT? Never lied to him? This is internationally renowned conman Neal Caffrey. Lying is as natural to him as breathing is, just as Peter's tendency to suspect has been ingrained into him. Those small pangs of guilt are quickly dashed away by this outright lie.

"Oh, come on, Neal, you lie for a living." He does! Peter is perfectly justified in making this statement. After all, he wouldn't have had much reason to spend three years of his life chasing Neal if Neal weren't such an excellent liar.

But what Neal says next causes Peter to temporarily forget everything pertaining to the Jennings case.

"Not to you. I may have let you draw certain conclusions that weren't correct, but never an actual lie." Neal, again with that nearly undetectable disappointed countenance, turns to gaze out of the glass walls of the office, and Peter is given a moment to ponder this most recent pivotal moment in their relationship.

He stares at his friend's back, curious as to why Neal feels betrayed and wondering why he feels affronted by his partner's disappointment. Neal is a frequent source of stress and worry for Peter, especially so since Kate's death less than three months ago, and this is precisely why Peter is playing this one closer to the chest than he's ever done with any secret in his life. He'd rather that Neal hadn't discovered his off-hours agenda with Diana, but that damage is reparable.

The music box, on the other hand, is cause for much greater concern. Undoubtedly (that is, thanks to Mozzie), Neal already knows that the music box has gone missing from the evidence locker. What he mustn't know is that Peter knows who's made off with the treasure, because while Peter is sure that he and Neal are on the same side and in agreement as to their mutual trust, he isn't sure that Neal would forgive him for keeping this piece of the puzzle from him – despite Peter's best intentions. He only wants to protect Neal from reopening a healing wound and if he has to play bad-cop-who's-really-a-good-cop in order to do so, then he'll do it.

As Peter calls Neal's attention back to the case at hand, he can't help but accept Neal's confession for what it is: the truth. Neal hasn't ever fed him an actual lie, Peter realizes, so his hope that Neal is attempting to turn over a new leaf isn't ill-founded. He's afraid that, today, their trust might have taken a dip into the land of tenuity, but when Neal doesn't walk out on their partnership, Peter is assured by the guilt of lying to his friend that he's still doing the right thing.