Disclaimer: I don't own White Collar


The van is silent, so quiet Peter can hear the new kid's stomach rumble. At his side, Jones leans forward, eyes constantly scanning the edges of the screen, as if the suspect might be standing just out of camera range, though of course if he's going to the boat, he'll have to walk onto the dock. Peter doesn't say anything. It's been a long night, and Jones didn't have to invite him, could have made him ask. Peter's the SAC, now, and his days are spent on paperwork and politics. It's been a long time since he was last on a stakeout.

Peter reaches up to rub at the crick in his neck, his eyes never leaving the screen. The boat bobs gently with the tide, its windows dark.

"Agent Burke?"

Peter sighs, and risks a glance away from the screen. "I told you, you can call me Peter."

"Right... Peter, can I ask a question?"

The probie needs to work on his confidence. If he's this easily cowed by Peter, how will he hold up against a smooth-talking suspect?

"You just did," he answers, more curtly than he had intended. He takes a sip of cold coffee, forces a smile into his voice. "You ask as many questions as you need to, Drew. It's a good way to learn."

"Well... it's almost morning. We've been here all night. What makes you so sure the drop will be here?"

Eyes on the monitor. Sometimes Peter really misses Diana. "Cowboy up, Drew. That museum guard had a wife and two little girls. We'll stay all day and all night if we have to. We have to catch Koontz and the buyer with the painting, or we won't be able to make this stick."

"Right. Of course." Drew sounds chastened. "But why here?"

Jones lowers his headphones."We got an anonymous tip."

An origami boat, Peter doesn't explain. Pinned under his windshield wiper, dew beaded on the slightly waxy paper. Inside, the registration number of the boat, the lettering neat, but slanted oddly. Nothing else.

"Well, how do you know the tip was good?"

"It was good," says Jones.

Peter reaches for his thermos. There are only a few drops left. He tips it back, coaxing them into his mouth. "It checks out," he explains. "This boat's registered to Koontz' sister-in-law. She lives in Arizona. They'll probably do the exchange in the early morning, when the pier fills up with fishermen."

With a hiss, Drew opens a can of Mt. Dew. "Why then?"

"Because there's no honor among thieves," Peter says.

Jones flicks his eyes toward Peter, then back to the screen. His voice is gentle as he explains. Jones is a good teacher. "In a deal like this, the exchange is often the trickiest part, from the criminal's point of view. They can't trust each other. Here, they'll be able to blend with everyone else loading and unloading coolers from the boats, but there'll be too many witnesses to make another shooting seem like a good idea. It's not perfect, but it's not a bad plan."

The kid nods, considering. The three of them watch the monitor for a while in silence. Suddenly, Jones tenses. "I hear something."

It's footsteps, outside the van. The probie puts his hand on his gun. Peter thinks it's the best reaction the kid's had all night, maybe he does have the makings of an agent in there somewhere. Instead of reaching for his own weapon, though, he just opens the door.

It isn't him.

The delivery guy looks taken aback, one arm still raised to knock on the van's door, the other balancing a paper bag and a thermos. The three agents just stare at him.

He lowers his arm. "Is one of you Agent Burke?"

Peter nods once, tightly. The kid, he notices, is still resting his hand on his weapon.

"I have a delivery for you." Peter nods and takes the paper bag, reaches for the thermos, but the man's not done. "There's a message, too."

Peter waits.

"Uh, he said he to tell you he was just passing through town, and that he was sorry he couldn't stay."

Peter thinks about this. He takes the thermos. He pulls out his wallet and counts out a generous tip, then pauses.

"The man who sent this," he begins, then trails off, suddenly unsure.

The man blinks, and Peter knows he isn't going to make a good witness. "Uh.. He was wearing a hat-"

"Was he... Did he seem okay? Injured?"

"Oh." The delivery man looks surprised. "Well, his arm was in a cast."

Peter nods. The slanted writing. "Anything else?"

"Not... really. He was thin, I guess." Peter nods again, lets go of the tip. Exhales.

He opens the thermos while Jones opens the bag. The coffee smells fantastic. Italian roast. He pours some for Jones, and offers it to Drew, who is still drinking his Dew and looking distinctly confused.

"Deviled ham for you," says Jones, "Pastrami for me... Looks like deviled ham for you, too, Drew. And look-" he holds up an air freshener in the shape of a pine tree. "New car smell."

Drew is looking at his sandwich. He seems worried. "Is it safe?"

"Absolutely," says Peter, returning to the monitor.

"Age- Peter?"

Peter nods encouragement, his mouth full.

"Does this happen a lot?"

Peter swallows, sips his coffee. It tastes as good as it smells.

It's been three years. "No."

They eat quickly and quietly, their focus back on the monitor. The smell of coffee is powerful and pleasant. Jones takes a sip and smiles. "I've been following the Mitsui Trust break-in on the wire. Tight get-away."

"The guards thought they might have hit him."

Jones sips again. "Broken arm?"

Peter sighs, shrugs. Watches the monitor and tries to enjoy the coffee. It'll be dawn soon.