This is my first White Collar FanFic. I hope you will all enjoy.
I neither have nor claim to have any rights pertaining to any other than original characters used in the story below. White Collar belongs to someone else and I'm just have some fun with it.
Neal felt a sigh erupt unbidden from his lips at the sight of June's house in the distance. It was good to be home.
Home. It had been a difficult concept most of his life. So much so, that he'd spent his adult life moving from place to place. Whoever said, "You can't miss what you never had." Neal had never had a real home before but when he'd found his place with June and Mozz and Peter and the FBI, he'd found a home, a resting place. As soon as he understood what that felt like, he realized he'd been looking for it his entire life.
"You okay?" Peter asked from the driver's seat.
"What?" Neal responded and realized they were now parked in front of June's house and probably had been for a moment or two. "Me? Yeah, I'm fine."
Neal noted that Peter did not frown but only with a small amount of effort.
"That deal with the Cocotori was hairy. It shouldn't have happened. I'm sorry."
Neal shrugged. "No big deal. I had my guardian angels listening in. I knew you'd take care of it."
Peter shook his head. "You kept your head on straight when everything went sideways."
Neal started to interrupt again but Peter held up his hand.
"I'm trying to tell you that you did good out there today, alright?"
Neal opened the passenger door of the Taurus and climbed out of the car with a dismissive grunt. Peter followed him.
"It was nothing, Peter." Neal said with a smile. "All in a day's work, right?"
Peter sighed. "Yeah, speaking of…" He pulled the anklet out of his pocket.
Neal's smiled slipped only for a second but long enough for Peter to catch it.
"Yeah," Neal smirked. "My old friend. What would I do without it?" He put his foot on the bumper of the car and Peter quickly fastened the device into place.
Peter seemed embarrassed by the process and Neal decided to try to ease the atmosphere.
"Hey, Peter." Neal said in a serious tone. "When my time's up, do I get to keep the anklet?"
Peter's eyebrows raised. "You wanna keep it?"
"Ehhh, I was thinking more along the lines of BBQ." He said and was rewarded with a low chuckle from Peter.
Neal gave Peter a pat on the arm and walked briskly across the street to the front door calling over his shoulder, "I'll see you on Monday. Maybe we could work on something that doesn't involve mobsters who are armed to the teeth?"
Peter smiled and called out, "I make no promises." As he climbed into his car.
He waited for Neal to shut the front door behind him before he drove off home to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth sighed as she put the final touches on next week's schedule. It was going to be tight but she was pretty sure she could get everything done and the revenue would certainly be appreciated.
She closed her laptop and moved it from the table to the buffet where it could charge overnight out of the way. Peter always worried about someone tripping over the wire when it was on the table. Peter was an excellent worrier. She smiled at the thought and looked into the living room where Peter seemed to be doing some world class worrying at that very moment.
"Hey, Babe." She called as she entered the room.
Peter started but looked up with a smile.
Elizabeth curled up onto the couch next to him and noticed that he was watching an after game special.
"Who won?" She asked.
Peter blinked for a few moments before finally confessing, "You know, I don't know. I wasn't really paying attention."
"I thought it might be something like that." She hugged him a little more closely. "What's worrying you?"
"I'm not worried."
"Sure you're not."
"I'm not!" Peter retorted. "I'm just… Well, today was a hard bust. The situation was dangerous but Neal went in anyway and he almost got himself killed. Then at the end of the day I still had to put that damn anklet on him."
"Ahhh," Elizabeth sighed. "It doesn't seem like a fair reward to you."
Peter seemed surprised but nodded. "Yeah, in some ways it almost seems like taking advantage of him. It's like Neal is a child. He's so…I don't know."
Elizabeth nodded. "Neal respects you. Maybe a little too much. If you ask him to do something, he'll do it."
Peter slapped his hand against the arm of the couch, "Exactly. It's like he doesn't even care about how dangerous it is. He just jumps into it. I feel guilty asking him to go into dangerous situations because I know that he won't stop to consider the danger to himself. He doesn't think things through."
"Because he trusts you." Elizabeth ended for him. "And you get to reward his trust by putting a leash on him."
Peter nodded and Elizabeth tightened her hug for another moment.
"I think Neal understands that this is a necessary evil, Sweetie. I think he knows that, when it counts, you trust him."
"You really think so?" Peter said holding her close.
"Yeah. I really do. And I am the smartest person you know."
"Something else is bothering me though." He said after a long pause.
Elizabeth craned her head back awkwardly in his embrace trying to read his eyes.
"Today Neal mentioned the end of his confinement and it got me thinking, when this is all said and done, which side is Neal going to be on? Am I going to have to track him down again?"
Elizabeth let that sink in for a moment and remembered the three long years of Peter's frustration as time and again Neal slipped through one carefully laid trap after another. Then Neal had been Caffrey. No, he'd been "that smug-sonofabitch-Caffrey!"
"What would his other options be?" She said at last.
"Well, he couldn't be an agent. He has a criminal background. He could still be a consultant, though with the fees he could charge at that point I'm not sure the Bureau could afford him. He could be an investigator for an insurance company. There are plenty of professions that could make use of his background and talents, I guess."
"Have you talked to him about this?"
Peter frowned. "Well, no. He's got another three years and change. It's not as though it's a pressing matter."
Elizabeth nodded. "That's true but you've gotta figure if you're already thinking about what's gonna happen when Neal is a free man, he's probably thinking along the same lines. Besides talking to him about his options after his release would indicate a level of trust on your part, wouldn't it?"
Peter pulled his head back to better examine his wife's expression. "You really are the smartest person I know."
Elizabeth snuggled closer to his chest to help hide her smug smile as she replied. "I know."
They were allowed to enjoy the comfort of the moment for a bit longer before the phone rang. It was Peter's work phone and had to be answered.
"This is Agent Burke." Peter said a bit gruffly, annoyed at being interrupted.
"Sir, this is Jones. Um, there's a bit of a problem, sir, with Caffrey."
Jones seemed to be hesitating. "Spit it out Jones, what's the problem?"
"It's his anklet, Sir." Jones said with true regret in his voice. "He's cut it."
Peter felt his back go rigid, forcing Elizabeth to sit back and away from him.
"When did this happen?"
"It was about 45 minutes ago." Jones said briskly.
"45 minutes ago? And you're just contacting me now?" Peter roared and rose from the couch.
"I take full responsibility for that, sir." Jones' words were tight and clipped. "I assumed the anklet was malfunctioning and went to Caffrey's place to take a look at it."
Peter shivered at the disembodied sigh.
"The place was cleaned out. All of his personal belongings were gone. Clothes, shoes, everything."
Peter was without words for a moment. "But that doesn't make any sense!" He finally exclaimed.
"He was on a mission today. We've been pulling late nights all week. When would Neal even have time to clean out his stuff?"
"I don't know, sir. I just know that it and Caffrey are gone."
"Peter?" Elizabeth's voice was unsure and worried. "Peter what is it? What's going on? Is Neal okay?"
Peter looked into her anxious face and felt his stomach plunge as it never had on any roller coaster ride.
"No, El. Neal's going back to prison, damn him." Then into the phone. "Jones get everyone back to the office and contact local law enforcement. I'm heading to Neal's place to see what I can see but I want the Marshalls, NYPD and even the USPS on this ASAP, you hear me?"
"I hear you, boss." Jones replied and the line went dead.
"El, I'm sorry Honey but I think it's gonna be another long night." Peter said as he grabbed his coat & keys and rushed out the door.
Elizabeth said nothing. Normally she would have said, "Good luck." Peter wondered if she'd hesitated. He wasn't sure she wanted him to catch Neal. Peter wasn't sure either.
"Damnit, Neal." Peter murmured as he rushed down his front steps, got into the Taurus and headed across town.