(Chapter 1)

Neal was nodding off at his desk, the case files before him blurring in and out of focus as he started to fall asleep. His boredom had grown for the past three hours since he'd arrived at the bureau offices till he had started to play with his phone willing someone to call him as he skimmed each file without really reading them. Now he was just so bored he finally lay his head atop his crossed arms and closed his eyes. He wasn't sure he cared much for this job anymore since the Fowler incident. He had been treated like a child, a person to be watched, tested and proven to be worth the time to be here. He didn't appreciate it although deep down inside he knew he deserved it. Neal had screwed up and he had done it on a royal scale. He was immature and impulsive and he should have talked to and trusted Peter but he was who he was and it was hard to change when he had never had the support and friendship he had now. It wasn't a valid excuse but it was enough to keep him content to his misbehavior as he started to drift off.


Someone kicked his chair hard, Neal almost rolling back and falling off onto the floor. He sat up straight, catching himself and stopping the chair. He looked beside him and slowly upwards to see two dark leather shoes, dark grey pants and then a gun and holster over a white shirt. Peter stood there looking at him with a very unhappy glance, arms crossed over his chest. There was an almost fatherly disappointment in those eyes which had been dulled back to their original uncertainty. It was like time had turned backwards and it was the first case they'd worked. Their trust was tenuous at best since Neal had tried to shoot Fowler and had Alex take the music box from Diana. He saw other agents watching them or at least trying to pretend NOT to watch although what did it matter now. He had lost a good deal of the respect and trust from his colleagues. He gave a glare up at his 'boss' and keeper and crossed his arms over his own chest in response.

"You needed something, Peter?" He kept his voice light but it was hard to hide his annoyance and anger. He saw the agent blink down at him with a bemused look.

"Yes, we're going over the files in the conference room with Hughes. Ready?" Peter stood there waiting when Neal didn't move right away. They were going to discuss all of these boring cases with Hughes? That wasn't normal procedure. Neal felt a wave of frustration wash over him but he nodded his head, still glaring up at the agent as he grabbed up the files and stood. Peter nodded his head as he led the way to the conference room where Diana and Jones already sat with their own piles of cases. At least he wasn't alone but once he entered and stood there, he notice nobody gave him anything but the typical nod and glance as if he were no more than a stranger. It hurt that they didn't trust him anymore or want to talk but it didn't matter. If he could just make it a while longer he would be free and then he wouldn't have to deal with their crap anymore. You can't make a leopard change their spots, could you? He was ready to leave this cage and make it back to the jungle.

Neal sat in the chair nearest the door which was far enough away from the agents. He assumed Peter would sit close to him as usual but the agent moved across the room towards Jones and Diana, sitting there and chatting. They laughed about something without looking at him and he sighed quietly, fuming at being left out. He only turned when Hughes walked in. Neal stood politely at attention, hoping for some acknowledgement from the older agent but the man just nodded for him to sit in his usually crisp manner. Neal sat again, a frown on his face but he knew he was only getting what he deserved which made it all the worse. Hughes turned to address the room.

"So... shall we discuss these files then?"


"Neal, it's your own fault. I would have told you..." Peter almost sounded like he was sorry for what happened but the younger man refused to listen, arms crossed over his chest as he passed a waste basket and tossed the useless files inside.

"A test? Am I in grade school again? Am I so untrustworthy with all I've done to be tested like this? Don't do me any favors, Peter." He glared at the man a moment before turning his gaze again to his feet as he walked to his desk and dropped unhappily into his chair. His chair. Technically it was the FBI's but for now it was his till he left. He looked at his fedora on the desktop and picked it up, flipping it around in his hands distractedly. He was angry, standing up with a defensive motion when someone touched his shoulder. Peter stood there, backing off when he saw the look on his face. Neal hoped the agent would stand back since he seriously felt like punching the man and he didn't care what happened if he did. Send him back to prison... would be a nice change.

"Neal, stop this! You're being childish. Don't make a scene. Hughes had no choice but to do this. That incident with Fowler has everyone on edge. They want to be sure you're worth what's being invested." Once those words had left the agent's lips, Neal gaped. He knew they thought of him as a criminal but was he nothing more than a tool, as Agent Rice had put it? He narrowed his eyes, flipping his hat to his head and turning to grab his jacket. Peter reached to grab his arm but stopped when Neal glared at him.

"If the test is over, can I please go home? I don't feel too well." Neal kept his voice quiet, jaw tight. He wanted to punch his friend out but resisted with everyone watching them. Much as he would love to let this all out on Peter, it wasn't worth the effort or chance he'd go back to prison no matter how angry he was. He saw Peter nod with a look that might be regret but Neal didn't want apologies, he wanted to leave. He nodded his head curtly, leaving the offices in a huff, the glass doors swinging in his wake. He didn't wait for the elevator, taking the side door to the stairs.


Peter repeated the words he'd said to himself and realized he had screwed up. His hands were as tied as anyone else but he could have handled this better. He sighed, going back to his office and grabbing up his jacket and coat. If anything, he had to apologize to his friend. The kid had done something bad when he tried to shoot Fowler but to say what he had as if the young man were a tool, he had to apologize before it turned into something else. It had been too long since he'd really sat down and talked to Neal about what happened and now their friendship and partnership was suffering for it. Hughes saw him leaving, one brow arched in query. Peter poked his head into his boss' office quickly.

"Need to catch Caffrey." He hoped that's all that was needed to say and Hughes nodded, knowing what had probably been said.

"Tell him... You know." Hughes looked a bit uncomfortable with what had happened too, Peter nodding as he scurried down the stairs and headed out.

Peter took the elevator, wondering if any how Neal had possibly made it down all 21 floors of stairs but when you're angry, any exercise is enough to keep you from blowing up he hoped. Maybe he could still catch him.

He made it to the lobby, running out of the elevator and out onto the street. He didn't see his consultant but figured he said he was going home which meant June's so he could still get in his car and head that way.

It took maybe thirty minutes with traffic before Peter found himself parked across from June's palacious home. He looked both ways and ran across the street, walking up to June's door and knocking. Nobody answered so he rang the bell. Still no answer. He sighed guessing that June must be out and the housekeeper off duty. If Neal wasn't here, where would he have gone unless he was ignoring the door and sulking in his rooms. He tried phoning his friend but kept getting the voice mail. Figures. Peter ran back over to his car and tried to look up at Neal's terrace view but couldn't see any sign of anyone looking over so he shrugged with a disappointed look, got back into the Taurus and left.


Neal hailed the first taxi as he left the lobby. His sprint down the stairs had only made him feel worse so he jumped into the taxi and gave them the address to the park. He needed to relax. He glanced out the window as the cab took off. He saw the look on his face reflected in the passenger windows and realized he really hoped Peter would be chasing him to apologize but no such luck. Why should he? Neal was acting like a child and he deserved nothing less than to be treated like one. He sighed, leaning back in the seat and fuming over his treatment and Peter's words. The agent didn't mean what he said, he knew that much but it still hurt. He felt like a horse that was being judged on how well it could pull the cart after it had kicked it's owner. His cell buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out. The call was from Peter so he turned his phone off and pushed it back into his pocket. Last thing he wanted was to talk on the cell with his 'keeper.'

It took about thirty minutes before he found himself at the park and paid the cabbie. He stepped out into the crisp Autumn air and looked around at the trees donning reds, golds and yellows. Neal started walking through the park slowly taking in all that was around him and watching people pass through with very little regard to what nature wore. She had changed her colors for them and they took little notice, much as he had changed how he was to fit into the bureau and please Peter but nobody seemed to notice. He sighed, finding a bench and sitting down to think. He needed a clear head before he went to talk to Peter but now wasn't the time. He had to calm down first, relax even. Neal closed his eyes and let the breeze play with his hair as he took off his fedora and laid it in his lap.


June came home to find the house empty. She wasn't surprised, the housekeeper had the day off and Neal wouldn't be home for a few more hours. She smiled as she opened up the door and glanced back at her guest.

"Come in, Neal isn't here yet but you can wait in the dining room with me. Would you like something to drink, Mr. Keillor?" She smiled back at the younger man, his squinty eyes glancing around curiously. He nodded.

"Thank you, Ma'am. I appreciate it. It must have been providence that brought us together." His voice sounded rather rough but his accent was definitely from Brooklyn. She smiled.

"Call me June. Neal does. I'm sure he'll be so excited to see you. I had no idea he had family. He doesn't speak of his past." She locked the door and ushered the younger man towards the dining room, sitting him down while she went into the kitchen to grab something to eat and drink. She called from the other room as she worked.

"So... what is it you do, Mr. Keillor." She called out, peeking from the kitchen off and on to the dining room. He smiled back in his slight manner.

"Importing and exporting. Can't really say too much more." He shrugged as June returned with a small silver tray with a glass coffee ewer and sandwiches. She placed it in the middle of the table and sat opposite the younger man. Keillor smiled at her.

"Thanks, June. I appreciate this. I'm sure my younger brother will be happy to see me if not surprised. It's been a while since we've seen each other. I can't wait to see his face."

"Well if not for that picture, I'd never have believed it. So you had different fathers? That can't have been fun. I do see a slight resemblance." She smiled, handing him a sandwich. Keillor nodded.

"Yeah, my father died and mom remarried. I kept my father's name and my brother was born with the name Caffrey. If not for the divorce, we'd have stayed in touch. I can't wait to see him."


Neal finally gave in, sitting up and stretching before he stood and made his way back down the sidewalk and out of the park. He decided the day was too nice to waste money on a cab ride and took the long walk back to June's. When he showed up, he was glad to be home, his mood a bit less adversarial and his mind thinking of ways to apologize to Peter. He sighed, using his passkey to enter June's. It was still a bit early but he wanted to wash up and rest a bit before he went to visit Peter. He was as much to blame for their fight as anyone. He didn't see June when he entered so he just went upstairs quickly, opening up his door and closing it. He had barely taken off his hat and jacket when he heard footsteps from the terrace and turned. Neal figured it had to be Mozzie.

"Mozzie, did June let you... in." His voice trailed off as he saw who stood there, the figure dressed in a fairly nice dark blue turtle neck, worn blue jeans and black patent leather shoes. The figure smiled, although it was more a smirk when he thought about it. Neal felt his defenses go up, his eyes looking around for something to use as a weapon if he had to. He saw the figure watching him, that smirk growing larger as they continued to size him up.

"No worries, Caffrey. Your landlady... June was it? She let me in. Nice woman. Wouldn't want to see anything happen to..." He paused as they heard a knock on the door and Neal moved without taking his eyes off of the other man as he opened it up. It was June.

"Neal! I'm so glad you're finally here. I was out at the market and found someone you might know. We were just talking and he told me he was a stranger in the city looking for his younger brother. I hope you don't mind." She looked really happy as if she had been convinced but Neal knew better. He nodded, faking a smile for her but knowing he had to keep her in the dark if June was going to stay safe.

"My brother... yes. I'm... shocked. It's been what... 10 years?" He just paused without knowing what to say as the other man took over.

"Yes Neal. 10 years. Dad wanted me to find you. It was his dying wish. You remember dad. I showed June a picture of you as a boy and of dad. I was named for him. Victor Keillor, Jr." The man smiled as he noted the discomfort Neal was trying to hide but Neal did what he could to keep June from knowing. He wanted her far away from this so there could be no chance she was hurt. She was looking between the two young men curiously before speaking again.

"Well, I'll leave you two if that's ok. I'll bring up some drinks for you if you like, Neal?" She was smiling at him expectantly but he just nodded, his fake smile in place, one eye on her and one on Victor.

"Maybe later, June. Thank you. We have some catching up to do." He kept smiling as she closed the door before his face turned to a darkened glare and he focused it on the Victor Keillor.

"She's a nice woman that June. I could learn to live under her tutelage if you wanted your long lost brother to stay here." Victor smirked, Neal's glance darkening.

"Don't even think about it, Keller. Why are you here? I thought you were in the supermax." Neal kept his eyes on his nemesis as Keller moved over to the kitchenette and took out a bottle of wine from the stand. He examined it and whistled, his voice changing to a bit more of a street tough.

"Nice little stash you got here, Caffrey. The benefactress buy this for you? She's your money maker I take it." Keller smirked, putting the bottle back and walking around the apartment in a slow deliberate manner, his hands picking up the occasional item here and there and making a snide comment or two before Neal felt his hackles rise and had to say something.

"Get out, Keller. Tell me what you want and get out." He kept his voice firm but low so that June wouldn't get involved but Keller only kept up his walk and smirk.

"Oh I don't think I will. I think if you want your landlady to continue to be safe you'll help me with a certain matter." Keller's eyes looked at him in a bemused sort of manner as he continued his trek around the apartment. Neal narrowed his gaze.

"All I have to do is call Peter and you're back in solitary for life." Neal's voice was a growl as he spoke, his anger from earlier redirected at the right person for once. Keller continued to smirk.

"I really don't think you'd do that, Caffrey. I have friends watching your keeper's wife. Just a few friends but enough to give you an idea I mean business. One of them is with her now talking over details of a catering deal. If you refuse me, I just call him up and he will snuff her out when the time is right. I have no qualms about snuffing you out and your friendly landlady."

Neal watched as Keller brought out a pistol, a Luger to be exact and cocked it back. He smirked more broadly now.

"You don't like guns do you, Caffrey? Shame... would come in handy about now. So... shall I tell you what I want or do we end it here?"


Author's Note: Finally found a plot that I could easily work on. Hope you like and I will do the other ideas once I have more time to plot them out. Not sure how long this one will be but it's working clearly in my head compared to the other stories. I'm still working hard on NaNoWriMo. Less than 15K and a week left. EEK! Wish me luck!