Peter twirled his coffee mug in hands and stared at a bright computer screen. His office was abnormally quiet and neat with Neal not there. He was normally here this late, but Peter had allowed him to go home earlier than usual to watch over June's yappy dog. It still unsettled Peter. The FBI agent knew everything about Neal from the time he entered the 'game' until he was put in jail for his crimes. Every little thing, but he was just beginning to figure out that what he had found had been intentionally left there for him to discover like crumbs for a hamster. Things Neal didn't find significant, unimportant. Things he threw away. Somehow it caused a burning resentment in Peter that he didn't want to feel towards the con-man. It made him feel like somehow after all those years, Neal was still going easy on him- like he felt bad for being hell on his career path and was only taking sympathy on him. Although he knew it wasn't true it troubled Peter deeply.
The FBI agent blinked and realized his knuckles had turned white from gripping the mug so tightly. He slowly relinquished his death hold on the object revealing the words, 'World's #1 FBI Agent'. Given the circumstances it was mocking, almost humiliating to read those words. Obviously Peter Burke was nowhere near close to being a good investigator. He couldn't even uncover the mystery of a con- artist turned friend that he'd chased for years. What kind of agent couldn't figure that out? Neal was an enigma that Peter knew he would never fully come to understand everything he was about, but to played with like he was a pawn in Neal Caffrey's con game was hurtful.
The great Agent Peter Burke had been dead wrong about a lot of things in his career, but this one by far sucked the most.
Neal Caffrey was one of those people he could honestly have said hours before he knew like the back of his hand, but now he was seriously reconsidering it. He always considered Caffrey cautious and good natured, but after their recent car ride he was beginning to see a different side of Neal that made Peter's neck hair stand up. He had a dark side. An extreme one. He sighed as he remembered the conversation.
"There've been some thefts in the neighborhood." Peter recalled informing his CI almost carefully so Neal would be able to detect that he was in no way a suspect. Neal turned his head from looking out the window quickly with a deer-in-the-headlights type of look and started to deny his involvement. He hadn't been paying attention long enough to understand that Peter wasn't about to accuse him of anything. Damn, did he honestly treat his friend like every bump in the road was his fault? Either way it was still funny as hell.
"I know it wasn't you." Peter clarified, chuckling.
Neal looked at him for a moment , looking like he was about to pout. Then his gaze softened and he inspected Peter in that patient, interested manner only Neal Caffrey could. Listening, waiting for more.
Peter looked at the side-view mirror briefly to check the road behind him. As an FBI agent he always checked his mirrors, anyone could follow another person at any time and his instincts were part of him now. He switched lanes to take the turn that would eventually lead out to June's mansion of a house and said softly, "Elizabeth's scared to death."
Neal's knowing facial expression turned sad. He cared for El too and Peter felt safer when the Ex-con was with her for company. How ironic.
"I was thinking about changing the locks or adding some-"
"That won't work." Neal interrupted matter-of-factly.
Surprised, Peter turned to glance at Neal before returning his eyes to the road. "And why not?" He challenged. It was unlike Neal to interrupt anybody.
Neal sighed. "Peter….you're an FBI agent. You already know how these things work."
Peter ground his teeth together in irritation and his eyebrows pulled closer in puzzlement. He pulled the car over to the side of the road and parked, the slush in the side road caked the curbs and signs around the car as he turned to face Neal in curiosity.
"I do?" He said. He must have been a little too sweet with how he delivered the question because Neal suddenly looked embarrassed.
"I'm sorry Pete…Didn't mean anything by…" He sighed heavily under Peter's stare, all signs of shame gone from his face. It was replaced by weariness. The FBI agent was about to ask his consultant if he was alright, but Neal continued as he was about to speak.
"Locks are for keeping good people out, not bad people."
Peter's eyebrows, if it was possible, drew even closer together in confusion. Neal's eyes, usually bright and playful, now looked intense and dark. He'd seen that look on his face before once. It was when Neal had revealed his deadly accuracy with a gun. He'd surprised the hell out of Peter and showed him that he didn't really understand as much about Neal as he'd originally assumed. He was right back in the same position and Peter could tell he was going to learn something. Good or bad, didn't matter, he was going to learn something from Neal whether he wanted to or not. He flashed back in his mind to the same intense look on his face as he'd said, 'Just because I don't like guns…doesn't mean I can't use one.' Peter mentally shuddered at the memory. Something about the artist holding a gun with the same cold accuracy as a blood thirsty killer was immoral. Neal wasn't a killer.
After what seemed like minutes, Peter asked, "How so?"
Neal turned his back on Peter to stare out the window as if he'd suddenly been presented with something interesting, but all Peter could see was slush and ice everywhere. When Neal started speaking he spoke quietly.
"Locks are meant to keep the mailman out when he drops your mail, bends down to pick it up and accidentally opens your front door by gripping the doorknob for support. Locks are there when you annoying neighbor waltzes through your door to borrow a couple bucks when you're watching television naked in your living room. But they don't….no…they won't keep a bad person out. A bad person doesn't care about locks. They don't care about your windows or your belongings." He turned to face Peter again. Something in Neal's eyes scared him, but he couldn't place the look.
"And they most certainly do not care about your life."
Peter stared at Neal's unblinking, blue eyes for a moment before sitting back in his seat, staring at the car parked in front of him blankly. That was the most….disturbing thing Peter had ever heard. It shattered his usually unshakable sense of security. The way Neal had said it was almost like…."How do you know?" Peter asked delicately.
Neal shrugged and looked away.
Peter was too unsettled to press for answers and found that he really didn't want any.
Now as Peter stared at the glowing blue screen of his Vista monitor he realized Neal himself was a huge mystery. But that didn't mean anything. Everyone had their secrets- Neal more than most obviously. Peter appreciated Neal for everything he'd done for the FBI…and for him. One conversation wasn't going to change that, but Peter decided that he would one day know more about Neal Caffrey and somehow that both excited and unnerved him.
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Rates and reviews keep the authors from hurting you! (;