All characters © Jeff Eastin

Summary: Peter has to play a difficult undercover role in a case.

Author's note: a short piece here, something I wanted to play around with.


An Emmy for Mister Burke

It was easy to forget that Peter Burke was an FBI agent sometimes. That sounded like a ridiculous notion considering that they tackled cases, staked out in the van, and became subject to an irritable Hughes's double finger point nearly every day, but it wasn't so ridiculous to Neal Caffrey.

Neal, partially out of curiosity but mostly out of boredom poked fun at Peter at every chance he could get. It was the best entertainment of the day and the perfect excuse for Neal to exercise his verbal dexterity, especially because Peter was just such an easy target.

To anyone outside the Bureau who didn't know him, Peter Burke looked like any normal man approaching middle age. He sometimes missed a button on his shirt, ate deviled ham sandwiches, and occasionally forgot his anniversary. He had a lucky tie, talked in his sleep, and ate Super Sugar O's for breakfast (always the "buy one get one free" boxes from Trader Joe's). He drank coffee out of a blue mug and had a fat yellow Labrador named Satchmo.

But that was Peter Burke.

Dr. Edgar Tannenbaum was a smooth-talking chiropractor who attracted redheaded females. Carlton Lead was a slightly paranoid wine connoisseur who wore skinny Italian ties. Peter Lassen was an indulgent businessman who drank Ethiopian Sidamo from tiny white cups and who ate Kobe beef at eleven in the evening.

Neal always found it amusing to watch Peter go undercover and act out his aliases. For him, it was second nature; the conman was a human shape-shifter. But with someone like Peter, who with what you saw was what you got, it was so much more entertaining.

"I've always been a fan of green eyes."

And then there were times like these.

Neal had never seen Peter do anything like this before. The closest thing he'd witnessed was when Peter had posed as the "Peacemaker" from the Detroit mob back with the Oswald case. It was a kind of unspoken rule among the Bureau that Peter generally played "good" guys, and Neal was the one who usually got stuck with characters like Mr. Black or Benjamin Cooper or Steve. Not that he complained much about it, excluding Mr. Black's case.

"Skinny's good, too. I don't care about age, as long as they're under eighteen."

As the Peacemaker, Peter had been intimidating and unbelievably convincing. At the time, over the van's crackling speakers, he hadn't even sounded like Peter Burke. Mozzie, in the midst of feeding mob-slang into Peter's mike faster than paper into a shredder had given Neal an approving wiggle of his eyebrows to which Neal had responded with an approving grin. That had been the the first real time Neal had begun to respect Peter's acting skills. It meant that the latter would do anything that was necessary to solve the case, which was certainly an admirable trait to possess. Sometimes.

But this.

It was difficult to believe that the same man who apologized to his dog could fool others into believe that he was indeed a mass sex offender. It generally wasn't within White Collar's boundaries to deal with these kinds of crimes, but occasionally they got one that tied into extortion or embezzlement, and one thing led to another until they were faced with something like the case they had today.

When it became apparent that they would have to fool the opposing company, Peter had vetoed Neal's offer to go undercover.

"Your style's too 'Herman Webster Mudgett', " Peter had told him. "They're expecting someone more ragged, not a blue eyed smooth-talker. Diana's out, and Jones..." Jones had flat-out refused. That had left Peter.

"Let me remind you again, Mr. Mornie, that we don't have medical coverage for the children." The voice came out slightly brittle through the van's speakers. Diana and Jones shared disgusted looks. Neal listened with a slight frown creasing his brow, waiting to hear how Peter would respond.

"It doesn't matter."

Neal had been impressed with the Peacemaker. But with Jonathan Mornie, head of a lucrative child prostitution business, he just felt uncomfortable. It was disturbing how well Peter played his role, and Neal felt a shiver meander slowly down his spine as he listened through the van's wires. He knew it was Peter on the other line, but Neal still felt uneasy. It didn't sound like Peter, and the static was not to blame. This was the man who was considered the best FBI agent in the Bureau. This was the man who had caught him when no one else could, and was known as the only person in the United States who was even capable of it.

So yes, Neal liked to laugh at old pictures of Peter's Tom Selleck mustache and throw in the occasional "mathlete" joke here and there, but...

"I'd really like to see them. My boredom can only go on for so long, Mr. Greinbeck."

Sometimes Neal forgot Peter's hidden talents, and how maybe it wasn't such a bad thing after all to be on the same side as him.