(Chapter 1)

Elizabeth was distracted by the fact her husband had been away from her for the past week. He was home at night but late, sneaking in like a thief to quietly (or at least try to be quiet) as he undressed and slipped into bed. She was glad he could come home at times but mostly he was distant, this current case taking up a good chunk of his time at work and with her. It wasn't that he didn't talk to her anymore, he talked to her as much as he could when they had the time but the case was the focal point of most of their conversations when he spoke. She was starting to get tired of the name "Neal Caffrey" and what it represented in the form of not having her husband as present as possible. The case was taking Peter's every moment away from her and she wanted her husband back.

She looked up after a moment to see that the crosswalk light said "walk." Elizabeth starting across the street, hand in her purse as she looked for her phone. She was supposed to call Peter to check on their lunch date. For all she knew he would be canceling again because of this "Caffrey" person. She sighed, eyes on her purse when someone grabbed her arm firmly and pulled her backwards. She felt herself close to someone's chest, the light scent of cologne apparent. Her first reaction was that of annoyance and fear but once she saw the car that had narrowly missed her going through the red light, she realized whomever had pulled her arm had just saved her life.

"You should really watch where you're walking, Ma'am."

The voice was young, charming and full of mischief. She turned to see a very well dressed young man in his late 20s smiling at her with a million dollar smile. He was quite handsome with wavy dark brown hair just hidden beneath a nice black fedora that matched the charcoal color of his suit. She felt flustered for a moment either from his looks or the fact he'd just saved her life as they continued walking across. She finally smiled and nodded.

"Just a little distracted but I had the light. Thank you. I never would have seen them coming in time."

He just nodded, tipping his hat to her as they reached the other side of the street.

"Glad to have helped. Just be careful next time."

She nodded dumbly back at him as he winked with a twinkle of his deep blue eyes and vanished into the crowd. Elizabeth watched him as long as she could uncertain what it was about him that made her curious. He seemed familiar to her but she knew they'd never met before. She shrugged it off to the fact he saved her life and smiled. The girls would never believe her when she told them about this much less her assistant. He had actually flirted with her a bit but why would he? He was much too young but that didn't make him any less handsome. Elizabeth felt her face blush like a school girl as she giggled slightly and pulled her phone from her purse as it started to ring.

"El, hon? I..."

It was Peter and she already knew what he was going to say. She sighed and smiled despite everything. She loved her husband and he loved her, no doubt about that regardless of his schedule. She could go to that bistro she wanted to visit up the block instead.

"I know... work? Call me, hon?"

She heard him sigh defeated but could imagine the look on his face as one that was asking for forgiveness.

"Definitely. I was thinking about La Scalia tonight. I'm pretty certain I can make it. Hughes is insisting I take a night off.

She smiled at the thought of Reese forcing her husband to come home but if not Peter would keep working not to say that he wouldn't be talking about Neal Caffrey during dinner. She hoped not but she married him for better or worse and she loved everything about Peter Burke.

"I'll be waiting with bells on my toes, hon."

El heard him laugh, imagining his smile as she heard him close the door and speak a bit quieter.

"I'll be there, hon. Promise."

She nodded, blowing him a kiss over the phone as they hung up. Elizabeth sighed, hoping for once with Reese's help she'd have her husband for one night this week. It was almost like they were roommates, only seeing each other if any during breakfast when he wasn't rushed on a lead to find Neal Caffrey, master forger and thief. She still didn't understand everything about the young man other than that he had managed to not only steal a small fortune with the use of his forged bonds but had also embezzled several million from a man named Vincent Adler. The company was ruined and he had to lay off several hundred people. It had been all over the news except for the part about how the money was lost. Peter had told her that little tidbit in private.

Elizabeth turned around, heading the way the young man who'd saved her had disappeared. The bistro she liked was in the same direction and maybe she would bump into Viki or one of her other friends from the nearby Bank. It was that time of day and sometimes they ate there when they had time for lunch. She quickened her pace suddenly feeling excited.

()()()

Peter sat in his office thinking he had to be the worse husband ever. He hadn't had a decent lunch or dinner with Elizabeth in the past 2 years from chasing leads on Neal Caffrey. He was starting to think the young man was a ghost although they did have a few pics of him when he originally cashed the first two bonds and from working with Vincent Adler. Adler had wanted the whole thing kept hush hush, his lawyer talking to Hughes, Peter and another agent about bad publicity. It was enough the man had to close his business and fire all of his employees. Peter found it strangely convenient the man had enough left for the high powered attorney to find Caffrey but didn't mention that out of politeness.

Adler was a private man, keeping to himself for the most part but making enough of a show in the community when it benefited his image. Right now his image stunk to high heaven and Peter had the feeling the man was almost happy to be rid of the excess luggage of employees. He'd met with him only a couple of times during the initial investigation for the case. Hughes had gone with him for damage control, both noticing the opulence of the man's office and his apparent obsession with odd geometric designs in varying degrees throughout his decor. The man seemed to be hiding something other than an annoyance at being foiled by a man half his age.

Peter sighed, pushing a button on his cell till he found a picture of him and his wife at the last company party. It was the 10 year anniversary of his time with the Bureau and he was leaning towards El who's back was on the wall. They were both smiling and his gold ring with the 10 year pin was shining on his finger. They looked happy he thought as he stared at the image and wished he could just drop the case and give it to someone else. He wasn't a quitter but he saw the looks El gave him. It would be nice if she had someone to come home to that didn't bring their work with them. Peter went back and entered a number from speed dial, pushing the phone to his ear.

"La Scalia... yes. I'd like to reserve a corner booth in the back patio for 8 pm. Yes and a bottle of your finest wine. For Peter Burke. Yes. Burke. Thank you."

He smiled knowing he was committed now. He would drop this case at 5 (he looked up to see it was just before 1 pm now) and get home quickly, shower and dress and surprise Elizabeth with some of her favorite flowers. It wouldn't make up for all the lost dinners and lunches but it would be something. His smiled grew as he put his cell back in his jacket pocket and went back to work, whistling a bit in his quiet office.

()()()

Neal Caffrey was walking quickly. He had a tail and needed to get them off of him fast. He made his way around several odd ball turns and corners through paths most people wouldn't think to take till he finally felt their eyes off of him and could relax. Adler had sent men to look for him and he was getting ready to leave town as the heat increased. Mozzie was ready for it once they got the last of their stash secured and could high-tail it out of the city. Neal had just taken care of part of that, the key jingling in his pocket as he walked jauntily down the sidewalk and up to the pedestrian crossing. The sign said "Don't Walk" as he and a nice looking woman waited. She didn't seem to see him, her mind elsewhere he thought as he admired her nice figure and long dark hair. There was a ring on her finger when her hand moved into view which made him sigh. He wasn't one to give up a challenge but he did believe in the sanctity of marriage and one's vow. He hadn't found the right girl yet but maybe one day...

He saw the light change to "Walk" as the woman moved forward, her attention on her large purse as he started to follow. He gave a quick look around for his tail but they had stayed lost as he looked up and to the left. A car was coming up fast towards them, his eyes turning to see the light was still red although he and the woman had the right of way for the cross walk. He saw her attention still in her purse as he reached and grabbed her arm, pulling her backwards towards the curb. The car just narrowly missed her as she fell back against him with a gasp of surprise.

She looked annoyed at first but soon realized what had happened and smiled up at him with the nicest, warmest expression he'd ever seen. He almost felt like he could tell her anything if not trust her. Neal gave her his best wink and grin as she thanked him and they finally crossed the street and parted ways. Something about her made him want to follow her but he had other plans, things that couldn't be put aside as he reluctantly hurried along to his meeting with Mozzie.

()()()

Viki stood up, smiling as Elizabeth stood as well.

"I wish I could stay longer El but I need to return to the fort. Those mortgages aren't going to file themselves."

She made a face and they both laughed.

"I understand. I've been getting fairly busy with my catering business although it's slowed down the last week or two. Doesn't help Peter's still hot on the trail of his current case. I barely see him."

Viki looked sympathetic, hugging El gently.

"But he's taking you to La Scalia isn't he? You must be excited about that?"

El nodded with a smirk.

"I'll believe it when I see it. He's been promising for months now and we never get to do more than order in. This case is his life. I just keep hoping the suspect will fall into a hole and vanish so my husband comes back to me!"

She sighed and Viki nodded.

"Wish all you want dear. Maybe it will come true. If he's a crook, he deserves anything bad that happens to him. I'll wish for a bus if you want. It would be quicker."

El rolled her eyes and gently pushed her friend away.

"Go before your boss gets mad at you. I'll see you next week?"

Viki nodded with a wink.

"My boss is a witch... oh wait, I am the boss!"

She laughed as El waved to her departing friend before sitting back down to enjoy the rest of her lunch. She felt a little frown touch her lips thinking about not having lunch with her husband yet again and the fact she was currently alone. She had barely thought about it when someone was standing beside her, a small tray in their hand. It was the waiter.

"Ma'am, someone sent you this with his compliments."

She blinked, wondering who would have sent her a drink as she took the glass of red wine and glanced around. The waiter leaned over and whispered.

"He was a bit shy and already took off."

She looked up at the direction he pointed without being obvious and saw the young man who had pulled her from the path of the car earlier. He was walking away with that jaunty manner she noticed. Something about him made her want to follow as she thanked the waiter, left a tip and quickly picked up her purse to follow. Elizabeth was not the kind of person who stalked others but this young man intrigued her and she had to thank him again. She managed to keep out of view and not too far behind when he suddenly disappeared into a side alley. The sidewalks were busy with noon time pedestrians either going to lunch, out shopping or headed back to work from their break. She turned her head every which way till she saw him.

"Mr. Adler wasn't very happy with your little stunt, Mr. Halden. Where's the money!"

She covered her mouth from making noise as she ducked behind a huge dumpster and watched from afar. The young man was being held by two big burly goons while a third held a gun on him, the sound of it cocking obvious in the alley. Nobody else seemed to see the scene as Elizabeth fumbled in her purse for her cell.

"I don't know what you're talking about. I lost money just like everyone else."

The young man was keeping his cool but she could tell he was feeling the heat as the men who held him nodded and suddenly he was thrown on the ground as they kicked and beat at him. She used that opportunity to quietly call the police on her phone. The line was busy as she tried again. It was still busy as she paused, the sounds of the beating stopped. She looked around the dumpster to see one of the men, the one with the gun spit at the young man as they left him there in a heap. They walked over to a black sedan which she photographed quietly with her camera as she watched them leave. Once they were gone she hurriedly moved towards the young man not certain why she felt such sympathy for him.

"Hey... are you ok? I'm going to call the police?"

She started to dial on her cell but he reached up and stopped her, his hand smeared with blood as she glanced down. His face was bloodied, one eye swollen up as she tried to look past his wounds to the way she remembered him when she saved her.

"No... no cops. Pleeease."

He pulled out his own cell, trying to dial as he sat up but promptly slumped over again. El put her own phone away and grabbed up his.

"Who do you want me to call?"

He gazed up at her as best he could, a queer look on his face as if he wasn't sure why she was helping him before he whispered.

"Speed... di... al... 3."

She nodded, one hand holding his gently as she dialed the number and waited.

"You're late. You know how much I hate waiting..."

The voice was a bit nasally, anal and cross if anything. She would have normally been taken aback by such a tone but this was a matter of life and death.

"Uhm... someone wanted me to call you. He's hurt. I... What's your name?"

She turned to the young man who looked up at her with a pained look and whispered.

"Nick."

She nodded as she turned her attention back to the phone.

"Nick is hurt. Some men beat him up and he refused my help to call the Police. I hope you can help him."

She heard silence on the other end and then a sound as if someone were moving around. There was a slam of a door and then hurried footsteps.

"I have you on GPS. I'll be right there. Black caddie."

She nodded as she heard an abrupt click and returned the phone back to Nick. He didn't look good or sound good, a wheezing sound from him as she pulled out her own phone.

"You need an ambulance Nick. I don't care what you..."

He squeezed her hand tighter till she finally complied if not a bit reluctantly. She helped him sit up a bit, leaning against the wall of the alley as she crouched beside him wiping at his bloodied face with a tissue from her purse.

"I'm a good listener."

She saw him turn those now bloodshot but still very pretty blue eyes towards her as if he was still very uncertain why she was there. She smiled despite everything as she sat beside him on the dusty ground.

"Who'd have thought I'd have so much excitement when I'm worrying about other stuff. I just... Thanks. I was coming to tell you thanks for the drink and saving my life earlier again."

He blinked at her and nodded as if suddenly putting two and two together.

"You're her. I guess they hit me... harder than I thought."

He slumped a bit to one side, eyes rolling back as she tried to keep him awake.

"Nick... stay with me. Your friend will be here soon. What's his name? Tell me what you do for a living. Nick?"

He gave a little cough, coming to as those blue eyes gazed dully up at her. She felt a bit of fear, her first reaction to call for help but he had insisted she not do that. Why she listened to him, she didn't know but he was sincere and had saved her life so she was paying back the favor if nothing else. Finally she saw a car pull into the alley from where they had entered and come towards them slowly. She felt fear again, wondering if it was those men again till the vehicle stopped and a short balding man with glasses and an orange ascot around his neck peeked out.

"Nick?"

He didn't seem to not see her but was obviously avoiding her for reasons she didn't understand. She felt the young man beside her sit up a bit more and nod, holding up a hand weakly with a wince.

"I'm... here."

Nick slumped noticeably against her the little guy moving closer to help as they both carried him to the car between them and lay him gently inside the back seat. He looked so innocent, a wavy lock of hair straying across his forehead as they finished and the little guy closed the door.

"Thanks..."

She looked at him, uncertain what to think and wanting to ride with him. The little guy was nervous as she held out a hand and quickly shook hers before he moved around to the front. He looked back briefly.

"You're prettier than you sounded over the phone."

She blinked uncertain what to think as the little guy drove off with the mysterious Nick inside. She hoped he would be ok as she turned to exit the alley. Elizabeth wondered at the experience, curious what she should tell her husband. The young man had been hurt badly but was obviously afraid of the law although she didn't know why. Maybe he was being blackmailed? Those men had mentioned money... hadn't they?

El sighed, moving down the street as she hailed a cab and gave the address to her home. She'd probably never see him again but that wouldn't be too bad. No way she would forget those pretty blue eyes and the way he'd looked at her as if he trusted her with his life. Maybe this one secret wouldn't be so bad. Peter didn't have to know and she could clean up before he got home if he got home tonight. It was almost 2 now. She wished she had had that wine now.

oOoOoOo

Author's Note: An idea that was floating in my head so I thought I'd post it. Not sure how long this one will be. It's an AU story which suddenly I have gotten in the mood for with many of my ideas.