NOTE from the PHOENIX: Thank you all for joining me in my first White Collar! I had a great amount of fun playing with Peter and Neal and I plan to do it again soon. I am going to go back through the whole story and try and fix a few of the grammar and spelling and tiny plot holes. Thanks all!
White Collar: The Nightingale
Neal resisted the urge to pace in the small space. Confined to the small space he couldn't contain his energy and tapped his foot. Looking around at the four walls he reached up and straightened his collar. He was surprised how nervous he felt, but he wanted today to go well. The wait was too long and Neal started pacing.
Eventually the doors to the elevator opened. Neal stepped off the elevator and went over to the large glass doors that separated the hall from the White Collar division. Taking a deep breath he pulled open the door. Neal took a step back in surprise when the entire office turned toward him and broke into applause.
"What is this about?"
"Tradition, Neal." Peter chuckled as he stepped up. "Whenever an Agent returns from a serious injury received in the line of duty it is tradition to applaud their first day back."
"I'm not an Agent and I wasn't exactly 'in the line of duty' when I got shot."
Neal laughed and threw his arm over Peter's shoulders. Peter accepted the affection for a few seconds before untangling himself and taking a few steps away. Having been gone for nearly two months while both he and Peter recovered Neal was happy to be anywhere that wasn't his apartment. He greeted Jones with a handshake and then risked giving Diana a hug.
"Sorry about your car, Diana." Neal apologized.
"It's okay, the boys down in crime scene clean up tore the whole back seat out and gave me a new one."
Neal chuckled before following Peter to his office. Peter sat down behind his desk and Neal took up one of the seats in front. Neal looked around the office and smile brightly before turning his attention to Peter. Peter was watching him with a slight smile touching his own lips.
"Glad to be back?" Peter asked.
"I am." Neal nodded. "I was getting bored."
"That's never good."
"Don't worry, until recently I was still in no shape to be starting any trouble."
"How is your side?"
"Just a scar. How about you?"
"I still get a little short of breath now and then, but I'm getting better everyday."
"I got you something." Peter announced.
Peter opened his file drawer and pulled out Neal's black fedora which was sealed in a plastic bag that it didn't quite fit in.
"My hat!" Neal smiled and took the offering. "Why is it in an evidence bag?"
"It was evidence...you might want to get that dry cleaned."
Neal suddenly looked a little less thrilled to have his hat back. Keeping it in the protective bag he put it on the floor at his feet. He knew a haberdashery down the street that could restore the fedora to its former glory. Peter reached back into the drawer and pulled out another evidence bag and handed it to Neal.
"This arrived in the mail for me a few days ago." Peter said. "No return address, Japanese postage."
Neal inspected the contents of the bag. Inside was a coin about the size of a half dollar. It had the weight of being made of solid gold. On one side was a Japanese character on the other was a detailed portrait of a nightingale.
"I'm thinking Hsing sent it."
"Maybe. I got one too."
Neal reached into his breast pocket and pulled out the gold coin. He handed it to Peter to look over. Peter turned the coin over in his hands and then compared it to the coin in the evidence bag.
"The characters are different."
"Yours fits you well." Neal chuckled.
"What does it say?"
"You think that fits me?" Peter asked doubtfully.
"You stepped out in front of Liao, and Riku without hesitation. You saved her life at risk of your own."
"It's my job."
"It's more than that."
Peter was sharply reminded of when Yamaguchi had said the exact same thing to him. Peter looked down at Neal's coin in his hands. The nightingale on the back was caught in mid-flight. He went back to the side with the character on it.
"What does yours say?" Peter asked.
"Nothing? Hsing sent you a gold coin that says 'nothing'."
"So what does it really say?"
Peter chuckled at the way Neal treated it almost like a dirty word. He wordlessly handed the coin back to Neal. Taking the coin Neal placed it back in his pocket.
"I got this as well." Peter held up another bag that held a red card with large gold calligraphy strokes on it.
"Oh, now it makes more sense."
"What makes more sense?"
"I got a card like that, but I couldn't translate it. Japanese is not my strong point, but I know the basics. I couldn't translate my card because I didn't have the full character."
Neal reached into his pocket an pulled out a similar red card. He folded his card in half and placed it on top of the one that Peter had so that the two sets of brush strokes were next to one another. With the cards together they formed a single character.
"What does it say?"
"I should be arresting you for aiding and abetting." Peter shook his head sadly.
"Where's the benefit in that?"
"There really isn't any, and I don't have any real evidence." Peter admitted. "You did good, Caffrey."
"So, what's our next case?" Neal asked enthusiastically.
"We have two to chose from. There is the matter of those painting forgeries found at Zhang's. And then there is one with a suspected money laundering ring."
"I love money laundering...I...uh...I mean I love going after money launders."