Disclaimer: I don't own White Collar, Neal, or any of the other characters (sadly).
It seemed like a perfect day. Which should've been a key indicator to Neal that something was going to go wrong. They had just wrapped up a case, and Neal was just wandering back from lunch. There was some paper work to get done, but Peter had hinted that he'd let everyone go home early that night. But despite everything having been good so far, he had an aching feeling it wasn't going to stay that way. Unfortunately, that was all he had: a gut feeling. Nothing to prove the day would end terribly, so he pushed the feeling aside as he approached the FBI building.
Being perceptive of his surrounding was second nature to him. Whenever he saw something valuable, his mind zoomed to ways he could "borrow" it. When he walked into a building, his first thought was possible exit routes. And when he saw someone acting suspiciously, his first instinct was to figure out what was going on. Which was why he took interest in the man wearing all black loitering outside the FBI building, looking for all the world like he was trying to blend into the wall behind him. When he noticed how the man glanced at every person who walked by like they were about to accuse him of some crime, Neal knew immediately something was going on that shouldn't be. The man had his hood pulled up to cover his face, despite the mid-summer heat, a brief case white knuckled in one hand, and a cell phone held to his ear in the other. Neal had been in his position enough to recognize that he was up to something.
Neal leaned against a stair railing just within earshot of the man, pretending he was reading something on his phone while he strained to hear what the guy was saying. Unfortunately, he was talking so quietly that Neal could only make out a few words, like "FBI", and "bomb". Suddenly, the man snapped the phone shut, looked around conspiratorially, and hurried off with his head down. Neal lingered by the door, waiting to see where he went. He saw the man round the corner, still glancing over his shoulder every couple steps. Neal was inclined to follow the man, but, glancing at his watch, he saw he was already close to being late, and he knew from experience that Peter would be suspicious if he was. There was no doubt that trying to tail the man would make him late. He considered telling Peter that someone might be trying to bomb the FBI building; except he didn't actually have any proof. All he had was a shifty guy having a shifty conversation and saying the word "bomb". Somehow, he doubted that Peter would really appreciate "crazy accusations".
With a last glance towards the direction the man had gone, he hurried inside. He glanced around the lobby (and took more time than was strictly necessary getting to the elevators so as to have a better look around), but saw no one acting remotely suspicious. He boarded the elevator, scanning the lobby again as the doors closed. He knew the very idea of someone trying to blow up a federal building was absurd, but he found it hard to relax or think of anything else as he traveled up. Neal hardly noticed as the elevator dinged to inform him it had reached his floor. He walked out, heading to his desk out of habit and taking off his hat, with the flourish of course. Only after this did he glance up to see Peter walking down the stairs toward him, not worrying in the slightest about strange men in black.
"You're late." He said, though not harshly.
"Jumping the gun a bit, don't you think? I've still got a few minutes." He bantered, if without his usual energy. If Peter noticed anything about his behavior, he didn't mention it. "C'mon, we've got a meeting in the conference room. Big new case." He informed Neal, nodding toward the stairs. "For that, we are late." Neal sighed and followed Peter up the stairs. So much for going home early.
The meeting was absolutely gripping, with the ever unique and exciting mortgage fraud cases and such. It was all Neal could do to pay attention to what Peter was saying. Eventually the meeting finished, and everyone went off to complete their assigned tasks. Neal really did try to concentrate on the case, but his mind kept drifting off to the man in black and shady business. The rest of the day passed by without his notice as he struggled to gain anything from the file in front of him. People slowly packed up and left, and when Neal finally thought about calling it a day, since he couldn't even concentrate on the case any longer, it was already getting dark outside. Before he could, though, Peter appeared at the railing and motioned for him to come up to his office. Neal sighed, already thinking of defenses for whatever suspicious activities he'd been up to now, and complied.
"Yes, Peter." He asked, taking up his usual spot in the chair across from Peter's.
"What's going on with you? I know you don't like mortgage fraud-"
"It's not that I don't like them," Neal interrupted. "I would just rather be thrown out of a moving car at sixty miles an hour than look at another case file." He clarified.
"But you hardly even paid attention the entire time. You had that look in your eye." Peter continued as though Neal hadn't interrupted.
"That one you get whenever you're about to get into trouble."
"What type of security does this building have?"
"It's got plenty of security. Why, are you thinking of stealing something?" He joked.
"Like you have anything worth stealing." Neal dismissed with a wave of his hand. Peter looked slightly offended by this, but Neal didn't give him the chance to comment. "I was just wondering what sort of protection there is against… security threats." He said, purposefully vague.
"What the hell is going on Neal?" Peter half whispered. Neal considered him a second, then relented, explaining what he had seen earlier. Peter, predictably, looked skeptical.
"Neal, these are serious accusations. And even if you're right, I don't think it's possible. I mean, if you hadn't noticed, security's pretty tight. I think it'd be easier to break into the private collection in the Met than plant a bomb in the FBI." He said confidently. Neal cleared his throat and looked down, almost guiltily. "Don't tell me." He began incredulously. Neal gave a helpless sort of shrug, his face apologetic.
"Any places I may or may not have visited in the past are irrelevant right now. The point is I've seen how nervous people get when they're about to pull a con, I know how it feels enough to recognize it." Peter still didn't look convinced.
"Even if you're right and someone is planning something, chances are they'll get caught long before they actually get anywhere." Even while Peter was talking, Neal was staring down to the lower lever, eyes glued to a figure walking through the glass doors. He was wearing a janitor's uniform now, one hand in his pocket and the other on a briefcase, but Neal recognized him immediately. Neal looked away, hoping not to draw suspicion as he whispered to Peter, "That's him."
Peter looked and saw the man to whom Neal was referring. As skeptical as he was, he knew that man didn't work here, and that there was definitely something suspicious about him. Peter carefully tucked his gun in his holster and stood. Unfortunately, there was no way to inconspicuously get to the lower level, and they hadn't gotten more than half way down the stairs when the man spotted them. He looked shocked to see that there were still people here. Neal could see the panic in his eyes, even before he pulled his hand that wasn't holding the briefcase out of his pocket. He could tell from the look in the man's eyes what was about to happen, even as he revealed the dead man's switch.
"Don't move, or I blow this place." He ordered. Despite the command, Peter still continued walking down the steps and closer to him.
"Sir, put it down. We can talk about this." Peter placated, but it had no effect. Neal could see him from the corner of his eye, slowly bringing his hand closer to where his gun was holstered. Neal wished he could've told Peter to stop, that there was no way bringing a gun into play would help, but there was nothing he could do but pray the man didn't see the gun. He did, of course; Neal saw the exact moment when his eyes found it beneath Peter's jacket, and he knew in that second that they had only one chance. He dove for the switch in the man's hand, even as Peter tried to pull his gun; but the bomber was faster than both of them, and before they realized what was happening, the world collapsed around them.
AN: I know it's short, but I can't help that it was the best place to stop it. I promise there will be loads of whump in the next chapter. And really, who doesn't need a good dose of whump just before school starts.
This was going to be a one-shot, but it worked better in chapters. I really didn't even mean to write this, because I have several other things that I'm writing now, and I've been meaning to finish those. Then this idea popped in my head, and I needed a break from my other stuff anyway, so I figured it couldn't hurt. It hasn't been beta-ed, so any mistakes (of which there are probably plenty) are my own. I've written the rest already, I just need to edit, so if people review a lot then it might get up faster *hint hint*. Regardless, thanks for reading!