Note from the Phoenix: Hello all! If you are new to my stories, welcome, I'm a very chatty author who loves to talk with readers. So never hesitate to send me a note.
A note on setting, this story takes place near the end of season 3, but before the finale of 'Countdown', no real need to have seen season 3 other than to help understand a few references here and there.
White Collar: The Eye of Sita
"Yes, Sir, I'll be there."
Peter hung up his desk phone and sighed. It was Monday morning and already his week was looking complicated.
"Neal's not going to like this."
Right on time, actually nearly two hours late, Neal strolled into the office. Peter glanced out the window behind him and as he guessed it was a beautiful Spring day out there. Neal was always late to work when the weather was good. He had a bright smile for everyone and greeted them all by name, asking casual questions about friends and family.
Peter had long since stopped nagging Neal about coming into the office on time. If they were actively working on a case Neal was a lot more timely and in the end that was what counted. Ignoring Neal for now Peter started preparations for the case that had just been handed to him over the phone.
It took Neal nearly half an hour to chat his way through the office and head up the stairs to Peter's office. Looking bright eyed and bushy tailed Neal sat down in the chair across from Peter's desk and lounged in it comfortably.
"No. No, morning is seven am when the rest of us get here." Peter growled. "This is not morning, this is practically lunch time."
"You and Elizabeth have another dry cleaning fight?" Neal asked sympathetically.
"What? No. I just..."
"Well then what are you all worked up about?"
"I'm not 'worked up'."
"Diana?" Neal called over his shoulder.
"You're pretty worked up, Boss." Diana confirmed as she walked passed the open door reading a file.
"See?" Neal smiled. "So what's going on?"
"Neal, I have to go to Washington."
"D.C or state?"
"Okay." Neal shrugged.
"For a week, maybe longer."
Neal's eyes widened in genuine horror mixed with betrayal. Peter hated that looked, it reminded him of the look Satchmo gave him on the mornings that he was too busy to take him for a walk as he was leaving for the office. Neal got to his feet and paced for a second before settling down.
"Take me with you." Neal begged.
"You know my contract with the Marshals says I have to be on house arrest while you're out of town."
"Don't leave me locked up in my apartment...I will return to my life of crime just for something to do."
"It's just a week." Peter said wearily. "Two at the most."
"That's easy for you to say. Try being cooped up indoors for a week or more, particularly in the Spring. It's maddening. I don't idle well."
"I've got plenty of paperwork to keep you busy." Peter offered.
"That is outright abuse," Neal complained "cruel and unusual punishment."
"I could have you sent back to prison while I'm away, I hear they have a nice exercise yard you can spend an hour a day in."
"The answer is 'no', Neal. I can't take you with me on this one."
Neal made a noise of frustration before becoming lost in thought. Peter always got nervous whenever Neal got quiet like this. He could practically hear Neal's thoughts as he ran through his options. It didn't take very long for Neal to come up with a new angle of attack. He sat back down and brought the chair closer to the desk. Leaning forward he lowered his voice.
"I'll cry." Neal warned with a vulpine grin.
"Tears on demand is a very useful skill." Neal said as he blinked hard to brighten his eyes with crocodile tears. "You never know when a con is going to require a little extra emotion."
"I really do hate you sometimes."
"Come on, Peter," Neal pressed "I'll be on my absolute best behavior."
"Your 'best behavior' still borders on criminal." Peter pointed out.
"You've never even seen my best behavior. Why do you need to go to D.C anyway?"
"Think about it."
"Is it your turn to do the monument tour for the kiddies? You know I always thought it was a myth that all Federal employees had to do that once a career."
"Neal, I'm going to help the D.C Art Crimes division."
"Ah." Neal said with realization. "Is it about me? Because there is no better expert on me than me. I can save you a lot of work and tell you with one hundred percent certainty that I'm not responsible for whatever it is."
"They didn't give me case details yet, but they made it extremely clear that they are not interested in your help."
"Fine, I don't have to help, but at least let me come along. I can keep myself entertained. I have always wanted to visit the National Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian."
"Absolutely not...wait...you've never been to D.C?"
"No." Neal replied honestly. "By the time I had a chance I was on the top of your watch list. I couldn't risk strolling around a major art gallery."
"I did have warnings out to all of them." Peter admitted.
"It would be a crime not to let me go." Neal added. "Isn't the whole point of our partnership to help me evolve as a law abiding citizen? What better way to expand my cultural pride than a week in this great nation's capital?"
"I can't just let you wander D.C."
"You can change my leash with a few taps on your phone. Just pin me down in the Gallery during the day, I'm not going to steal anything if I can't go anywhere with it."
"I don't know..."
"Peter, I swear, if anything gets stolen in D.C during our stay I will deny full responsibility for it."
Peter narrowed his eyes, he wasn't fooled by Neal's word play for a second. Rather than his usual bright smile Neal settled into a serious expression in his attempt to sway Peter's mind. Peter took a breath to repeat his previous answer, but he hesitated. Neal pounced on the moment of weakness.
"Thanks, Peter. It will be fun, promise. Nothing like a road trip."
"Why do I feel like I'm putting a fox in a hen house?" Peter grumbled.
"I'd say more like a kid in a candy store."
"Neal, I'm taking a big risk doing this..."
"You will be amazed by my 'best behavior'."
"I'd better be."