I seem to be on a roll lately. Probably due to White Collar withdrawal and glimpses of spoiler info. Not that they've shown anything we couldn't predict, thus far.

~As usual, this is just for fun not for profit. I don't own White Collar I just daydream in their world. My thanks to the shows creators, actors and crew for such a great distraction from the usual difficulties of life...

Elizabeth knew she was in trouble when two thirds of her help called in sick. She knew there was a bug going around, she felt a bit hoarse herself. But tomorrow was a big event. She was catering a fund raiser for a children's outreach program. It helped kids in poor areas. It was going to be big and it would be nearly impossible to juggle everything with so little help.

She sighed, glanced at Satchmo, snoozing on the rug. Peter was working late again, on stake out. He'd be out tomorrow too. She couldn't bounce any ideas off of him.

The phone rang again and she cringed. She didn't recognize the caller id, but the way things were going...she picked it up.

"Mrs. Burke?" A troubled woman's voice queried.


"This is Alisha from the City Hill bakery. We've...we've had a fire. We lost everything. So...your order for tomorrow..."

Elizabeth choked in panic. She couldn't replace the cakes and cookies this late! Then the implications got through to her. "Was anyone hurt?"

"No ma'am. No one was there. The fireman think it was an electric fire. Frayed wiring. I'm sorry about your order."
"I understand. I hope your insurance comes through."

"Thank you."

Elizabeth made a mental note to send them a sympathy card. Then she wished someone would send her one. She was overwhelmed.

Satchmo woke up, stretched, and bumped the table next to him. Something sat on the edge, buried under a paper and fell with a small crash. "Oh no. Now what? Don't touch it Satch!"

The dog was sniffing it and Elizabeth hurried to pull him away, less their be sharp broken edges to the object. She picked up the picture frame,which had cracked. She sucked in a breath. It was the prom picture of Neal and Peter, right before they'd gone under cover. They were both dressed in their best 'undercover gambling den people' suits. And they both were smiling. Did Neal's smile seem a bit strained? She hadn't noticed it at the time. But then she had only thought things were rough because Peter had accused him of taking the treasure. Now she knew that Mozzie had taken it and Neal had helped him. Caught between Peter and Mozzie, he'd been under a lot of stress he couldn't (or wouldn't) trust anyone to help him with.

She closed her eyes, rubbing Satchmo's ears. She sucked in a deep breath and let it out in a big sigh. "Oh Satch." Some of her stress did leave, but sadness was in it's wake. To realize how lucky you were because being kidnapped was so much worse than being short handed or cakeless for an event was not how she'd prefer to deal with trouble. Her eyes opened again. Peter missed Neal terribly. He missed that ease they'd shared. Neal missed it too, she knew and he accepted Peter's coolness without comment. Things were harder now than ever before, harder than when he'd been accused of stealing the diamond, or escaping again...

Her thought caught on that, froze as she imagined the frightening sight of Neal leaping out onto the Greatest Cake Bakery's grand opening awning as described by Peter. The Greatest Cake, she thought and gasped. She spared only a glance at the clock before grabbing a coat and rushing out the door. She had the car, fortunately. She hurried over to Neal's apartment, wondering if this was a good idea. He'd be willing, even eager, to help. But she didn't want to guilt him into it. She didn't blame him for Keller's actions. And she didn't blame him for basically being flawed. At most, she was sad and disappointed to see her husband and his friend losing their close bond.

Hurrying up the steps and banishing doubt, she knocked. June looked surprised to see her.

"Well hello, Elizabeth. It's been a long time."

"It sure seems that way." Elizabeth said sadly. "Too long."

"How are you?"

It wasn't just a casual question.

"Hanging in." Elizabeth tried for a smile. "Is Neal home? I'm hoping he could help me with something."

"I believe he is. And I bet whatever it is, he'd be delighted."

Elizabeth hurried up to Neal's apartment and knocked on the door. For an instant, there was silence. Then footsteps. Neal opened up and looked surprised. "Hey Elizabeth." He stepped back and motioned her in. He was still wearing his suit pants and shirt, but he'd shed vest and jacket.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything."

"No. I'm just reading. What can I do for you?" He asked. He lacked his full, usual self assurance. He almost looked shy.

"I have a crisis brewing at work and wondered if you could help me. Actually it might take a miracle but your the only one that I thought might have one handy."

His brows rose. "That's intriguing. I can't promise miracles but I'll do my best."

"It started with a bunch of my help coming down sick so they can't help with catering tomorrow's fund raising. It finished with a call that the bakery doing the cakes just burned down."

Neal winced. "Ouch. That's a big blow."

"It is..."

"Ah. I happen to own a bakery."
"Yes...and any cake – and I know the Greatest Cake is excellent" she cast him a smile..., "I could get is better than no cake although they did want special ones."

"How special?"

"Basically Two large teddy bears of wedding cake size, one all chocolate and one all white, except for the eyes and paws. And two smaller ones of pink and blue."

"Wow. Awfully short notice for that."

"I know. I'd rather show with apologies and some kind of cake at least."

"I can't see how anyone can blame you for the bakery burning down. Let me guess, it's a children's fund raiser.." Neal was hitting his cell phone keys. "Hey. Can you get a crew into the Greatest Cake for a rush job. It has to be ready by tomorrow...yes I'm serious!" He looked up. "What time?"

"They need the cake around three."

"By three o clock. I'll meet you there and give you the details." He grinned at her.

"Oh Neal, thank you."

"We don't know it'll work yet."

"Hey at least your willing to try. Not many other owner's of bakeries who'd go for this."

"I like a challenge." He cocked his head. "So what is the event?"

"Your right. It's a charity for kids. The kind who don't have much hope or a future."

"I can get behind that. Can I help out any other way?"
She studied him uncertainly. "I need help setting up. Like I said, lots of people coming down sick."

"That annoying bug. It's gone around the office too." Neal nodded. "I'll be there."

She smiled. "Neal, thank you."

"You are very welcome."