Title: Reindeer Games
Notes: Written for White Collar Advent Calender, Day 12.
It was a conspiracy.
That's what Mozzie would say if Neal approached him about this particular problem. He would be correct. It was all one giant, evil conspiracy, with the sinister purpose of driving him insane.
Everyone else thought it was just a lot of fun.
Neal thought that he had a good grasp on who these agents were, but they had fooled him. Peter had pulled an excellent team together. They were intelligent, but more than that, they were some of the most genuine, honest people Neal had ever met. Half of the agents were completely useless to use in undercover work, because they were just that terrible at lying. Subterfuge was not a strength of this particular group of people. And yet...
As he walked across the bullpen, he noticed a package sitting benignly at the corner of his desk.
He glared at it - it was the second one this week. Whoever it was ramping up their efforts, that was for sure. The box was wrapped in bright green paper, with a shiny red ribbon tied around it. The card simply said, "From your Secret Santa" in handwriting that he did not recognize. He had no idea who the package was from.
That really irritated him.
He'd been in the break area, getting coffee, and his back hadn't been turned for more than a few seconds. He'd been watching all day, certain that his Secret Santa would drop a gift off. Neal was determined that this year, he would figure out who it was before the office party. So far, his Secret Santa hadn't slipped up. In fact, they had gone so far as to wipe their fingerprints, to ensure the greatest of secrecy.
These were supposed to be sober FBI agents.
They hardly cracked a smile through the day, because they all took their oath to heart. They weren't supposed to be devious in any way. When Peter had warned him that Secret Santas were Serious Business (he could hear the capitalization when Peter said it) in the office, Neal had thought Peter was exaggerating.
He was not.
Every other month of the year, they acted like sane adults who were over-worked and underpaid. Then December hit, and they turned into little kids. Little kids who were almost pathological in their ability to lie. No, these people couldn't lie to a mobster's face to save their lives, but they could lie through their teeth about this Secret Santa stuff.
The package sparkled up at him innocently.
This was Neal's third year with the team and their shennanigans, and he still hadn't been able to figure out a pattern. The goal was to leave gifts all month long, and to keep it a mystery until the final "big" present at the office holiday party, when the identities would be revealed.
There should have been a pattern; a behavior, sly glances, types of gifts left...but there just wasn't.
Neal had figured it would be simple to figure out who had who. Easy. Uncomplicated. He was so wrong. The least stealthy agents in the FBI were like ninja Secret Santas. Turn your back for one second, and the next thing you knew, three different desks would have little gifts on them. Neal had no idea how the agents did it.
Maybe it was part of the Quantico training.
"Are you going to stop sulking and open your gift?" Peter asked. He looked amused. Neal glared balefully up at him. "Are you still mad that you haven't figured out who your Santa is for this year?"
"I. Am. Not. Sulking." Neal stated with great dignity.
Peter just chuckled and walked away. Neal glowered as he realized the Secret Santa Ninjas had struck again; while he'd been not-sulking, four gifts had popped up. It wasn't fair. He was their criminal consultant. He was good at solving cases. He offered up resources and ideas the other agents didn't have.
He was supposed to be the sneaky one.
And yet the mystery of the Secret Santas remained just that. A mystery that was tantalizingly close, but the answer still eluded him. Neal glanced around the office. Jones was on the phone, Diana was filling out a report. A few agents were opening their gifts, with delighted smiles on their faces.
Not one of them gave even a hint of watching him as he reached for the package.
He stretched the moment out for as long as possible, to see if he got any reaction. Peter was laughing at him from his office, but no one else seemed to be paying any attention. Neal sighed, and smiled as he carefully pulled the ribbon off.
Next year, he would definitely figure out who his Secret Santa was.