Disclaimer: White Collar belongs to USA Network and Jeff Eastin.
Thanks to my beta mam711 for proofreading this story after the fact.
LIPSTICK ON YOUR WHITE COLLAR
The stipend Neal Caffrey received as a Criminal Consultant was risible, as he was still serving his sentence as a convicted felon. Despite his best efforts at frugal living he always finished the month with cents instead of dollars left over. Just how he was going to pay for any Christmas gifts was a problem he was mulling over while sitting in the agents' bullpen waiting for Peter to return from his meeting across town.
Slowly a smug grin spread across his face; he was having an Aha moment, as Elizabeth Burke would quote from Oprah. "Jones, could you spot me $20 until lunch?" he asked his colleague.
Agent Clinton Jones had grown close to Neal over the three years they had been working together. He knew Neal struggled to make ends meet financially and was always willing to lend him cash when asked. Despite his history as a thief, Neal had never defaulted on a personal loan, and no matter how negligible an amount, he was sure to pay it back on time. "If you want a latte, I'd be happy to treat you when I go on the coffee run later," Jones generously offered.
"No, thanks," Neal replied. "It's for something else; I have a plan." Jones handed over the bill with a shrug and Neal headed out of the White Collar Crime Unit to his favorite florist nearby.
Matt was sole supplier of floral arrangements for Burke Premiere Events, Elizabeth's company. He was happy to see Neal as he came bounding into the store, cappuccino in hand. "Morning, Matt; this is for you," Neal said, cheerfully handing over the coffee.
"Thanks," the florist replied. "Always a pleasure to see you, Neal. Does Elizabeth need something urgently?"
"No, no panic. I'm here for myself today," Neal replied.
"Something for your latest crush?" Matt asked mischievously.
"Could be, I guess." Neal answered with a sly smile. "I need a small mistletoe bouquet for the office."
"I should have known!" Matt laughed. "Anyone in particular you're hoping to catch unawares beneath it?"
"As long as it's no one with a five o'clock shadow, I'm good!" Neal replied impishly.
Matt grinned as he selected a pretty sprig of mistletoe decorated with a white and gold ribbon and handed it over. "How about this one—not too showy, ideal for an office ambush?"
"Perfect." Neal handed over the rest of his cash and took the brown sack with the bouquet inside.
Back at the office he made a grand show of balancing on his swivel chair in order to fix the mistletoe over the entrance door to the Unit. Agent Diana Berrigan giggled as she watched him. "Who are you planning on kissing under that?" she asked, amused at Neal's struggle to attach the bouquet without falling. Neal replied with a playful wink before getting down and putting his chair back by his desk. He smoothed his hair, straightened his tie and pulled his jacket back into place before coughing aloud to get everyone's attention.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" he announced. "I have a Christmas proposition for you all." He continued to the now-attentive agents. "Whosoever shall cross beneath this fine mistletoe, I shall —for a sum—give my best kiss!" Laughter started to spread around the room. "What say you to $50 apiece?"
"I'm in!" said Diana immediately, pulling out her wallet. "You promise you'll go through with it regardless of who it is?" she demanded.
"Of course, fair lady," Neal replied with a low sweeping bow before her. "You yourself shall get to determine when the clock starts."
Diana laughed in delight, circling the room collecting everyone's cash while Neal leaned casually against his desk, legs stretched out in front, hands in his pockets. When Diana was finished she handed Neal a sizable wad of money. "Okay, lover boy," she said, "It had better be your best smooch, no pecks on the cheek allowed!" she warned.
"As the fair lady commands," Neal replied, raising his fedora to her.
"Oh, I'm going to enjoy this!" Jones laughed. "Come on, Diana, when does he start?" he asked.
"Let's see," Diana mused, putting her finger to her cheek in mock concentration. The other agents started to gather around her desk, giggling like sixth graders. "Neal, you will kiss the third person to walk through the door, no exceptions!" she said with conviction. Neal nodded in agreement and positioned himself nearer to the door. He got out his lip balm and applied it liberally, much to everyone's amusement. The whole of the White Collar Crime Unit seemed to have perched themselves around the room in excited expectation.
Just then the elevator button in the hall dinged and the room fell silent.