Disclaimer. I don't own White Collar and make no profit. I just dream in their world.
Setting: Pre series.
Okay, Neal's history is a minefield. I tried to tie a few contradictions together here in a way that (hopefully) doesn't contradict anything else already established.
Neal Caffrey was alone in a hotel room, still shaking from the shock from yesterday. Just hours ago, he and two other guys and pulled off a magnificent heist. Then one of said guys had said he thought he'd forgotten his passport. And the other one, Keller, had shot him. The gunshot still seemed to echo in his ears, the surprise on the other man's face still hovered before him when he shut his eyes. He lay back on the comforter of the fine bed, but the fine hotel suite with it's luxuries was no match for the horrible memory.
Neal had never actively liked or disliked guns. He knew how to use one. They were not toys, nor to be abused, Ellen had taught him well. But to see a man he'd worked with gunned down before him changed everything. He'd seen the light and life go out of a man and it shook him to the core.
He scrubbed his face with his hands. He missed Kate. He felt a wave of nausea as he realized he'd told Keller about her one evening when they were both a bit drunk. The man had met her only briefly. She'd been here, with him in Europe, for a short time. For a short time, he convinced her to come, after her initial refusal. It had been wonderful. But only until she'd realized he still meant to go after the music box with Alex. Then she left claiming he'd misled her. He hadn't meant to con her. He'd really hoped to convince her to do the job with him. It hadn't worked out like that. She'd felt betrayed.
Now he was alone.
What to do then? He was well away now, completely out of the country. He'd put more than one between him and the crime. Between him and Keller. He told himself it wasn't fear. And mostly it wasn't. It was horror. The idea that anything could make him like Keller, could make him into a killer, made him sick. He would never have knowingly worked with someone who could casually snuff out a life as easily as swatting a mosquito. With no Kate and Mozzie not being around, he had no one to discuss him with.
Impulsively he picked up the phone. He hesitated. If he did this, they might trace the call. But it would take time and he would be long gone. He needed something solid right now.
The phone rang, making the man flail in the dark. It took a disoriented moment to register his location. No wife beside him, she was visiting her sister. Just as well he didn't have to worry about waking her up. He looked at the clock, scowled and picked up the phone. "Burke."
There was a long pause, an odd quality as if the phone call was from very far away.
"Sorry, Did I wake you?"
"Who is this?"
Peter sat up in a rush causing Satchmo to raise his head. "Caffrey? I don't suppose your calling to turn yourself in."
This was not the first time the young man had called. It was an odd thing for a suspect he was pursuing to do. Unique in his experience, in fact. But every time gave him a chance to learn something new. But he was pretty sure Caffrey was in Europe. "Are you calling internationally?" He asked in disbelief, not expecting an answer.
Okay, an answer was very surprising. Then again, international covered a rather large part of the globe.
"So why are you calling?"
"Oh, just wondered how you were doing." On his end, Neal suddenly registered that FBI agents have a dangerous job. They carried guns.
"I'm fine, except for not sleeping." Peter frowned at the clock, analyzing the tone of Neal's voice.
There was a long silence.
"I'm glad you didn't call collect."
Neal laughed and then Peter noticed it. Just a hint of stress.
"Are you all right?"
Another silence. He could almost see Neal in his mind's eye, hear him thinking.
"Have you ever seen anyone killed in front of you?"
Okay, Peter thought. That really came out of left field. And there was definite doubt there. Coming from someone else he might've thought it was a threat. But not from Caffrey. And the tone of his voice was uncertain, not threatening.
"I've never killed anyone."
"Me either. Not what I asked."
Peter didn't owe him an answer. But there was something in Caffrey's voice. A need maybe. He thought back to his years on the job.
"Once. On the job. I saw a fellow agent fall. We got the guy that did it. He's in for life."
"Does it help? To get him I mean?"
"It helps knowing he'll never be able to do it again."
He listened intently. What had Neal witnessed? Knowing Neal, he'd been in the middle of a crime. Had something gone wrong? He said he hadn't killed someone, but he didn't always work alone.
"Have you?" He asked suddenly.
"Have you seen someone get killed?"
"Thanks. Good night." Neal said at last.
Peter stared for a long moment as the phone disconnected. What had that been about?
Neal stared at the phone for a moment. He carefully wiped off his fingerprints, rose, and left the hotel. Then he headed back to the place of the crime. He left his share of the heist where they could find it, reluctantly making sure to leave no incriminating fingerprints or DNA. It bothered him to do it. He couldn't wipe off his prints without wiping off Keller's as well.
He'd called in a tip about the crime when he was well away. He wrote a note giving a description and Keller's name, claiming he'd murdered an accomplice. Even that was risky. It could lead back to him. But he couldn't live with what happened. Knowing he let a man be murdered before him without doing anything was something that just wouldn't let him sleep at night. And he didn't really want to. If he lived with it, he feared he really would end up becoming like Keller.
Then he left, putting the place far, far behind him.