Peter brought him a cup of coffee to the conference room. FBI coffee. Not his favorite brew anyway. But right now he was pouting. Didn't want to take the peace offering from his handler. So Neal refused the coffee with the flimsy excuse of reducing his caffeine consumption.

As Neal said before he was done with Peter. He doesn't need a friend who goes behind his back, won''t trust him. Neal doesn't want to go back to prison and therefore he was stuck with Peter in a professional relationship. The con man vowed to keep this to a strictly matter-of-fact collaboration. No more late night talks, no familiar back-slapping or exchanging confidences.

Hughes gave Peter the finger point. Therefore, the agent put the coffee mug down and hurried to his boss's office.

Neal could watch an animated discussion between both men. At one point, his handler was gesturing in his direction and it could be assumed they were talking about him. Neal started to work up curiosity. Well, it won't take long and the minute Peter would return he would read Neal into the details of their plan.

When the agent left his boss he hurried to his own office, made some quick phone calls, packed a file he brought into his briefcase and finally switched off the computer and came to the conference room.

Agent Burke told his CI the facts in quick words. "Sorry, change of plans. We won't be able to give our speech at the FBI convention today. I have to leave for Washington, now. Hughes arranged it that you will be working with agent Ochs while I'm gone." "How long will you be gone?" "Don't know. We'll see. Take care of yourself and don't get into trouble." With his last words a smile showed on Peter Burke's face. But it was soon gone and so was the agent himself as he disappeared to the elevators.

Neal Caffrey told himself this was just what he needed. Give him some room to breathe and time to sort his things out, find Sam - again - and resolve the mysteries around his father. It would be much easier without having Peter at his back jeopardizing each and every venture. And probably it would be more fun, too, working together with another agent in a new team. He was always open to make new experiences and meet new people.

Two hours later - the young man has just finished an elaborate origami orchid - a sturdy looking suit stomped through the door. He barked to the next person in his sight: "Hey, where's Coffrey ?" It was Jones asking him: "Looking for Neal Caffrey, Sir? " "Coffrey, Caffrey, who cares? That felon I am dumped with, Agent Burke's pet convict."

Uh, oh. Neal was alarmed. If this was agent Ochs the exchange of his former handler would be no fun. But well, if he was good at anything it was at winning over people. The con artist switched on his famous smile and walked over to agent Ochs. "I am Neal Caffrey, how can I help?" "Move your ass down to organized crime and get to work. This ain't no leisure resort for felons on parole."

Neal followed his new handler to the organized crime office floor. It looked similar to the White Collar division, slightly different arrangement of desks but conference room and cubicles where all the same.

Still smiling, the con man inquired what he could to for the team. However, the order 'Bring a round of coffee' didn't amuse him at all. Peter didn't order him to serve coffee, neither did Jones or Diana! If he wanted to be a barista he would have started a career in a coffee shop. "Need a written task description, Coffrey? Even a jerk should be able to pour some coffee into mugs." He reacted indignant to the order. "I am not an errand boy. Peter used my skills to solve complicated cases and..." "Stop it. Hughes seems to think you would be an asset to our team. I didn't ask for you. Now listen, either you bring coffee and play by my rules or you spend the time until Agent Burke returns in a holding cell. And never think about calling me by my first name. To you I am agent Ochs or Sir. Did you get that?"

Holding cell versus bullying handler. No opportunity to look for Sam versus serving coffee to a bunch of ignorant morons. Prison versus 2 mile radius. He stood for some seconds motionless struggling for the right decision. "Yes Sir. Coffee it is." Choices are sacrifices. Inevitably, it means giving up something that you want for something you want more.

It turned out to be a long day which didn't get any more pleasant at all. Neal was sick and tired when he finally walked home late at night to his apartment.

... To be continued

P.S.: This is my first story in years. And my very first in English. Nevertheless, I did my best to find all spelling and grammar error before I uploaded the story. I hope I is not to bad :-)