What if Peter Burke didn't want to work with Neal Caffrey but was forced to by Hughes...?

This story follows the general storyline of the pilot. But there are more twists and turns and some parts of this story diverge from the actual pilot story.

Peter doesn't trust Neal and is suspicious all along that Neal is pulling a con. Neal wants to stay out of prison but he gets into difficulties along the way, and of course he doesn't trust Peter either.

Both of them will have to work out a way to trust each other, solve cases and become friends. Hurt, comfort and whump will be included in later chapters.

... Prologue ...

Peter Burke wasn't crazy about meeting Neal Caffrey in prison. But he'd made a deal with the fugitive when he caught him in the deserted apartment a week ago, and he wasn't a man to break his word.

Sitting across from the convict, he listened to his suggestion and shook his head in disbelief. "No way. I caught you — twice. You've already been sentenced to 4 years and now you'll get another sentence for escaping. I believe in our system of justice, where criminals serve their time in prison."

Neal tried to convince the FBI agent, and explained how his experience as a white collar criminal would help the division solve crimes. None of the agents had been able to connect the small fiber they'd found to the new Canadian 100 dollar bill. He had many skills that could complement the Bureau's capability. "Look, Peter, there is a lot of insight you can get from me if I work as your CI."

The FBI agent wasn't impressed. "Yeah, Caffrey, you've been an inmate for almost 4 years. And you know about the fiber for a brand-new foreign bill. If that's telling me anything, it's that you are still a criminal and I can't trust you. Forget about any tracking anklets. I'm not interested in hiring you as a CI. 'CI' means confidential informant, not criminal inmate. My life is easier by far when you are behind bars."

The felon gave it one more try. "Peter, I can help you catch the Dutchman. You've been chasing him for years. You want to solve the case and send the file to the archives, and I can make that happen."

Agent Burke smiled. "I will catch him and I won't need your help to do it. When I've caught him, he'll be sent to jail and you might become prison pen pals. Apart from that, you won't be involved at all with him."

After rejecting Caffrey's proposal, he made his farewell and called the guards to tell them the visit was over.

Neal was left alone in the meeting room. Damn it! He had hoped the outcome of this get-together would be different. But he wouldn't be one of the best con men in the world if he gave up so easily. There was always a contingency plan. When he returned to his cell he fetched his stationery—which was made from hand-made paper, of course. Even being in prison didn't mean he had to abandon his sense of style.

... 3 days later at the FBI ...

Jones looked into Peter Burke's office. "Peter? Hughes wants to talk to you."

The agent wondered if there was a new assignment for him. He walked over to meet the head of the department. He entered the office and took a seat in front of his superior. While they were making small talk, Peter noticed an expensive-looking letter lying on the desk. The handwriting seemed elegant. There was a matching envelope, too, revealing that it was sent from a federal penitentiary.

Peter decided it was time to cut the idle talk. "Reese, Jones told me you wanted to talk to me? What's up?"

"Peter, I heard you visited Neal Caffrey in prison this week. Tell me about it."

Agent Burke let him in on the deal that had been proposed, which he'd declined. "You can't trust this felon, and we don't need him to solve our cases."

The senior agent was frowning. "Our closure rate went down considerably last month. The month before wasn't any better, and I don't see the trend reversing yet. You know the big shots are discussing sending someone in from Washington to give us guidance in 'making managerial decisions'. We need to stay under the radar and don't need any additional decline in our rates. I don't want to draw their attention to the White Collar division. Every now and then there are discussions about restructuring the division. We need to raise the rate to squelch these ideas."

Peter Burke got a bad feeling that the letter, his visit to Neal Caffrey, and his boss's words were connected in a way he most likely wouldn't appreciate.

Hughes picked the letter up and held it in his hands while he continued. "I guess we could take advantage of this deal. We could try to work with Caffrey as a CI in the Dutchman case, see if he can help find a new approach. I know your team is the best, and we've had a lot of success in recent years. But maybe our agents are sometimes a bit too linear. We might need someone who thinks like a criminal himself to track one. Someone like this young convict who is able to think outside the box."

Peter could feel the anger rising. "That son of a bitch went behind my back and sent a letter to you promising you the moon. I don't trust him. This is one of his cons. He's trying to con us into letting him out of prison. As soon as he's out, he will run. Or plan another heist under the nose of the FBI."

His superior tried to calm him down. "I don't trust him either. And that's why you're the only person who could act as his handler. He's slick. I can't assign him to one of the younger agents. They would be no match for a felon of Caffrey's ilk. But you see through his cons and won't fall for any of his tricks. Keep him on the straight and narrow. Make sure he follows the rules. And use his skills to catch the Dutchman. I need the case solved for my quarterly report."

Peter Burke had worked for his boss for many years; he could read the signs that the decision was already made and there was no way to change the mind of the man in front of him. He gave in and tried to set some basic rules in order minimize the risks. "Ok, then. We need to make sure he gets the best tracking anklet available. 100% tamper-proof. High availability. Most precise GPS technology with signal amplifier. And he'll be restricted to a limited radius when he's not with me; I don't want him wandering freely through New York at night."

Hughes nodded in agreement. "Right. We have to make some housing arrangements for him, find some cheap hotel inside Manhattan, no more than $700 a month. Let's contact the Marshals' office to get the tracking anklet. You can pick up Caffrey and make sure he knows the rules, and the consequences if he breaks one of them."

"What are the consequences if he violates the rules?"

Hughes gave him a stern look. "Peter, I am not a fool. If he doesn't play by the rules he'll be back behind bars without further ado."

Peter was relieved. After chasing the con man for many years, he was pretty sure that it wouldn't take long until said con man would start to breach the terms of the contract he'd have to sign. That would be the moment when this team assignment forced upon him would find a sudden end.

... Some weeks later ...

Peter Burke was leaning against his car when his new CI passed through the prison gates. "You understand how this works?"

Neal Caffrey looked like a cat that had got the cream. He lifted his trouser leg to display that the anklet was already in place. I'm being released into the custody of the FBI, under your supervision, and this thing chafes my leg. Anything I'm missing? "

The FBI agent growled, "Yeah, if you run, and I catch you, which you know I will because I'm 2 and 0, you're not back here for four years, you're back here for good. When you're off duty, there's a two mile radius around your new home. If you leave the radius, the Marshals will be alerted automatically—they have a response time of 5 minutes—then you'll be walked through those gates right behind you in the opposite direction. After 10 p.m. you have to stay in your motel: no late night excursions. I'm your handler and you do whatever task I assign you. You asked for this deal so live with it. If you lie to me, if you try to con me, if you do anything illegal, what will be the consequences?" He waited for his new team member to answer.

"Yeah, I get it. I'll be back in prison in no time at all, and serve my time behind bars. But if I help you catch the Dutchman, we can make this permanent?"

Peter Burke sighed. "It's an option. We'll take this step by step. Let's get to work."

... To be continued

Author's note:

I am very glad that I have found a wonderful beta reader for this story. mam711 did great work, and a lot of it.

Therefore, this story should be less Pidgin English than my last stories have been... And less confusing because she is a really good beta hand helped me to find and fix some logic inconsistencies.

Thank you!