White Collar – Crazy - Part 6

Neal's heart is lighter than it's been for a while, when he leaves the Burkes. He goes home and picks up his paintbrushes for the first time in weeks. He hadn't been able to paint while he was undercover and it was like having his hands tied the whole time. Mozzie comes over to catch up and hear the details of the case, they crack open a bottle of wine, by the time he leaves its late and Neal falls into bed and sleeps solidly until morning, glad to be back in his own bed.

The rest of the week before his appointment with Doctor Zimmerman pass by pleasantly enough, while the case files are boring, surprising everyone how fast he can solve them is always amusing and he is out of the office by 6pm each evening, going for drinks after work with Jones and Diana, dinner with Peter and lengthy conversations with Mozzie on his terrace with a bottle of wine in the evening talking about cases they pulled and working out future scams they could pull, purely for theoretical purposes of course. By the time his appointment rolls around Neal is ready.

Doctor Zimmerman is waiting for Neal when he arrives promptly at 11am. The difference in the young man is startling, he is fresh-faced and glowing. Gone are the dark shadows and the suit he is wearing is perfectly ironed. Neal smiles warmly at the Doctor taking off his hat and taking a seat.

"Good morning Doctor" Neal greets him cheerfully.

"You are looking well today Neal" the Doctor admits

"Sorry about the other day, I was pretty tired, I hadn't slept or eaten properly for about 3 days. That case had me run pretty ragged. Thanks for the week's rest I really needed it and you know Peter's a real slave driver" Neal grinned cheekily as if revealing a trick.

The Doctor was on the back foot. Did he believe that there had been such a rapid change around in just a week. That someone he strongly suspected was on the edge of an emotional breakdown ? Was this the act or did he believe Neal was in fact just tired from a few nights lost sleep and a single case or was the whole thing an act to get a week off? He started to appreciate that the young man in front of him really was a world class con man.

The question was what should the Doctor do about it?

"I met with your handler Peter Burke a few days ago." The Doctor told Neal. Deciding to confront Neal.

"He mentioned he had been to see you" Neal admitted.

"If he is putting any pressure on you to say you are fine, you can tell me" the Doctor told Neal

"Peter's not that type of person. He 's the most honest person I know" Neal told him that grin still on his face.

"I don't know what you said to him, but he actually asked me if I wanted to carry on with the FBI after my release" Neal told the Doctor. The Doctor was aware Neal was steering the conversation but since this was a healthy discussion to have he didn't try and change the topic back. Perhaps Neal would reveal his true feelings if they kept talking.

"Did you have an answer for him?" The Doctor asked.

"When I was a kid all I wanted was to be a policeman. Then I grew up and that became impossible. If a few years ago when I was sat in prison you had told me I would be able to achieve that dream, by working for the FBI, I would never have believed it. Why would I want to give that up?"

"So working for Peter is a dream come true?" the Doctor asked.

"A dream with a tracking anklet" Neal confirmed grinning.

The Doctor watched through the window as Neal left the office jauntily, flipping his hat onto his head with an impressive twirl and then holding the door open and tripping the hat's brim to an attractive young woman entering the other way. He'd been conned by Neal Caffrey alright. He just wasn't sure which time.

He went back to his stack of files and pulled out the ones relating to Peter Burke and Neal Caffrey and placed them side by side.

The Doctor approved Peter's return to the field but felt uneasy about it. There was no concrete reason to refuse permission. He didn't doubt Peter's desire to protect his team and try and minimise the risks to them or his desire to do a good job and make sure the system worked. What worried him was that Peter was as much a thrill seeker as Neal Caffrey but without the self awareness to realise it. At some point Peter had compromised on his career in order to make his wife happy, which on the surface gave the impression of a happy work/life balance but it meant Peter had less opportunity to be totally challenged to fulfil an adrenaline rush. The Doctor suspected Peter was drawn to Neal the same way a moth was drawn to a flame and one day that need might cause Peter to get burned.

The Doctor sighed and pulled out Neal Caffrey's file and wrote up his recommendation to return Neal to fieldwork. Professionally he would be fascinated to see which way Neal Caffery went when he finally got that anklet off and gained his freedom . Despite what he was writing in the report, he wasn't sure it was a decision Neal had really made. On a personal level the Doctor was torn, on one hand he hoped the young man would find enough satisfaction in a law abiding life to stay on the right track and settle down find the stability he was lacking. On the other hand the thought of a completely law abiding Neal Caffrey seemed almost a shame. The Doctor opened the file, looking down puzzled at a completed report on Caffrey containing an accurate if somewhat redacted report of everything they discussed and of course approving Neal to go back to fieldwork. There was a yellow sticky on it which read "Thank you for your help Doctor, in return I thought I would at least save you a little paperwork".. A smile broke over the Doctor's face as he looked at a signature so perfect the Doctor wasn't able to tell it from his own. Perhaps he didn't need to worry after all, Neal Caffrey would always live outside of society's rules but maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.