impressive in a slightly boring 18th century way (solsticezero) wrote,
impressive in a slightly boring 18th century way
solsticezero

Fic: Know Thine Enemy

Title: Know Thine Enemy
Rating: G
Fandom: White Collar
Characters: Neal Caffrey, Peter Burke (vague, barely-there attraction)
Words: ~1,200
Summary: After his first run-in with Peter, Neal can't leave well enough alone, and runs into him again. (Part of the "Forging Bonds" flashback section.)

Author's Note: I just rediscovered this on my hard drive, and I kind of love it. I wrote it literally minutes after watching "Forging Bonds" for the first time. It was initially going to be less work safe, but that never works when I try it, so then it was going to be a complicated longfic, but it ended up just being this, and I am okay with that. I wanted it to go up somewhere, so here it is. I hope you enjoy it! I have no idea if this works with the actual canon of the show, timing- or anything-wise, so please forgive me if it breaks the show somehow.


Neal is surprised by the choice of restaurant. Burke doesn’t seem the type to frequent this place; it's a little rich for his blood, with a few too many chandeliers. Burke looks like the bargain beer type, the stereotypical Law & Order cop who buys his lunch from street venders. He looks uncomfortable, rolling his shoulders in his suit, his eyes scanning the patrons at the tables as he waits to be seated. He’s meeting a woman, Neal knows. That brief phone call on the sidewalk before entering, the slightly nervous way he holds himself while he’s alone. She belongs here. He doesn’t. Is she his wife? Girlfriend? Not a mistress. Mozzie would bemoan his lack of research – actually, Mozzie would have four heart attacks if he knew that Neal was spying on The Suit. But Neal’s interested.

The bartender glances in his direction, gives the silent eyebrow raise probably meant to ask, Want another? Neal doesn’t, but he nods anyway for an excuse to stay at the bar, looking casually in the direction of the maitre d’s podium, and Burke standing just beyond it, fidgeting a little, looking at his watch.

Then he’s glancing up, towards the bar, towards Neal. Then he’s walking over, and Neal has a simultaneous moment of doom and excitement, that feeling he loves when he’s at the very edge of too far, the vertiginous desire at the edge of a chasm to just leap, because you can.

Burke leaves one stool between himself and Neal and nods at the bartender with a sort of exhausted good cheer. He already looks slightly more at home, out of the too-bright lobby and into the relative dim of the bar. He leans his elbows on the polished wood and lets out a breath he probably doesn’t even know he was holding. Neal is watching him out of the corner of his eye.

The bartender nods politely back at Burke. “What can I get for you?”

“Just a beer.”

“What kind?”

Burke’s lips twitch up slightly, as if he’s remembering something. “I’m really not picky.”

When the bottle is placed in front of him, Burke takes one long swig and puts it back down, hunching a little over his folded arms, looking down at the bar’s wood grain.

Neal considers for a moment. It would be potentially dangerous to talk to Burke a second time. There’s the chance that he remembers Neal from a week ago, even in the dim light and the nice suit. But there’s also the little voice saying leap, because it’s fun, and because you only live once. So he turns a little on his stool and matches the tired smile Burke had given the bartender. “Waiting for somebody?”

Burke, surprised, looks up. He examines Neal for a split second, an up-and-down look, but Neal catches it. “Yeah,” he replies. Smiles again, eyes curious, narrowed. “How’d you know?”

Neal shrugs, nodding back over his shoulder. “I noticed you standing around at the entrance. Didn’t want to be seated alone?”

Burke sighs. “My wife’s the one who chose this place. Not exactly my type of joint.” He takes another swig from his beer.

Wife. Neal makes a mental note. “Stephen Tabernacle,” he says, and shakes when Burke grips his proffered hand. “Same story, less legal obligation to hang around.”

Burke laughs. “Peter Burke.” He releases the shake, then frowns slightly, still looking at Neal with that narrow expression, searching. “Have we met before? You seem familiar to me.”

Neal shrugs and sips his wine. “I’ve been told that I have one of those faces, but I’ll be damned if I know what that means.” He smiles. “But I’d probably remember if I’d met you.”

Peter smiles back. Neal feels warmer, and it isn’t the splash of alcohol into his system. Peter looks over his shoulder at the milling restaurant patrons, all very fashionable and probably intimidating to a man whose idea of a good night is likely pizza, beer and football. “How long have you been waiting on your girlfriend?”

Neal makes a vague shape in the air with his hands. “Less than an hour. She’s caught in traffic somewhere. Think your wife’s going to be long?”

“Not too long,” Burke says, but he sighs as he says it, and Neal can hear both guilt and annoyance in it. “She’s an event planner. Runs her own company. This was supposed to be the one night this week we’d have the whole evening to ourselves.” He glances at his watch, and his eyes go a little sad. He sips his beer.

“What do you do, then?” Neal asks, watching the bartender top up his glass.

“Hmm?” Peter asks. “Oh. I work for the FBI.”

Neal smirks. “Okay. You don’t have to tell me.”

Peter laughs. “No, really. I’m an FBI agent.”

Neal leans his head on his hand, entirely unconvinced. “Prove it.”

Peter reaches into the inner pocket of his jacket and pulls out a small leather wallet, flipping it open with a practiced ease. “Special Agent Peter Burke, Federal Bureau of Investigation.” He’s nearly laughing as he says it, and Neal knows he probably hasn’t delivered that particular line with this expression on his face before.

He takes the badge out of Peter’s hand, looking at it closely in the light from the lamp over his head. “This is real?” he asks, putting a touch of awe into his voice. “I feel like I just got the best merit badge ever. Safety, tracking, pathfinding, meeting an FBI agent.”

Peter smirks. “Soon you’ll have the whole set.”

“I’m working on it.” He sets the badge down on the bar and traces the contours of the metal with his fingers, watching it gleam. “You just carry this around with you?”

“I came straight from the office.” Peter’s eyes are following Neal’s fingers. “I’d usually leave it at home.”

“Why? It would probably make a lot of lines shorter.”

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Neal looks up with a sardonic expression. “I hope that was intentionally cheesy, Parker.”

“Who?”

Neal cocks an eyebrow. “Nevermind.” He stands up, stretching a little. “I’m going out for a smoke. Care to join me?”

Peter shakes his head. “Don’t smoke.”

“Well, then,” Neal says, and puts out his hand again, “it was good meeting you, Peter Burke.”

Peter shakes his hand. “Same to you, Stephen Tabernacle. Hope your girlfriend shows up soon.”

“And your wife.” Neal smiles and turns to go, then stops short. “Oh,” he says, “sorry, I almost forgot to give this back to you.” He hands over the closed badge. “Wouldn’t want that falling into the wrong hands.”

Peter smirks, stuffing it back into his pocket. “Since you’d only want to cut lines with it, we probably would have been safe.”

Neal laughs. “Have a good night.”

“You, too.”

Neal slips through the crowd in the lobby and through the doors. On the sidewalk, he smiles to himself, looking up at the sky, breathing the warm evening air.

That was much more fun than expected.

Tags: fanfiction, fic, white collar
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