A/N - Still don't own White Collar. Pretty bummed about it. You want to know some good news, though? Matt Bomer just tweeted for the first time a few hours ago. Still freaking out about it. Go check it out at MattBomer if you haven't already seen it. He tweeted from the Ellen show. He's so adorable. I can't.

Nearly ten minutes had passed as Peter pretended to focus on storing possibly irrelevant forms of evidence into small FBI sanctioned bags. However, in reality, he was focusing on Neal and the paramedics who were working on him. It had been so discomforting seeing him like that. He had never before seemed so helpless, so vulnerable and certainly not this.. alone.

Usually, such qualities wouldn't even fall into the top 100 character traits of the gifted whiz-kid that wasNeal Caffrey. Yet at that moment, it was all he could see.

When he first approached Neal, he was alarmed by the overwhelming surge of protectiveness he had suddenly felt for the kid. More than alarmed, if he was being honest. Yet, he'd just chalked it up to the initial harshness of the situation. He was confident that the unfamiliar feeling would diminish with time. But so far, it hadn't.

He kept finding himself looking over at the kid. Watching him, making sure things with the paramedics were going okay. Granted his view of Neal was currently being blocked by the mass of fast-moving technicians, yet he did it anyway. It had become a sort of reflexive at this point.

However, Peter was soon saved from the assault of complex thoughts by Kyle Bancroft's booming voice behind him.

"Burke," he paused, clearing his throat unnecessarily. "Listen, there's a situation."

"What? What's the matter?" His higher-up immediately had Peter's full attention. "Is it the paramedics?"

"No, no. Nothing like that." Bancroft paused again, seeming unsure of how exactly to proceed.

"Burke, you need to see this. Follow me."

Peter only nodded before following him into a room not too far from where they were stood.

At first, the agent didn't seem to understand what all of the commotion was about. The lights were still off, but from what he could tell, it seemed like any ordinary painting room. Of course, they all knew Neal was an artist. However, as Bancroft moved to turn the lights on, the problem soon became clear.

The room was filled with paintings and figurines of all sorts. However, they were not original works of art by any means. They were forgeries. All of them. Some were completed, some were not. Nevertheless, there they were. Peter was finally faced with the studio in which Neal created his counterfeits. And, more importantly, he was faced with the work itself, as well.

The work that could send Neal to jail.

"Sir, I-" Peter was at a loss for words. He still felt this unusual desire to- to save the kid, to protect him in some way, given what he had been through. Yet he had no idea how to go about doing so. Not this time.

"Peter, I understand how this puts you in a difficult situatio-"

"Hold on," Peter interjected, grasping at straws. "You can't do this. This didn't concern us. It's not why we're here-"

Bancroft immediately held up his hand, cutting the agent off.

"We had every right to, Peter. I cleared it with the DA after we handcuffed Bruce. I explained the team's intent to search the property for evidence on Bruce and his past assaults while the squad was already stationed here. We need to do more than just get this guy in a cell. We have to keep him there, Peter."

"Additionally," Bancroft continued, waving a dismissive hand at Peter's stoic look. "It was clearly in plain sight. The pieces were not stored away and there isn't even a door on this room. It was wide open." He waved his hand expansively around the room, emphasizing his point.

"Now, is there something else you'd like to point out to me about how I do my job, Burke?"

"Well, no. It- it just doesn't seem fair."

"Yeah, well sometimes the law isn't fair. But we can't just blur the lines for one kid. It doesn't work that way."

"So.." Peter said slowly, still stunned. "You want me to arrest him?"

Bancroft didn't respond at first. But after a moment, he did nod his head affirmatively.

"OK, let me get this straight. You want me to arrest the kid that we found handcuffed by his abusive father to a rusted poll after he had a glass bottle of whiskey thrown at him? That is what you're asking me to do?" Peter's voice had grown dangerously calm now, yet the look in his eyes held a mixture of both rage and evident distress.

"Peter, we don't always have the easiest of jobs. But this is what we are paid to do." Bancroft was looking down, avoiding eye-contact. Suddenly, Peter suspected he hated this almost as much as he did.

Peter paused for a moment before sighing heavily and rubbing a calloused palm wearily down his face. He was in no way mentally prepared to ask his next question.

"Do I have to handcuff him?" Peter's voice was steady and non-threatening now. He had never felt so defeated.

Bancroft nodded reluctantly and Peter's heart dropped. "You know that's policy, Peter. If you don't want to do it, I will. Or I can get another agent to.."

"No." Peter said firmly, regaining a modicum of composure. "That's fine. I'd prefer to do it myself."


Peter approached Neal slowly. The paramedics were gone now, yet he was sitting there like before; motionless with his eyes closed and his head leaned back against the solid brick wall.

Peter was confused. He was usually so confident, so direct with what he wanted to say. However, there was certainly a first time for everything.

"Hey, Caffrey. How you doing?" He inquired cautiously. "I see the paramedics left."

"Yeah. I'm fine, thanks." Neal hadn't changed position, only opening his eyes to respond.

Peter nodded before sitting down next to Neal like before. He figured that he would wait a few moments, contemplate what he was going to say and how he would go about saying it. He didn't want to make this any harder than it needed to b-

"You saw the room, didn't you?"

Peter winced inwardly, he certainly hadn't been expecting that. It was strange, though. If Neal knew what he had seen, why hadn't he tried to run or, at the very least, make a slew of practiced excuses? More significantly, he had not chosen to be mean or hurtful to Peter, which would have made this unimaginably harder for him. He was simply accepting it.

"Yes, I did." Peter sighed deeply, shutting his eyes for a brief moment.

"And now you have to arrest me.."

His retort was so direct, so straight forward. He had hardly missed a beat.

Well, no one said the kid wasn't smart.

Peter took this opportunity to look over at the boy, intrigued. He had yet to move from his original positioning, and oddly enough, his eyes were still closed. He sounded so calm that it was almost concerning.

"Listen, Caffrey. I promise you this was not my original intentions. I had no idea-"

"Yeah." Neal said plainly. "I know."

He opened his eyes then, turning his head slightly to face the agent he knew all too well. Except, Neal quickly noticed that he didn't look like his usual confident, all-knowing agent, self anymore. Now he looked weak, troubled, almost defeated.

"And you need to handcuff me, don't you?"

After a moment, the agent only nodded.

Peter watched as Neal merely nodded back before gradually standing up. He knew for a fact that he wouldn't have been able to endure what Neal had only to be arrested not one hour later. However, a lone part of him wasn't too surprised by Neal's reaction. The kid had never been the confrontational type before. And he was certainly in no condition to run.

Peter had a sickly feeling about this. It was like taking candy from a baby. Fighting someone that couldn't fight back.

Peter soon stood up as well, turning until he was facing the boy.

Neal held his hands out expectantly, watching Peter take the cuffs out of his pocket.

However, Peter had something else in mind.

"No." Peter said plainly, watching Bancroft out of the corner of his eye. "Hands behind your back."

Peter caught Neal blink suddenly. There was no denying the confusion and something that seemed vaguely similar to hurt that flashed across his usually schooled features. Even if it was for just the briefest of moments.

But Neal did as he was told, regardless, turning around before putting his hands out once again.

Peter carefully looked at the wrists before him. Each one had bandages on it to cover the deep wounds from the too tight cuffs that Peter had seen earlier. And now here Peter was, about to re-handcuff those very same wrists. An esteemed FBI agent ready to mirror the ways of a criminal, to inflict the very same pain.

Neal had prepared himself to be hurt again from the moment he had held his hands out to the agent. However, he was not truly fearful until he was told to turn around. He foolishly thought Peter would make it easier. He had believed him to be different. One of the good guys.

But deep down, he knew that above all, Peter was going to do his job. It was one of the many admirable qualities of Agent Burke that Neal loathed himself for respecting.

He felt Peter take hold of his wrists, and soon enough, he felt the familiar brush of cold metal against his injured skin. The first bracelet was encircled around his bandages, curving around his wrist.

Until the next moment, when it wasn't.

He felt the cuff move down to the lowest part of his wrist, just downward from where they had been placed not an hour before. It was then closed slowly in a fashion made to all but hang from Neal's wrist. Moments later, the same was done with the next metal bracelet.

Neal was stunned. Overwhelmed by unexpected relief and stunned by the gesture, Neal was he found himself at a justifiable loss for words. He immediately berated himself for judging the agent before he had known his intentions. Before he was wearing cuffs he could scarcely feel.

"Thanks." He heard himself whisper as he made sure to turn his back to the wall, away from Bancroft and the team. It was nice to finally have someone on his side.


The agent had done his job. Granted, he had not done it exactly as the higher ups would have liked it to be done. But nevertheless, he had done it. He only hoped it had worked out the way he'd planned.

He could hardly stomach the act of handcuffing Neal again after what he'd been through. However, the idea of actually hurting the kid stung more.

He had been careful to make the cuffs loose and place them as far away from their original location as he could. But regardless, it was not ideal and it certainly couldn't be too comfortable.

Neal hadn't said anything to the agent yet. Let alone speaking, he had yet to move at all.

He figured he would just let Neal be. He had a lot going on now and Peter was surely the last person he wanted to see. He started to walk back to the kitchen area, eager to talk to Bancroft and the team. He needed to check on the current status of things.

But as he turned, an unexpected whisper stopped him. "Thanks."

The unanticipated remark both shocked and reassured Peter as he quickly began his walk again. After all, he had a job to do and regardless of the sometimes rigid text of the law, he was going to do it right.


"So, you cuff him, Burke?"

"Yes, I did."

"Good." The reply was borderline emotionless and Peter felt the sickly feeling in his stomach return. "With that over with, I have some very important news for you. It could mean some actual hope for the kid."

"What is it? Peter said, intrigued. "What'd you find?"

"Well," Bancroft continued, handing him over a worn-out piece of paper. "It appears to be some sort of contract. A contract between the boy and his father. It is definitely written in Bruce's handwriting. All but the signature at the end. That looks like Caffrey's for sure.

Peter took the sheet from his outstretched arm, skimming it immediately. "Oh my g-"

"I know, I know. I'll admit, it caught me off guard too."

Before Peter could formulate his next sentence, a concerned Jones and Diana appeared next to him.

"What's it say, boss?"

Peter looked up to see Bancroft nod before once again looking down at the sickening text before him.

"I, Neal Caffrey will produce any and all counterfeit pieces that my father instructs me to create without protest and without complaint. I promise to always behave in a way that is pleasing to my father by never talking back to him, contesting his wise choices, or objecting against his justified abuse. Most importantly, I will NEVER alert law enforcement about his doings. (Especially not the horrific Agent Burke that's on my tail because I am such an irresponsible idiot.) In return, my father will keep me alive."

Peter stopped reading for a moment, stiffening slightly as cringe-worthy chill ran through him.

"If I break this contract, this deal will no longer hold true.

With my signature, I acknowledge this binding agreement.

x_Neal Caffrey_"

"W-what the hell?" Jones and Diana's stunned response was simultaneous and Peter felt the need to nod his head in accord.

"His father threatened him with his life in order to get those damn forgeries..?" Jones questioned, frazzled.

Diana just stood there, seeming about ready to injure something. Or someone. Most likely the now jailed author of that contract.

"As disturbing as this is," Bancroft quickly interjected, voice stern, yet professional. "It can do a lot of good for the boy in cuffs out there. This case will certainly be taken to court. And when it is, both the judge and the jury will take this contract into the utmost consideration when reviewing Caffrey's criminal past."

Peter nodded his agreement as he sighed drearily. "I'll call the DA about setting up a court date. We need this to happen as soon as possible."

"Don't worry about that. I've already taken care of it." Bancroft supplied. "I called before you came in. The earliest court date she could arrange was after the weekend. This Monday, 8am sharp."

"Three days? No, that doesn't work. We need to explain that given the situation-"

"Peter, you don't think I tried that? This is the best she can do."

"So what's he suppose to do? Be locked in jail until then for crimes he was forced to commit?"

"Peter, we can get him in a youth detention facility. Or maybe a private holding cell given the circumstances."

'You've got to be kidding m-"

"Peter, your grasping at straws here." Bancroft cut in, sighing quite overdramatically. "I tried everything. Unless you want to take the kid home with you, I have no idea what else we could possibly do for him. Now, if you'd please just focus on your job and accept the situation as is-"

"Wait." Peter said, holding up a hand before pausing in thought. "D-do you think I could actually do that?"

"What?" Bancroft, Jones and Diana's replies were said in unison and Peter immediately snapped out of his thoughtful trance.

"Okay, yes. It's crazy. I mean, it's beyond that." He added, voice contemplative.

"But we can't just let him rot in jail the whole weekend. You see what he's been through. Jesus-" Peter paused, realizing that he was stammering now. It was like he had no control over the words that were coming out of his mouth. And yet, he was hearing them.

"Peter, have you completely lost your mind?" Bancroft demanded, all remnants of professionalism forgotten. "What would ever possess you to do that?" His higher-up rubbed a hand down his face quite dramatically.

"Sir, listen-"

"Do you even remember who we're dealing with here?" Bancroft said, disregarding the agent. "The two of you have been at each other's throats for years. It's ludicrous. More importantly, you have a wife to think about. I doubt she'd even be okay with this-"

"My wife would probably kill me if I didn't."

Jones and Diana both nodded reluctantly in agreement.

"Alright, alright. Well," He spoke slowly, feeling himself regret his words the moment he said them. "I mean, if you truly want to, I don't see the point in wasting the city's resources sticking him in jail. In all honestly, Peter, I don't even think the DA would ever allow this. It's highly unusual."

"If I may," Diana interjected wisely. "What if you explained to the court that it was a sort of FBI release initiative. This way he could be on a more closer watch under the care of an FBI agent. Plus, it's a fine way to find out more information about his past crimes too-"

"Diana, that is not what this is about."

"Fine, boss. Fine. But it could still work.

"That's true." Jones said in agreement. "What the courts don't know, can't hurt them."

"Fair enough. Peter," Bancroft nodded, already dialing the DA's number. "If you want my two cents, I think you're a crazy man. But if this is what you want, there's just one thing left to do."

"What's that?"

Diana and Bancroft only shook their heads in amusement before turning to walk away.

"Peter," Jones said, sticking by his, at times naive, friend. "you might want to ask Caffrey."

"Oh- oh right." Peter said pointlessly as he hurriedly turned to do just that, leaving a chuckling Jones behind him.