Disclaimer: White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA network.

A/N: Don't say that I don't listen to your opinion, so I will post something more when I have a chance. Just not sure when that will be.

Chapter 10

Peter opened the front door and saw his wife sitting at the table.

"So, what did you make tonight? I'm famished."

"There's some left over barbecued ribs and some salad."

Peter stopped when he saw the two dirty plates on the table.

"That doesn't look like a plate for me…Who was here Elle? Why are there two dirty plates on the table?"

"You generally are licking your lips when I mention my ribs. What's got you so upset honey?"

She stood, walked the few steps over to him, and gave him a kiss on the lips.

"It's nothing Elle, why are there two dirty plates? Who came over?"

Elle seemed to hesitate as if she wasn't sure that Peter really wanted to know.

"It was Neal. He called me and asked me to make barbecued ribs to surprise you. He wanted to apologize for his negative comments about them the other day. He even brought over a bottle of wine to say he was sorry."

"So, he goes after my wife."

Peter just shook his head in disbelief, and then realized that it was all too believable. Of course, that is exactly what Neal would do in a situation like this; get Elle on his side with a sob story and play her against him. Peter decided he didn't want to look in a mirror, for fear that all the hair on his head had turned gray.

"Peter, he just came here to say thank you for the other day. He told me how much it meant to him and how grateful he is for our support."

"Don't let him fool you Elle. He hasn't changed. He's as conniving as ever."

"No, Peter. He has changed. Why don't you want to be his partner anymore?"

Peter couldn't hide the shocked expression on his face.

"I should have known he would get to you."

"Get to me? Peter, I told you he came here to apologize. We were discussing some things about what happened the other day. I noticed that it was almost like he was saying thank you and goodbye. I asked him why. He said that you didn't want to be partners with him anymore. I can only assume that he thinks you are sending him back to jail. Why would you do that to him?"

"It's this case we are working on; the case I needed his help on the other day when he wouldn't get out of bed. It's about a painting that I know he forged, but I don't have any proof. I even had a witness come forward with a statement that implicates Neal, but I can't use it because I can't find any other evidence. It's her word against Neal's."

"So, what's the problem?"

"Neal as much as admitted it today, but he so successfully skirts around the issue that I can't use it as a confession! I have nothing to show for it. It's just as frustrating as when I was chasing him; then I couldn't even find him; much less any proof. Now he can be sitting in my office with a smirk on his face, goading me, discussing alleged works of art and I still can't do anything about it!"

"Um, honey…you did catch him...twice. You knew he was a forger, right? So, common sense would lead me to believe that he had to have forged something, even many things…this should not be a surprising revelation to you. I think you're upset because you were afraid he was going to get caught this time, and there was nothing you could do. You felt obligated to check out the leads that were presented to you, and you would have been obligated to send him back to prison if you had found anything. No one wants to do that to a family member – blood related or otherwise."

Peter reached over and hugged Elle for a very long time.

"I don't deserve you. You know that right?"

"So, let me guess…this search tonight didn't turn up any evidence, did it?"


"So, why don't you go over and tell Neal that you didn't mean what you said, and that you are very happy that he's your partner."

"Can it wait until tomorrow?"

"No. I mean it Peter. Now. I don't want him throwing any more wine bottles because he's mad about something, and I think he has a right to be mad at you."

"Do you think I should bring a face mask for protection?"

Elle laughed, but Peter actually looked serious.

"I don't think that's necessary, although make sure he's not singing or yelling at the top of his lungs before you open the door…that might be your first clue."