I started with this one but really it should eventual become the last chapter.
I just couldn't keep hanging onto it and wanted to share. I ended it twice but it just kept rattling around in my head.

***Warning - threatened violence


Agent Peter Burke had been staring down at the reports blankly for sometime, but he still didn't have the answers he wanted.

Caffrey had been profiled more than three years ago but several sections were inconclusive.

He wasn't violent, wasn't pathological, wasn't a sociopath – duh.

He had separation issues and trust issues but that wasn't surprising either.

Caffrey had some high moral and ethical standards, if not skewed by the fact that he liked to steal, forge and con.

Caffrey seemed to have an ability to convince people of his qualifications, get hired , become trusted in the blink of an eye then walkout with whatever he fancied.
Caffrey went well beyond the typical FBI white-collar profile "... illegal acts which are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust...".
Neal had made his "acts" an art form in and of themselves, never mind being able to forge great works of art.

Neal hadn't been opportunistic in his actions either, he had very deliberately sought out targets, executing his acts so flawlessly that it had taken Burke three years to obtain one small piece of hard evidence, enough to lay a charge.

The case left Burke frustrated, he just couldn't figure out why someone with Neal Caffrey's I.Q., ability, and charisma couldn't find something on the straight-and-narrow in life. What would drive an obviously intelligent person to do what Caffrey did for at least the last 6 years.

Burke had Caffrey in his custody now for more than 48hrs but the more he had interrogated the young man the more frustrated he had become.

Caffrey adamantly denied any involvement with any of the crimes he was alleged to have committed.
Burke and the other members of his team couldn't even manage to get him to make an exculpatory statement.
He never once offered anything suggesting an alibi, a witness, nothing physical to support his denial, nothing that could be verified and then turned back on him.
Nor one shred of self-incrimination.

In the process, Caffrey had almost lead him to believe that his antics were nothing more than the bored outcome of a spoiled brat. Another front.

Burke had noted several times that when questioning became tense Caffrey would start pushing buttons to break that tension.
That kept twigging in Burke's mind.
Pushing when things get tense is typical of abuse cycles.
Knowing when the physical abuse was coming by initiating it, is better than having that tension keep building.
It was living in that constant fear that became the torture but ... push the buttons and you break the tension, you gain what little control you can.

Burke knew that Caffrey always wanted to be in control of himself and the situation.
Burke just couldn't figure how someone with Caffrey's personality and zest for life could have been born from anything abusive.

Burke hadn't been able to find much about Caffrey's youth,or his family for that matter. The profiling had done little to fill in any gaps. So, the pieces just weren't coming together for Burke and he was frustrated. Today was his last opportunity to interrogate Caffrey, He knew he wouldn't get any type of admission from him this day, anymore than in the last two days. Burke instead felt he could use the time to delve more into Caffrey's personality. The outcome might be different, but Burke needed to know his suspects just as much as Caffrey needed to know his marks.

Burke had come to know the young man over the last three years.

Burke smiled.

Caffrey had actually sought of grown on him.

Of the many suspects he'd chased around the country-side, Caffrey had been nothing short of charming and hospitable, and certainly enigmatic.

Burke almost wished he hadn't caught the elusive Neal Caffrey but if there was one thing that Burke did extremely well it was catch his quarry.

Burke stood-up, closed the file and walked to the interview room.

Neal Caffrey was seated in the FBI interview room. 10x10 with a solid wooden table and three anything but comfortable chairs.

Caffrey was handcuffed to the front of the table.
The cuffs weren't standard issue.
They were separated by a solid metal bar, which made it near impossible to access the locking mechanism with one's hands.
A second overlapping clasp made access to the lock even more difficult, forget about a pick held in the mouth – wasn't gonna happen.
Caffrey had been "examining" them for more than two hours now.
Only in as much as they were the only thing in the room of any interest.
Caffrey let out a sigh just as the door swung open.

Agent Peter Burke walked in.

He said nothing.

Caffrey said nothing.

It was actually unusual as Burke had greeted Caffrey, almost cheerfully, every time he'd entered the room.

Burke walked over to the closed monitored camera and held up his hand.
He opened and closed it twice for a ten count.

Caffrey watched, perplexed at the agents behaviour.
Burke new that Jones was on the other side with the monitor on record.
He'd knew the young agent would understand and flip the recorder off.
He knew he'd step outside and ensure no one interrupted.

Burke turned back to Caffrey.

Still without a word.

He took his jacket off and placed it on the back of the chair opposite Caffrey.

He smoothed the jacket across the shoulders.

Caffrey was more perplexed by the deliberate and quiet actions of Burke.

He said nothing watching every movement intently.

Burke then unbuttoned his shirt cuffs and rather methodically rolled them up.

He kept his focus on rolling his sleeves up but just caught Caffrey's reactions in his periphery.

Caffrey's had pulled back ever so slightly.

It would be Burke's next action that would throw Caffrey completely.

Burke now looked directly at Caffrey ensuring he had the young man's attention.
He knew he did anyway from the moment he had walked in the room (In fact he'd had it from the moment Caffrey had first met him 2 years earlier).

Burke unbuckled his belt, slipped it loose, folded it and laid it on the table.

Caffrey had been on his feet the moment Burke had pulled the belt loose.

His eyes wide and his mouth agape. He swallowed.

Burke was holding the belt on the table and had started to come around the table.

Caffrey moved as far as he could from Burke but the cuffs cut into his wrists, his retreat futile at best.
Caffrey also realized to late that his best option might not have been to stand.

"You can't." Caffrey breathed out more than anything.

"I can." was Burke's simple reply. He hadn't moved past the corner of the table.

"NO. No. You can't." It was as though Caffrey was stating an irrefutable truth, while trying to convince himself of that truth.

Burke moved around the corner of the table. The finger tips of his left hand touching the table close to the belt.
He noted Caffrey shudder, a quick glance to his hand and then back to meet Burke's eyes.

Caffrey's breathing was starting to become laboured. He shook his head back-and-fourth. His eyes pleading.

"Peter. Peter. You can't." The words were now more a plea than a statement of fact. "Please."

Burke just stared at him.

Caffrey felt like Burke's eyes were burning into him.
He wanted it to stop.
He wanted to run.
He fought at memories that were trying to tumble out.
He was trembling now.
His breath short.

"Peter, you can't do this. Not you."

"At what point did you think you had the right to call me Peter?" The words were blunt and cold.

Caffrey was taken aback.
He swallowed again.
His lips parting and closing without word, just the intake of a quick breaths.
His head moving back-and-forth in a soft motion of "no".
He closed is eyes hoping that in doing so everything would just cease.
He opened his eyes again slowly, blinking at Burke.

A whisper of "Not you. Not you." finally left his lips. His head was down now, still moving soft from side-to-side.

It was in that moment that Peter realized something more about how he had just pushed the young man.
He still only had part of his much sought answers. At some point Caffrey had without doubt been abused. His actions were beyond surprise or shock. Beyond a simple fear of being struck.

However, Caffrey's actions went well past his answer, Peter realized that Neal was completely stricken by the thought that Peter would hit him.
He was trembling, his face almost ashen, his breath short but his simple words had cut into Peter – Not You.
As though Neal would accept anyone else beating him.
Peter could almost hear the agony in Neal's plea.
He wasn't pleading not to be hit.
He was pleading very specifically for Peter not to hit him.

It was in that moment that Peter felt the guilt hit him.
What right did he have to put Neal through this just to satisfy his curiosity?
He felt that Neal had placed some unbeknownst trust into him.
That he had just ripped at that trust.

Peter stepped closer to Neal.

He could see him shudder again, waiting for an unseen blow to hit.

Neal didn't try to move away.

He couldn't, the cuffs still bond him to the table, but he no longer pulled into them.

Peter reached out and clutched Neal's arm.

Neal cringed. His body collapsing inward with a defeated shudder.

"I'm not going to hit you," Peter tried to sound as reassuring as possible, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done this."

Neal was still trembling.
Unresponsive to Peter's words.
Waiting like an animal caught in a trap.

"Neal. ... Neal." Peter raised his voice up.

Neal brought his head up, his blue eyes glossy.
He looked intently at Burke trying to fathom what was taking place.

"Neal, I was looking for..." Burke paused ,as Neal closed his eyes, his head tilted slight back.
The action brought tears to the far corners of Neal's eyes.
Neal let his breath go, still shaky.

"..Please don't?" Peter whispered.

It was in that moment that Peter found himself out of character, pulling the young man in towards him.
Peter wrapped one arm around Neal the other still gripping Neal's arm.
Neal tilted his head down and pressed into Peter's chest.
Peter brought the hand up that had been holding Neal's arm, and cradled the back of Neal's head.

Peter's was reassuring, "It's okay Neal. It's okay."

Jones had walked back into the monitoring room to check on his boss.
He watched the exchange between the two men.
He had wondered at the belt but didn't question he boss' actions.
He had known Peter now for four years and trusted in his judgement.
He also knew that Burke wouldn't use violence but a rouse was another matter.

He smiled watching the compassion that Burke showed Caffrey. He knew that Burke's compassion was one of the things that set him apart from other agents. Some questioned Burke's level of compassion but it always seemed to work in his favour.

Jones sought to emulate his boss: to find the good in the people around him, not to judge others, and to know everything you could about a case and suspect. Burke was good, he knew what he was doing. Jones walked back out, he need to ensure no one walked in on Burke.

Burke stood with Neal for several minutes until Neal pulled back.

Wiping his face against his shoulder, Neal looked at Burke, blinking, not sure what to say next.

Then he shook his head back-and-forth, now with a look of admonishment.

"Why? Why would you do this?" It was a simple question from Neal with anything but a simple answer.

Peter now really wasn't sure why he had sought to push Neal to this point.
He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do with this or any response he got.
He really, really wasn't sure what he was supposed to do with this response .
He now saw Neal in a whole new light.
No, he now saw Caffrey, he needed to re-establish that professional distance.
He couldn't find that distance though, he'd stepped over the bounds, the young man was Neal, he was Peter, there was no stepping back.

Neal was still gazing at him, questioning. Then sadness rippled across the man's face, fleeting. Neal pulled his head back, cocking it slightly with that annoying, incredulous What? look. He waited for an answer. Peter seemed lost in thought.

"That's kinda of a nasty perversion."

Peter was pulled out of his thoughts at Neal's flippant remark.

There it was the push, the tension breaker.
It came however when Neal should have known that Peter wouldn't hit him.
Peter suspected that it now had more to do with an attempt to emotionally distance himself.
The same way Peter wanted to keep professional, Neal wanted to keep his emotions in check. It was hard to play someone with your heart on your sleeve.

"Perversion?" Peter shot his own quizzical look back at Neal. His lips curling up ever so slightly.

Neal caught the start of the wry smile.
He laughed.
"I'm not going to say anything, but I promise to send cards for Christmas, if you promise to keep it casual."
Neal all but beamed at Peter.

"Your annoying Caffrey." Peter turned then.

He picked up his belt and calmly threaded it through the loops, his back to Caffrey.

He rolled down his sleeves, brushing the creases out and buttoning the cuffs back up.

He was sedate in his actions, as though he was by himself calmly getting dressed for the day.

He picked his suit jacket up and shrugged it on.

He smoothed the collar around before he looked back at Caffrey.

"Casual?" It was as much a statement as a question.

Neal's blue eyes danced around Peter's face.
They narrowed slightly.
Then as quickly smiled.
Those twinkling blue eyes were smiling at him like nothing had happened.

Peter walked to the door. He put his hand on the door knob and paused.

"If you plead guilty to the bond forgery the sentence will be much lighter."

Neal's answer was a soft, simple, "I can't."

Peter looked back at the young man. The sadness had returned. Neal cocked his head to the side again and shrugged his shoulders. Peter knew he would never admit to anything. He couldn't, it would be like admitting to so many other things. To admitting to who he was in reality. Breaking the facade would be like breaking the man. Peter never wanted to push on that wall again. Maybe remove a few bricks, put a window in, maybe a door.

Peter smiled as he walked out the room.
He'd met Neal.
He liked Neal, even if he could be annoying at times.
Okay, most of the time.

Burke almost walked into Jones in the hallway.

Jones smiled at him.

"How much?" Burke asked.

Jones was surprised but he shouldn't have been.

"Just enough to know you can be a cold-hearted ... ," Jones smiled.

"You can have the Marshall's pick him up after lunch."

Jones shot a questioning look at Burke.

"If we don't, he won't get anything to eat until after 5pm, and then only if he's processed through by that time."

Jones nodded, smiling, Burke never stopped thinking ahead, even about the small stuff.

Caffrey's trial had been brief.
There was lots of circumstance but little evidence.
There was however enough to convict Neal.

Sara Ellis had testified. She was peeved all her skill had resulted in nothing more than being able to provide for Neal's whereabouts for three months and not the Raphael Painting she believed Neal pilfered. The three months tied into the bond forgery perfectly and sealed Neal's fate for the next four years.

Peter had sat in on much of the trial intently watching Neal, who seemed disinterested except for occasionally glancing up at Ellis, who shot him icy stares each time he did so.

Neal's hands often strayed over to his defence counsel's pen and paper.

He at times would pass a note over to his counsel.

Peter suspected that Neal spent most of the time sketching.

Peter had moved over to the defence table as the trial had wrapped up for the day.
He'd turned the papers Neal had left behind for a better look, only to be admonished by the defence counsel, who scooped them up into his brief case.

Neal who was being searched head-to-toe before being returned to holding had noted the exchange.

The following day Neal had turned as the trial was wrapping up and caught Burke's attention.

Peter had moved forward as Neal was being ushered out.

Neal held out a folded piece of paper to him.

The sheriff's becoming annoyed by Neal's lagging, grabbed him sharply, as Peter reached out for the paper.

Neal tried to keep his eye on Burke as they yanked him away.

Burke unfolded the paper, a smile widening across his face, he looked up to find Neal beaming back at him from the far-side of the court room.
Those twinkling blue eyes laughing, apparently aloof of the circumstances.
Hands ran up and down every part of Caffrey, fingers running through his hair, his mouth checked, then the shackles on his ankles were attached to a belt and handcuffs and out the courtroom he went.
Peter looked back down at the paper.
He shook his head at the beautifully detailed winter scene, a note precisely scrolled at the bottom - Will have to do for now, can't get out to buy cards. N.C.