Unintended Consequences

Disclaimer: White Collar is owned by Jeff Eastin and USA Network. Song Lyrics are from "You Are More" by Tenth Avenue North.

A/N: I am so sorry for taking so long to update. Life has a way of throwing curve balls, both with health and work, it has not been a good two weeks, and exhaustion does not make for good writing, especially when I can't even keep my eyes open during the day. I did take a nap today. Thanks to pechika for the suggestion to write more about what happened to Peter while he was kidnapped. I am soo excited (but yet sad) that the season finale is Tuesday.

Grace wasn't sure why this person would be worried and was trying to remember who this was or why they might be here, but she was too tired to put a whole lot of effort into thinking, so she said the first thing that came to her mind.
"Who are you?"

Chapter 23

Peter was still sleepy when Grace woke up, and her original intent was lost on his sleep-deprived brain. Instead of being alarmed that Grace didn't know him, Peter started self-reflecting. Who was he? Before the events of the last few days, he would have self-assuredly said he was a by-the-book FBI Agent who only believed in black and white. Ever since Neal had been working with him he had become more aware of the gray areas, but over the last couple days, he had violated protocol and put lives in danger including his wife, his sister and his partner. Who was he and what had he become? He was still mulling this over in his mind when he remembered Grace had asked him the question and was more than likely expecting an answer. He pulled himself back to reality, but noticed that Grace had already fallen back to sleep.

Peter looked around and realized that he and Grace were the only ones in the room. He wondered where his wife and Neal were, but assumed they had just stepped out for a break or some food. He was sure they would be back soon.

Peter's mind wandered to thoughts of Neal, and all that had happened. After all of the bad choices Neal had made, Peter was so proud of Neal for making the right choice this time. Peter was still having a hard time believing that Neal had actually given up the real Vermeer to save him and also bring the thieves to justice. Neal was so much more than a two-bit conman, but very few people looked past the good looks, charming smile and captivating blue eyes to find out who Neal really was; he was so much more. Peter thought to himself that he had heard that phrase before; 'you are more.' Peter tried to think of where he had heard it when it finally clicked. He had heard it playing in the coffee shop where he and Neal had been having breakfast right before he had been kidnapped. He had listened to it then and briefly thought it could refer to Neal, but he had been tired and he hadn't understood the significance then.
You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.
He remembered the lyrics now, and the song really did remind him of Neal. Neal had made some very bad choices which could also be viewed as mistakes, and Neal had created plenty of problems and paperwork headaches for Peter, but after all that Peter still knew that Neal was becoming more like an FBI Agent that Neal himself probably even realized; he was being remade. Peter thought about the stark contrast between Neal and the Gardner museum thieves. Both had made bad choices in the past, but Neal had proven that he was changing, and the Gardner museum thieves had no intention of doing so. Peter felt lucky that Neal had stepped in and saved the day; just like MacGyver. Peter was still blown away by the fact that Neal had given up the painting for him, he had never expected that. Guilt at ever doubting Neal washed over Peter as he put his head back down on Grace's bed as visions from his kidnapping resurfaced.

Peter remembered he was in a suite that looked like it was probably used for business travelers, at least it wasn't some rundown abandoned building, but he realized that it wasn't their style. These Gardner thieves were brazen and apparently not afraid to show their faces and demand what they wanted. Unfortunately for Peter, he wasn't allowed to lay down on the bed, but was instead forced to lay on a portable hammock that was chained to the air conditioner unit. Peter realized that it had already been set up so clearly they had been expecting him and this wasn't a spur of the moment plan. It could have been worse, Peter realized, at least his hands were cuffed in front of him, but he didn't have anything to pick at the lock with anyway. There was a small chain running from his handcuffs and disappeared off the edge of the hammock. Peter had tugged slightly, but it seemed to be secured to one of the hammock supports. Just the simple motion of tugging on the chain rocked the hammock, and Peter did not like the rocking feeling. He really wanted the solid foundation of a bed beneath him; this rocking motion was going to drive him nuts, and there was no way he would be able to sleep. He had been thinking of taking Elle on a cruise for their anniversary next year, but if this rocking on the hammock was anything like a cruise ship Peter was going to have to reconsider his plan.

The TV was on in the suite and the two thieves were each resting on a bed watching a re-run of MacGyver. The credits started rolling, and the older thief, who once again had a different coffee cup in his hand, turned off the TV and crossed the distance between the bed and the hammock where Peter was laying. Peter decided to go on the offensive.

"Thank you for at least handcuffing me in the front. It's a lot more comfortable. May I ask, if I need anything, like using the bathroom, what should I call you to get your attention? Since we're obviously going to be spending time together, you should at least give me a name, since you obviously know mine and quite a bit about me."

The thief just smirked. "I wasn't going for comfort. It's just easier to see if you're trying to pick them if they're in front."

"You haven't left me anything to pick at them with anyway. Now, what should I call you, would 'coffee guy' suffice?"

"Why don't you use Angus. I think that fits me nicely."

Peter tried really hard to suppress his laughter. It just wouldn't do to annoy his captor.

"I see you're more of a MacGyver junkie than you let on. So, let me guess, your bodyguard is the one that has the gun and isn't afraid to use it, and you prefer more orderly intimidation as opposed to brandishing a weapon?" Peter wanted to continue and say that even though MacGyver was a good show, anyone who would choose "Angus" had a few screws loose, but fearing for his safety after his already sarcastic comments, Peter chose to keep his mouth shut before his situation deteriorated even further. After all, MacGyver was not there to rescue him, but Peter really hoped that Neal was formulating a plan with his copy of Vermeer's painting. Peter looked up and saw Angus was still standing there looking at him with a bemused expression on his face.

"I'm just dying to know. What on earth were you thinking hiring an ex-con like Caffrey? He isn't worth it. He'll never change. You know he betrayed you, right? He just let us walk away with you. It was a good way for us to help him get you out of his life without raising suspicion. In return, he's giving us the painting."

"That was a setup? That's how you knew where we were?" Peter felt like he was sucker punched. He couldn't believe Neal would do that to him, but once he started breathing again he realized it could just be a way for Angus to get under his skin and intimidate him. "No, he wouldn't do that to me. He would not betray our partnership like that."

"You don't believe me, I understand, but I don't believe you either. Why would you want to be partners with a criminal?"

"Because he is one of the smartest guys I know. He truly cares about people. Has he made some bad choices? Yes, but I asked him to do the right thing. I don't believe he would betray me like that."

"You seem to have quite a bit of confidence in him, no matter how unfounded that may be. Face it, Agent Burke. When he misses the deadline and doesn't give us what we want, who knows what will happen to you. Even if the FBI finds out what the ransom is, they haven't been able to find it in 20 years, and they don't negotiate. How much are you worth to them? I think the FBI is more concerned about keeping to their non-negotiation policy intact than they are concerned about your well being. As for Neal, I don't know why he would want you back, and he will never give up the painting for you. It's a priceless Vermeer and being the kind of thief he is, he won't be able to resist."

Peter couldn't really argue with Angus, because he was accurate on several different points. Peter wasn't sure if Neal had alerted the FBI, but he was certain that even if they knew and were looking for him, that negotiation was not an option. Peter would simply have to wait to see if Neal had betrayed him or not.