"Yeah, hun. I'm on my way home right now."

"Yes, yes I'll be very careful driving." Peter huffed a frustrated sigh, spotting his car at the far end of the FBI parking lot.

He immediately pulled out his keys, mentally applauding himself for remembering to park it in the lot today. At least this way it wouldn't be plastered with what appeared to be December's iciest snowfall.

"C'mon El," he said, his tone softening fractionally.

"You know this storm is no match for my exceptional driving skills." Peter laughed shortly at his wife's sardonic response before quickly unlocking the car door and sliding inside.

Peter had to admit it. Due to the severity of this storm, it probably would have been best to have taken advantage of the FBI's early release from work today. The higher ups had ordered everyone home a few hours back. However, Peter had chosen to be the rebel of the group, sneaking back into the bureau after everyone else had gone.

He had seen it as quite the opportunity. Welcoming the unusual quiet of the normally bustling office building with open arms, Peter set to work. He found that it was much easier to get things done in the quiet of his office rather than at home, by himself, waiting for El to return from an event she was hosting.

Peter quickly started the car and cautiously navigated it out of the parking lot and into the overly chaotic streets of NY. The icy, snow matted grounds made his trip home much longer and far more unpleasant than usual. With the temperature decreasing at rapid speeds, the agent knew that this snowstorm was going to undoubtedly be one for the books.

The rest of the ride home was rather uneventful. As much as Peter didn't relish in the nearly twice as long commute, he certainly thought it best not to complain. At this point, he was honestly too exhausted to protest. After all, things could be a heck of a lot worse.

Pulling up in front of the familiar Brooklyn townhouse after a not so pleasant drive home, Peter couldn't help but feel exceedingly relieved. All he wanted to do was get inside, crank up the heat, and sit with Satch on the couch as he attempted to leaf through case files until El returned.

Quickly locking the car doors and grabbing up his files, Peter made a run for the door. As he approached the entrance he reached briskly into his pocket to retrieve his keys. He moved his hand swiftly around the pocket, soon searching every inch of it.

"What the…?"

Peter's fingers fumbled hurriedly through the pocket, but to his utter dismay, his gloved hand resurfaced empty handed.

Immediately, he transferred the files to his left hand and attempted to search his other pocket. Unfortunately, he had no luck there as well.

Huffing in complete frustration, Peter set down the files and checked his pockets once again. He searched his coat pockets, his pants' pockets, his jacket pockets, even that tiny pocket in his dress shirt designed solely to store small pens.

After over a minute of aggravated searching, Peter had to admit it. He simply did not have his keys with him. He had looked everywhere. It seems he must have left the house that morning without them.

Peter mentally scolded himself. During one of the biggest snowstorms to hit NY, he had left his damn keys in the house.

The worst part of it all was that Satchmo was stuck inside with no one to take care of him. Given that El would be busy working all day, it had been deemed Peter's responsibility to feed and let out the dog after work. Peter glanced irritably at his watch. It was probably best not to keep the poor pup waiting for too long.

As Peter pondered what he should do next, he vaguely recalled that El had indeed left for work after him today. She must have been the one to lock the door, not Peter. So, it was entirely possible that he'd never had them to begin with.

Sighing in defeat, Peter cursed mentally before picking up his phone. There was no use in calling El. He knew this. She would be out all day hosting her event and obviously wouldn't be home before hand. Calling his wife would only make her worried for Peter and upset that she couldn't do anything to help him.

No, he couldn't do that.

Carefully, the agent removed one of his gloves and braced himself against the sharp, unrelenting hail, which laced each bellowing wind.

Pressing the speed dial, Peter only had to wait a moment before he heard the upbeat and, in Peter's opinion, way too cheerful voice of his consultant.

"Come to summon me back to work already? You do remember that we were let out early today? Not all of us want to stay back at the office to review case files just for fun, you know."

Peter could almost envision the smirk on his CI's face and seemed to find this far more irritating than usual.

Before Peter responded, he contemplated how exactly Neal could have known that he hadn't left the office with the others.

However, he then remembered that shock and bewilderment was his usual mindset when it came to Neal and that, at the moment, he had bigger problems to deal with.

"Oh how very funny, Neal." He said, patience dwindling at an alarming rate. "But I actually need you for something not work related." He seemed to hesitate for a moment, wondering if Neal would respond.

When he didn't, he took it as his cue to continue. "If you're not busy… and frankly, even if you are, I need you to stop doing whatever it is and meet me at my house."

He paused, slightly unsure of what to say next and settling for the first thing that came to his mind.

"… It's important."

Peter wondered why he didn't just tell Neal the truth. It would certainly be easier that way. But if he was being honest, this approach might just be for the best after all. Surely the intense mocking and ridicule he was sure to receive for locking himself out of his own house on one of the most unfortunate days of the year, could stand to wait until later.

Neal seemed to hesitate a moment before responding to Peter's strangely put request.

"Yeah," Neal responded, curiosity quite apparent in his CI's voice. "I'm not doing anything. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah I'm fine. Just, the sooner you get here the better."

"Got it." Neal said hastily, sounding more than a little confused. "On my way."

Peter hung up the phone and quickly put his glove back on his now surely frozen hand. As he stood waiting, he wondered why Neal hadn't questioned the ambiguity of his request or even pried him for more information as to why exactly he needed him to come over. Surely, he wasn't just anxious to get out of the house on a day like today.

It's possible that he had heard the howling winds in the background or the poorly concealed urgency in Peter's voice. He didn't know. But whatever the reason was, Peter was grateful for it.

As a couple of minutes passed, Peter realized something incredibly beneficial. Instead of freezing to death outside in the storm, he could wait in his car for Neal to arrive. It wasn't ideal, but it was certainly better than the alternative.

Peter quickly unlocked the car door and hopped into the front seat. Turning on the ignition, he immediately switched on the heat and sighed appreciatively as warmth quickly filled the chilly car.

Looking at his watch, he realized he probably had about fifteen minutes to kill before Neal got here.

He contemplated reviewing some case files while he waited. But for some reason that option just didn't seem too appealing at the moment. With nothing better to do, Peter leant his head back on the headrest, relaxing marginally as he felt sheer exhaustion from the day's events quickly overcome him. Within seconds, his heavy eyelids reluctantly clamped shut.


Peter awoke nearly fifteen minutes later, rather startled. The culprit responsible for this rather rude awakening seemed to be a light rhythm of knocks on the car window. Jerking his head to the side, the now startled agent in him immediately calmed as his eyes registered on the figure just outside of the car.

It was only Neal. He was sanding outside of Peter's car, face tinted a slight pink, almost contrasting the dark purple color of the cashmere scarf that was pulled around him. Atop his clothes was a very long, black over coat that seemed to go nicely with his consultant's mile long grin.

Peter promptly reached over and unlocked the passenger side door, motioning for Neal to come in.

"Hey" Neal began as he quickly joined Peter inside the car and shut the door behind him, blocking out the relentless current of cold.

"Lovely weather we're having, no?"

"Yeah" Peter snorted, gesturing to the chaotic snowstorm taking place just outside his window. "It's a real winter wonderland."

"Yeah," Neal responded, grinning. "From in here."

Peter stared up at his friend, trying to keep a straight face as he was met with his CI's forever-widening, pearly-white grin.

"So," Neal said once he had settled into the passenger seat. "I know I don't have a world renowned gut detector like a certain Agent Burke" Neal cheekily began, "but this situation still seems a little strange to me."

He was determined to finally get some information out of Peter. It seemed odd to him that the agent had been so hesitant to truly explain anything when they had talked earlier on the phone.

However, Peter just sat there, looking strangely confused and frustrated. In reality, he was searching his mind for the correct way to phrase his particular request. However, this was proving to be a monumentally difficult task for the agent.

Neal's curiosity soon got the better of him. As he watched his disgruntled friend, his initial grin seemed to lessen, shaping into something far less gaudy and more understanding.

"You want to tell me what's going on?"

"Yeah," Peter finally said, having no choice but to reluctantly give in.

"No… I mean... It's nothing. I- I'm just having a little trouble getting into the house, that's all." Peter replied rather lamely.

Peter was certain as he watched his sometimes too astute CI put together the pieces that he was never going to live this one down.

Suddenly, calling Neal seemed like a bad idea. El must have a spare key hidden around here somewhere.

"Okay, so let's see here" Neal began, taking the smidge of information Peter had provided him with and using it to form a conclusion mostly built on blatant observation and easily made deductions of the outlandish situation.

"Now I'm no Archeologist, Peter, but let's see if I can't figure this out myself."

Neal's original grin was returning and Peter knew he wasn't going to like where this was heading.

"So, during one of the largest snowstorms ever to hit NYC, you seem to be sitting inside of your car, unable to get inside the house."

He paused then. But when his irritated handler didn't object to his investigating, he simply carried on.

"I also know that El is hosting an event right now and won't be back until rather late today." Still, there was no objection.

"Hmm" Neal said, moving a hand up to stroke his chin quite theatrically, forcing Peter to roll his eyes in response.

"There is also only one real reason why you'd call me to help." Neal continued, smiling up at his friend quite mischievously.

Peter knew that look, and no, he definitely did not enjoy it. Staring back at his friend, Peter realized that the smile on Neal's face didn't seem to be fading any time soon. Finally, Peter conceded.

"Fine, fine. Okay. Yes, I don't have my keys. Happy now? I must have left them in the house this morning..."

"Ooh left them inside the house, did you? You mean you locked them inside of the house during a torrential snowstorm?"

Neal was laughing now and Peter quickly delivered a slight punch to his shoulder.

"Ow." Neal said, still laughing, bringing a hand up to rub overdramatically at where Peter had nudged him.

"Oh grow up, will you? Now, will you help me out or not?"

Peter knew that he hadn't really formally asked Neal to help him and frankly, hadn't really requested anything specific from him yet. But honestly, he had no idea how to word his seemingly ludicrous request and really hoped that Neal wouldn't make him have to figure it out.

Neal paused slightly before responding. "Yeah, yeah sure." He said, grin unwavering. But this isn't some sort of trick, right?"


"I mean it's not everyday that an FBI agent requests that their CI break into their own home?" Neal said, a playful smile playing on his lips.

Peter winced slightly at Neal's unnecessarily blunt description of his rather unorthodox request.

"Oh, you're so funny Neal, I just can't bear it." Peter said, his patience running thin.

"Will you do it, or not?"

"Hm, illegally breaking into a Fed's house while on probation from prison…" Neal seemed to mull this over thoughtfully.

"C'mon Peter." he said finally, a slight smirk curving his lips. "What are friends for?"

Peter had to laugh at Neal's seemingly ludicrous remark, nudging him on the shoulder again, but this time more playfully than before.

Neal turned then and was about to leave the car when a thought dawned on Peter.

"Oh shoot. I wasn't really too clear on the phone before. I should have told you to bring your picks with you."

Neal turned back then and swiftly reached his hand into his coat pocket, revealing a black leather case, home to his wide array of treasured lock picking tools.

Neal grinned, holding out the case to show Peter. "Always be prepared, right?"

Peter chuckled, trying to hide the small, relieved smile on his face as he and Neal quickly made their way out of the vehicle.

Leaving behind the warmth of the car was something that both men were finding enormously difficult to do. It was downright glacial outside. The sharp jabs of seemingly lethal hail were only intensified by the unwelcome darts of frigid rain that accompanied them.

Neal followed Peter as he walked quickly to the entrance of his house. Both men tightened their coats around them as they walked, bracing themselves against the nearly painful winds.

Once Neal arrived at the door, he immediately set to work. He took out his picks and placed the case on the ground, before swiftly removing his gloves and shoving them into his pocket.

Peter starred at him intently and immediately felt a pang of guilt as he watched Neal remove his gloves. He remembered having only one glove off for just under a minute when he had talked to Neal on the phone before and it had been an absolutely brutal experience.

Unfortunately, since then, the storm had only gotten progressively worse.

However, he merely watched in silence as Neal picked up the case and selected two tools that he needed to do the job. Quickly, he made to insert them both into the lock.

Before he began, he looked up at Peter and seemed to smile when he saw how intently the agent had been watching him.

"Peter, you might want to look away, you know?"

Peter stared at him for a moment, feeling slightly confused.

"I mean, plausible deniability and all, right?"

Peter actually chuckled at that, giving a small nod in response. He turned slightly away from Neal and set his eyes on the vacant Brooklyn street before him. Absently, he thought about how he had forgotten to put the garbage pails out by the curb today. It was a good thing too. They would surely be gone for good by now.

A few seconds later, Peter found himself rather bored. More than that, he seemed to be very curious as to how Neal was progressing.

Slowly, he turned a little so that his CI was back in his line of sight once again.

Neal was bent down on one knee; each hand clutching a specific tool, skillfully working them into the lock in quick, almost calculated maneuvers.

As Peter watched, he couldn't hide the small smile that crept up on him. He had to admit as he stared in slight awe, that it really was fascinating, and nearly mesmerizing, watching Neal work.

Both hands were moving swiftly yet purposefully, almost playing off the other's motions. It was such an intriguing skill that Neal possessed. It definitely wasn't easy to do; yet somehow he made it seem so as he effortlessly maneuvered each tool exactly where it needed to be.

Peter's moment of captivation was halted, however, at the unexpected sight of Neal's slightly trembling, un-gloved hands. He felt that unwelcome pang of guilt wash over him yet again and this time he was ready to stop Neal altogether, to tell him that he didn't care whether or not he continued.

No, that wasn't it. He was sure Neal already knew that. It was more that he didn't want him to continue that was the real issue.

With a storm of this magnitude, frostbite was no laughing matter. He could never live with himself if Neal got ill as a result of his own carelessness.

However, just then, he was halted in his mental berating by the sound of a triumphant grunt and the metallic clink of tools being put away.

"All done." Neal said, looking up to meet Peter's gaze. Peter realized then that he had been caught red handed. He hadn't remembered to turn again and had let Neal catch him staring at him work.

Luckily, Neal only smiled and raised an eyebrow, thankfully choosing not to harp on his observation. Peter most likely had the unforgiving cold to thank for that.

"That was fast." Peter said, one hand reaching down to meet Neal's.

Accepting Peter's gesture, Neal took his warm, gloved hand gratefully as he allowed himself to be hauled up to his feet.

"Would you like to do the honors?" Neal smirked once he was back on his feet, brushing off some of the snow that had collected on his coat while kneeling.

Peter grinned widely and made his way to the door. Without delay, he turned the knob and pushed it open, practically sprinting indoors. Peter waited for Neal to follow suit before shutting, but more like slamming, the door behind them. Both men sighed in relief as they entered the house, letting its overwhelming heat and comforting warmth quell their evident distress.

"I am so glad that El left the heat on when she left." Peter quipped and Neal chuckled in response, nodding his head resolutely.

"You and me both."

Peter made sure to fill Satch's food and water bowls after letting the dog outside briefly. Upon returning to the living room, he was about to take off his coat when he noticed Neal, still standing uncertainly by the door.

His hands seemed to be drained of their usual color and were soon being cupped together near his mouth as he blew on them ineffectually. Peter felt like hell. Neal was in pain and it was all Peter's fault. He stared at him a moment longer, before an idea dawned on him.

"Come here." He said, grabbing Neal's hands with his own and leading him into the living room. Ignoring Neal's sound of protest, he continued to guide him to the edge of the couch where the Burke's electric heater sat.

They had bought this portable heater for Satchmo's sake. During the winter months, the dog would curl up next to it when he got too cold. It was warm enough for his liking, but not too hot that it would burn him if he got too close.

Well, right now, Satch would just have to share.

Peter gently nudged Neal downwards so he fell to his knees in front of the device. Right as Neal began to voice his confusion, Peter steered his hands in front of the heater and watched just how quickly Neal shut up.

His eyelids fluttered slightly as his head tilted back marginally, all the while keeping his hands spread out in front of the heater's warmth.

"Oh wow. That… okay. That is fantastic."

Peter laughed at how out of it Neal sounded, moving over to sit on the far edge of the couch, closest to where Neal was sat.

"I literally feel my hands… thawing. Thawing, Peter."

Peter snorted, staring down at his CI's goofy grin before shaking his head in amusement. Neal tilted his gaze down and moved closer to the device. His hands were so close now they might as well have been resting on top of it.

Peter stood up; glad they were both finally home and away from the brutality of that hellish storm. He took off his coat and hung it on the coat rack before moving over to Neal and holding out an expectant hand. Neal obliged, taking off his coat and handing it to Peter so it could be hung up with the others.

Neal figured this meant that he was staying for a while. Frankly, he didn't mind at all. The weather didn't seem to be letting up any time soon, and if he had to wait out a brutal storm anywhere, he was honestly glad that it was here. Yes, right here at the Burkes'. With Peter and Satch, soon to be with El, and with this heater of course. Oh… what a wonderful heater it was.

He waited a moment longer, before stretching his fingers and concluding that they felt much better. As good as before, thankfully. He got up from his place on the floor and took a seat next to Peter on the couch. His friend had his head tilted back on a pillow and his eyes closed shut.

Neal took the opportunity to go to the kitchen and get a couple of beers for Peter and himself. He was never much of a beer drinker but he knew they would certainly work to warm them up further. He definitely couldn't refuse that.

Coming back with two beers only a few moments later, Neal was surprised to see that Peter was up now, remote in hand, scanning through various TV channels. Neal walked back to the couch, settling in his seat next to Peter once again. He held out one of the beers and Peter took it gratefully with one hand, the other sill working to rub the exhaustion out of his eyes.

"Better?" Peter asked before taking a long swig of beer.

"Yeah, much better. They're as good as new." Neal said, smirking as he made a show of displaying his hands rather exaggeratedly in front of him.

Peter nodded, grinning as he downed more of his beer before settling further into the couch. "It feels too good to finally be inside and out of that storm. This weather is out of control."

Neal grinned, nodding jerkily in affirmation as he took a sip of his own beer.

Peter grinned back, starring at his friend a moment longer. "Thanks, Neal."

He tone was entirely sincere and his lips twitched slightly at the minute glimmer of unexpected surprise he caught in his friend's eyes.

Neal only nodded, waving a dismissive hand at him. "And don't worry," he insisted, his smile widening, "I'll try not to tell everyone at work about your misfortune."

Peter chuckled at that, his head moving back to rest on the cushion once more. "Yeah, well try hard."

Neal smirked, waiting a moment before gently nudging Peter in the shoulder.

"Hey, Peter. Can I ask you something?"

"Hmm?" Peter said, raising his gaze to meet Neal's once again.

"Honestly," Neal began, his smirk as in place as always, "what would you ever do without me?"

Neal couldn't duck soon enough to avoid the pillow that was shortly being chucked in his direction.

Neal laughed, taking no time before he quickly retrieved the pillow and hurled it back at his unsuspecting friend in retaliation.

"Well," Peter grinned, picking up the abused pillow and returning it to its original place on the sofa. "I'd probably have to live in my car forever."

Peter's seemingly serious tone was betrayed by a small smirk that quickly curved his lips into a grin.

Neal laughed then, gently elbowing his friend in the side before replying, "Hmm, somehow I don't doubt that."