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I Owe You One

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There were many things in the world that Peter Burke enjoyed. Top of the list was sleep. There were also many things in the world that Peter Burke did not enjoy. Having to bail Neal Caffrey out of trouble was two places above top of that particular list. Yet here he was, in the middle of the night, outside a distinctly normal-looking office complex.

Yes, office complex. That should've been his first clue that Caffrey was in some damn kind of trouble.

As if the phone call hadn't been enough.

****

The phone ringing jolted Peter out of a sound sleep. "What the hell?" he grumbled after half-registering the number. "Caffrey, so help me God..."

"Berate me later," Neal hissed, his voice low and uncharacteristically sharp.

It was that sharpness that made Peter sit up in bed, frowning and trying not to wake Elizabeth. "What did you do?"

"What makes you think I did anything?"

"The fact that you called me at 1:42 in the morning, for starters," Peter pointed out, pinching the bridge of his nose and trying to ignore the headache that he tended to have whenever he had to deal with Caffrey.

"Okay, fine. But I didn't know it was going to backfire, I swear!"

Peter groaned quietly and climbed out of bed. "Remind me why I'm not just leaving your ass out there to dry?"

"My charming wit and handsome good looks?"

"Don't make me beat you, Caffrey," Peter said, feeling the distinct urge to reach through the phone and strangle the other man. "Just tell me where you are and for the love of God, stay put."

****

He should have known better than to tell Neal friggin' Caffrey to stay put. There were days Peter was pretty sure the man had a death wish. Not that Peter entirely blamed him, but this was not one of those moments wherein he felt particularly charitable. Funny how being awoken at an ungodly hour could do that to the man.

Taking a quick deep breath, Peter drew his gun as he circled around behind the building and into another part of the office complex. Caffrey hadn't been at the front gate, hiding in the guard house like he'd said he was. But of course not. Why would Neal Caffrey hide and stay safe? Caffrey pretty much lived to throw himself into the middle of things. Only this time his charm hadn't been enough to bail him out and as a result, here came Peter to the rescue.

Caffrey was going to owe him big-time for this.

He took cover against one wall, not liking the quiet of the place. Far too quiet for what Caffrey had told him in halting yet hurried sentences in between describing his location. And far too quiet for what he had heard in the background of the call -- a few gunshots and some shouting. This just seemed like your average night around the place.

... but then wait, where was the security guard whose post Caffrey had been hiding out in? If everything were all right, the man would would've either been in the post to begin with or would at least now be seen making an outside sweep of the buildings. What had Caffrey walked into? Though knowing Caffrey, the better question was what had he gotten himself into that'd gone south?

Pushing aside an "oh, this is bad" feeling for the moment, Peter pushed away from the building, weapon held down at his side as he headed off down a narrow gap between two of the buildings in the complex. And just outside the other side of the gap, he found the answer as to his question about where the security guard was. Answer? In a dead and bloody heap on the ground.

Well, that explained the gunfire he'd heard.

He knelt, touching two fingers briefly to the man's neck despite the obvious. No, definitely dead. Peter swore and stood. With one dead man, there was likely to be more -- or at the very least, a very dangerous killer. Not how he wanted to be spending the absurd hours of the morning, but here he was.

"Burke!"

He knew that voice. "Caffrey, where are you?"

"Ssh!" Neal hissed. "I'd kind of like to not get found, thank you." He looked out from behind a low cluster of bushes that'd no doubt been planted for atmosphere or some other nonsense like that. "Getting found would lead to being like that guy over there."

"Right about now, I'm liking that option for you," Peter said, even as he internalized a laugh at the sight of Caffrey crouching behind the bushes. "That looks uncomfortable. Maybe I should leave you there for another hour or two."

"Just help me get out of here," Neal said, a rare look in his eyes -- fear.

It was that uncharacteristic fear that had Peter worried. "Still three guys?"

"Yeah." Neal took a breath and stood. "This is the last time I con for Christmas presents, so help me God."

"... what?" Peter couldn't believe what he'd just heard. "Are you serious? I am going to kill you once we get out of here!"

"Fine, can we just get me out of here first?" Neal looked around, swore, and pointed. "Because I think those angry men with guns over there are going to kick our asses!"

****

Twenty minutes and one shoot-out later, the two men were safely in Peter's car and safely getting the hell out of there. Peter would have to call it in, but there was no way he was doing that from right within the complex. Once they'd reached a point two or three blocks away, he pulled over and dug his cell phone back out of his pocket. "Before I make this call, give me one reason not to kick your ass."

"You need me?" More of a hopeful guess at this point, but it was the best that the shaken con artist could manage.

"Against my better judgment, yes." Peter sighed. "Now shut up so I can do this."

Neal just complied, letting his head fall back against the headrest. Go in for one simple jewel trade and they start shooting at you when they find out you don't have what you said you did. How uncivilized, really. Hardly unexpected, but somehow he hadn't expected things to go quite that bad.

A few minutes later, Peter was done on the phone and they were turning back around. "We have to be there when the police arrive," Peter said. "You just stay in the car and don't do anything to get yourself in trouble."

"No problem," Neal said with a weak laugh. "I owe you, man."

Caffrey's idea of owing somebody could be a little unique, Peter knew. "Just try to stay out of further trouble and we're even," Peter said, shooting him a glare. "I mean it."

"Okay, maybe you don't need anything, but maybe something nice for Elizabeth?" Neal persisted. "Saw a really nice necklace last week that I bet she'd love."

"Don't you dare!"

****

Elizabeth hummed to herself as she made her way up the front walk. She'd collected the mail already, but... what was that box sitting on the front stoop? She eyed it warily, studying it, until she saw her name written on it and "From Neal" written below that. Why was Neal leaving her a box? Curiosity piqued, she picked it up and carried it inside with her.

Still humming under her breath, she set the mail down on the table and went to opening the box. Inside it was... a jewelry box? What? Even more curious now, she popped it open.

"... Peter? Why did Neal give me a diamond necklace?"