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Command Skills

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The office froze as six men in high level G-man suits walked into the office and fanned out. A short woman in a dark uniform walked in and no one dared to breathe as her no nonsense gaze scanned the room. It settled on Neal Caffrey, who had stood upon her entry.

"Ma'am," he said with a smile, ever the charmer. However, his smile was a little too wide, a little too thin.

"Neal Caffrey. It seems we need to call on you again."

"You need a BWE?" Neal asked.

"Indeed. Orion's son was taken and your agent ran off after the kidnappers."

"Okay. I'll see about getting the day off." Neal turned to Peter to ask, ignoring the shocked look on the other agent's face.

However, the words of the senior agent standing next to Peter interrupted.

"Stephen's kid?" Hughes asked, the question posed at them both.

Neal nodded, a little surprised that Hughes actually knew Orion's name. He had known that the older agent had been around for a long time and even had a stint in the NSA but hadn't realised Hughes knew CIA engineers as well.

Hughes posed his next question to Neal, "what do you need?"

Neal raised an eyebrow. Even though Hughes knew who Chuck was, he didn't seem interested in who Neal's agent was.

Hughes managed to interpret the look. He explained, "I knew Orion and I'll leave it at that. If this agent is going to help his son and you're going to help him, then you'll have whatever you require."

"I only need the conference room, a couple of laptops, a map if possible, and a phone," Neal said.

Beckman seemed surprised that was all he needed. After all, Neal was known for being a more ground level person, running around to get things done.

Peter seemed a little awed as Neal instructed Jones and Diana on where to sit and what to do. He had Diana getting online while Jones pulled out a map of New York. The agents stood around the room but Neal ignored them.

"Peter, I hope you don't mind but-"

"Whatever you need," Peter said, echoing Hughes' words. It was interesting to see how he could throw Neal off for a moment. Plus, seeing Neal doing this, almost legitimate agent stuff, was allowing him to see a new side of the ex-con.

Maybe it was more than being a good conman which had allowed Neal to fit into the FBI office.

Neal's thoughts were running through every possibility he could think of. They had the location Chuck had last been seen at marked; a bar where he had been talking to their suspect. In the time it had taken Beckman to reach Neal, the suspect had been located dead in a ditch nearby.

Bryce was off-grid. But this was New York, there was only so far off-grid one could go when looking for someone.

Which was why Neal's first call was to Mozzie.

"Moz, got a job for you. Stopping evil doppelganger."

'Stopping evil doppelganger being code for when Neal was doing the CIA a favour by making sure his brother didn't get killed.

They had a separate code for when Bryce needed to be protected, even from the CIA.

"You have my attention. What's the list?"

"I need you to get my people," gathering the forger's community, "and possibly a couple of suppliers. The ones with the best tools." Which was a list topped with the name Fat Charlie. You wanted anything, he could get it right away. The perfect place for Bryce to make a stop.

"Any Suits involved in this?"

"Diana's on the computer and Jones is doing the leg work. If need be, Peter's got a car and can get me anywhere needed. But the ultimate goal is to get an earpiece to Bryce so he has us as backup."

"I'll get the gang together," Mozzie said. He put his wooden rake down and stepped out of his Zen garden. The keys to his cab were hanging by the door. However, he made a quick stop at his computer to post a message onto a couple of forums.

Neal hung up his phone, knowing that Mozzie would get back to him on the status of the forgers and suppliers and whether any of them had seen Bryce.

Hughes stood with his arms crossed in the doorway.

"Bryce Larkin is the agent," he stated.

"Yep," Neal responded. No point lying on this one. Hughes obviously knew more than most.

"Can we trust him?" Hughes asked.

"Agent Larkin is one of our best. When he listens to us," Beckman answered.

"Sounds familiar," Peter muttered with a side-glance in Neal's direction. Neal smiled innocently back. Peter thought he was bad but at least he trusted his teams, unlike his brother.

"Okay, let's start cutting this map down." Process of elimination. He had Jones put circles around the radii where Chuck could have been taken to in the time he had been missing, by foot and by car.

"Are you calculating this in your head?" Jones questioned as he draw the car around the radius for if the culprit had a car.

"I've had practice," Neal responded. "Diana, any responses on those forums I have you looking at?"

"Only one." Diana read it out. Neal frowned as he listened to the code which told him that Bryce hadn't made any appearance in the local pubs and bars with more shady reputations. He figured that was the case. Jerri was good at his job and would have noticed another Neal running around.

"What's next?" Beckman asked.

Neal sat down. "We wait," he responded airily.

Despite how large New York was, Bryce didn't have many options when it came to getting equipment quickly and quietly. Fat Charlie was one of only a few options and he was also the easiest to get to in the small window of time Bryce was attempting to operate in. Fat Charlie got his stuff done quickly and passed it to him, minus the weapon he had requested but along with a piece of equipment Bryce hadn't ordered.

An earpiece.

It could be something from the men who had taken Chuck but that was unlikely. They had no reason to attempt to get in touch with Bryce. Bryce didn't hesitate to put it in and switch it on.

In the New York branch office of the FBI, Neal sat up tall as his earpiece activated.

"Bryce!" he said. "You've caused a stir."

"Neal," Bryce responded in a serious voice. "They called you in huh?"

"I've got people here who want to help you and Chuck," Neal explained.

"Thanks. But I can handle it myself," Bryce said.

"Do you know where Chuck's being held?" Neal asked. He turned to the map they had.

"I managed to track them down," Bryce responded. He told Neal the address which Neal relayed to Jones. It was a simple townhouse, nothing out of the ordinary.

"See if you can get a floorplan for that location," Neal ordered Jones. With a surprised smile at Peter, Jones rushed to comply. "Bryce, do you want a lift?"

"Sure, just pick me up from your comfy spot in the White Collar office and drop me off to break into a house, no problem." Sarcasm dripped from every word.

"Are you hacked into my tracking data?" Neal questioned because it was one of the options for how Bryce knew where he was. The other was that it was just a very good guess.

"Of course. Helps me keep track of you. It's faster for me to walk there than to wait for you to leave the office."

Neal sighed. "Really Bryce, you underestimate me." He smiled. "And there's also a tracker in the ear piece."

He could hear Bryce curse on the other end as Mozzie pulled up beside him. Mozzie asked Bryce if he wanted a lift and then made a compelling argument for why Bryce should get into the taxi. It was faster than walking, since Mozzie was already there. Plus, Mozzie was the last person who wanted to be in the FBI office so it wasn't a trap to get Bryce to return.

Peter gave Neal an amused smile. "You're enjoying this."

"Of course," Neal said. "I do love bossing my brother around." Fully aware that Bryce could hear his side of the conversation, Neal added, "also, I'd rather help him out and make sure he doesn't get shot breaking in somewhere again."

"One time and I was the target of one of America's best snipers," Bryce muttered.

"You also ran out into the open area outside the building. Rookie mistake."

"Why am I not surprised you know that?" Bryce grumbled. Neal was one of the few people who could get information out of the CIA.

Peter's smile faded a little at the words 'get shot'. "I guess this is part of the reason you don't like guns?"

"Part of the reason," Neal confirmed with a nod. "So, I can be fed sometimes too. Surprised?"

"Not really. Interested in watching you work but, somehow, I'm not really surprised." Peter didn't really understand why. Maybe it had something to do with how nothing was too outlandish or out there when it came to Neal Caffrey. Spy was just the kind of job to make his child-at-heart conman jump for joy.

Bryce was able to break into the building himself. He disabled the alarm and picked a lock to get in. Then Neal navigated Bryce through the multi-story townhouse. They ignored the top floor for now, since it only had bedrooms and a bathroom. The basement was the most likely place for a prisoner to be stored. One entrance and exit and no windows. Plus, bad guys seemed to like stuffing people underground in one way or another.

Peter snapped a picture of Neal, earpiece in ear and finger pressed to the floorplan as he guided Bryce with a focused expression on his face. It was for El, when he told this story. He wanted her to be able to see Neal at work.

Neal held his breath, heart thudding quickly as Bryce encountered a man in the basement. He was frozen for the couple of moments he heard Bryce huff and hit someone.

"Chuck!" Bryce said. Neal exhaled as he heard it. "Okay, Neal. He's in some kind of case, bars from the floor to the ceiling. There's a lock but it's not electronic."

"Please don't tell me I have to talk you through lockpicking over the comm," Neal questioned. He did.

Bryce described the lock, which was large and metal. It sounded impressive and Neal groaned because, while there was a method for this, it was a noisy one. He also didn't want to get Mozzie in any trouble with the FBI.

"You're going to need some tools," Neal said.

Bryce hesitated before relaying to Chuck that he had to go get something to break the lock. Chuck was nervous, having been locked up for the better part of the day without food but he let Bryce go.

Neal listened as Bryce went outside and described the lock to Mozzie. Mozzie pulled a bag out of his car and passed it to Bryce. Neal knew that it was filled with pre-made bump keys; keys designed to break locks.

"How's it going?" Peter asked, placing a coffee in front of Neal.

"Bryce is going to try bumping the lock to get Chuck out. If that doesn't work, he'll have to break the bars."

"Why doesn't he just break the bars in the first place?" Diana asked.

"Because they're sturdy and will take time to break. Time Bryce doesn't really want to waste."

Bryce found a cut key which fit in the lock and pulled out the small hammer Mozzie kept in the bag. He 'bumped' the key with hammer while attempting to turn it.

Every clang that echoed in Neal's ears made him flinch. The last thing they needed was for someone to hear the noise and call the police. Or, worse yet, for someone affiliated with the people who took Chuck to turn up.

Finally, after the fourth strike, the key turned in the lock and the gate opened. Chuck hugged Bryce before they bolted out of the building and into 'the getaway cab'.

Neal breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that Mozzie was on his way here. Chuck would get Bryce up here to meet with Beckman and Neal's job would be over.

Neal stayed alert until the elevator dinged and a dusty Bryce and ruffled Chuck walked into the room. Chuck looked tired but he still gave everyone a smile as they walked up into the conference room.

Neal pulled out the earpiece and tossed it to his brother.

"You can say 'thank you' now."

Bryce frowned and crossed his arms, mirroring Neal. "Why would I? I could do it alone."

Neal raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps. But it would have taken longer. My way was faster and involved less guns."

Bryce's eyes widened. "You're the reason I didn't get the gun I asked for! All I got was the stupid earpiece."

"The earpiece is the only reason I didn't come running in to help. Look," Neal said, waving his hands. "I kept out of this one. You didn't see me at all."

Bryce's eyes narrowed and the two twins glared at each other.

Meanwhile, Chuck had walked over to Peter. "Hi, I'm Chuck."


"Thanks for the assistance."

"I didn't do much, really. It was Neal and my team." Peter motioned towards Jones and Diana, who Chuck immediately thanked.

Bryce and Neal were still going. Bryce was reminding Neal of the time he had almost blown a CIA mission and Neal was reminding Bryce of the time he had saved him from getting his head chopped off.

"They lead interesting lives," Diana mused.

Chuck nodded.

"Although, I pity the person who goes against them both," Peter commented. It was obvious that the two would put their differences and disagreements aside to completely destroy a common enemy. "Your kidnapper's life is about to get very difficult."

It did. Neal stayed out of it, leaving it to Mozzie and Bryce to systematically destroy anyone who knowingly harmed Chuck.

Peter made sure to make use of the skills Neal had revealed when the next opportunity came up.