doctor_fangeek: (forging bonds Neal)
[personal profile] doctor_fangeek
Title: The Uninvited Guest
Rating: PG
Length: ~5400
Spoilers: None. Pre-series story
Characters: Neal, Elizabeth, Peter
Summary: Peter is working late (again), when Elizabeth has an unexpected visitor. Comfort (and a bit of chaos) ensues.

AN: My entry for the 2014 [livejournal.com profile] whitecollarhc Advent. Original posting date was the 23rd, but when another author asked to post an extra story I agreed to move to today. No complaints here, as I was re-reading and editing earlier this evening. I was pretty blocked - unable to write anything, really - until after the finale aired...and then I ended up writing a pre-series fic. :-)  Not beta read, as I was still finishing up today, but big thanks to the gang from wcwu chat, especially [livejournal.com profile] kanarek13 and [livejournal.com profile] sheenianni, for a great brainstorming session that helped me firm up some of the details. Additional thanks to [livejournal.com profile] aragarna and [livejournal.com profile] theatregirl7299 for adding to the conversation, to [livejournal.com profile] theatregirl7299 for a bunch of 'Word Wars' that helped get this story written, and last, but absolutely not least, to [livejournal.com profile] kanarek13 for the amazing cover art!




He’d just dropped off what he thought would be his last fare before his dinner break, when a few blocks down the street he saw a man waving him down. Okay…one more then. As he slowed down and angled toward the sidewalk he started to have second thoughts – the guy looked, well, kind of out of it. He was about to apologize, tell the guy that he was off the clock, but before he could get the words out the man was yanking the door open and throwing himself into the back seat, then shaking his head as if to clear it (and apparently that was a bad idea, if the grimace on the guy’s face was anything to go by). The guy frowned, like he was thinking hard, then blurted out an address in Brooklyn. Brooklyn? That was a bit of a hike. The guy was apparently aware enough to get that, and he dug into his pants pocket and pulled out a wad of cash.

“I’m good for it,” he said, sounding just this side of frantic. He was shivering too. Probably because he was dressed in nothing but dark slacks and a matching button down. It had been an unusually mild winter this year, but now, a week before Christmas, there’d been a change in the weather. There was a light dusting of snow on the ground, and it was windy and cold.

Something didn’t seem right here, and normally he’d steer clear of such a dicey-looking fare, but the poor guy looked about ready to keel over. Just then the guy sneezed, and promptly doubled over in obvious pain, clutching at his middle.

“You sure you don’t need to go to the hospital, buddy?”

“No. No hospital,” was the somewhat frantic reply, followed by an even more desperate-sounding repeat of the same address.

“Okay, okay. Relax, buddy.”

And they were off.


Elizabeth Burke sighed and hung up the phone. Not that it was a big surprise that her husband was working late. And really, even if she hadn’t entirely understood what she was getting into when she married not only an FBI agent, but a really, really tenacious FBI agent, she was used to it by now. And she loved Peter, faults and all. And Satchmo was happy to keep her company while she ate her dinner. And more than happy to get his daddy’s serving of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Elizabeth wrapped up the remains of their dinner and put it away – she could heat some up for Peter when he got home. She settled on the sofa with a cup of tea and her laptop so she could go over some options for flowers and place settings for the Gibson’s wedding reception.

A little while later she’d traded her computer for a mystery novel she’d picked up a few days ago on one of her Christmas shopping expeditions. She was a couple of chapters in when Satchmo, who’d been dozing on his dog bed nearby, suddenly scrambled to his feet. Elizabeth looked up at the sound. Satch had his head cocked, as if he was listening to something. Whatever it was, it had him prancing over to the door and barking.

Elizabeth frowned. She hadn’t heard anything. Certainly the doorbell hadn’t rung, and if someone had knocked they’d had been awfully quiet. She waited a minute or two to see if Satchmo would settle back down, but he was still bouncing in place in just inside the door.

Cautiously she made her way over, and peeked outside to see…nothing. That was strange.

“What’s the matter, Satch?” she said, even more confused now.

She had just reached down to put hand on his head to try to get him to calm down when the doorbell rang, followed by a thump, as if something had hit the door…assuming she hadn’t imagined that last part. Satch started barking again. Somewhat relieved – if someone was up to no good they probably wouldn’t be ringing the bell, she thought – Elizabeth looked out the window again, and this time she saw him, the man slumped against their front door. She didn’t think it was anyone she knew, though there was something familiar about the dark, wavy hair. Whoever it was, they didn’t appear to be any sort of threat, though why a stranger would have chosen their front stoop to collapse on, she couldn’t imagine.

Whoever it was, he clearly needed help, which was even more evident when Elizabeth cautiously opened the door. Apparently it had started to snow again. It was only flurries, but the man wasn’t wearing a coat and his thin button-down shirt was probably not doing much to protect him from the cold. There was a light dusting of snow on his dark shirt and in his hair.

Elizabeth reached out a tentative hand toward the man’s shoulder. She wasn’t even sure he was still conscious. She got her answer when he clearly startled at her touch, his head snapping up and a pair of startlingly blue, if unfocussed, eyes looking at her.

“Neal Caffrey?” Elizabeth blurted, her mouth hanging open in shock. She’d seen the pictures in the files Peter was so often poring over at their dining table, and Neal Caffrey wasn’t a forgettable face. But what was he doing at their house? Collapsed against their front door?

“Peter?”

At least it seemed that he knew where he was, though Elizabeth didn’t like his slightly glazed look at all.

“Peter’s still at the office,” she replied. Whatever response she expected, it wasn’t Neal woozily trying to get to his feet.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Sorry…I shouldn’t be here.” He managed to make it to one knee, and then, bracing himself with a hand on the doorframe, tried to lever himself upright. It was clearly a struggle, and just as clearly causing him no small amount of pain.

“Maybe not,” Elizabeth said, moving to put a hand on his shoulder in hopes of keeping him still, at least for the moment. “But you’re here now, and I don’t think you’re in any shape to go anywhere else. Especially not in this weather. You don’t even have a coat.”

“But…I...you…I should leave, really.” For a man who made a living, so to speak, by being a smooth talker, Elizabeth had a feeling that this lack of coherence was not a good sign.

“If you’re going anywhere, it should be the hospital,” Elizabeth observed, but that only agitated her unexpected guest more.

“No! No hospital!” he said twisting to get out from under her hand and trying, again, to push to his feet.

“Okay,” she soothed, holding out her hand but not quite touching him. “No hospital.” The “at least not for now,” she kept to herself. “You came here looking for Peter,” she said, trying a different approach. “He should be home soon. I bet if I call him and tell him you’re here, he’ll be on his way out of the office before we’re off the phone.”

That actually got her a smile, though she could see he still wasn’t quite convinced.

“Look," she said, “You can barely stand. You’re shivering. I can’t let you walk off into the snow. Do you really want me to sit here worrying about whether you wandered off and collapsed somewhere?”

He was frowning, but he hadn’t interrupted her to lodge any new objections.

“Why don’t you let me help you inside – I’m not leaving you out here until you’re hypothermic – and we’ll call Peter. Okay?”

There was a long pause, and Elizabeth was beginning to worry that he’d keep fighting her, but finally Neal heaved a sigh, then nodded his head. “Okay,” he said, so softly she could barely hear him.

Elizabeth took him by the arm to help him up. It took some doing – he was thin, but apparently there was a lot of muscle under those dark clothes. Somehow they managed, though, and Elizabeth Burke found herself with Neal Caffrey standing in her foyer. With half-closed eyes and looking like he might collapse again at any moment. And it didn’t help that Satchmo, intrigued by this unexpected change to his usual nighttime routine, was circling the new arrival excitedly.

“Neal?”

His eyes blinked open – god they were blue – but Elizabeth didn’t like the unfocussed look in them. She thought again that she probably ought to be taking him to the hospital, but set that aside for now. One thing at a time.

“Stay here for me for a minute?” she said gently, feeling like she was coaxing a wild animal that might bolt at any moment. Maybe that wasn’t so far from the truth.

But he just nodded his assent. And when she suggested he take off his shoes and socks, pointing out that they must be soaked, he did so with a tired smile.

In fact, now that she’d gotten him in the house he was surprisingly pliant, waiting by the door while she herded Satchmo out the back, and again while she went upstairs and got him some warmer, drier clothes. Pulling one of Peter’s old Quantico sweatshirts over his head – that, in fact, got a surprisingly sly smile out of him. Letting her steer him into the living room and onto the couch. He frowned at the wooly socks she handed him, but she just stared him down until he smiled again and pulled them on. He dutifully took the Tylenol tablets she brought him along with the socks.

Soon enough her unexpected guest was cocooned under a couple of quilts, a mug of tea in his hands, and she had retreated to the kitchen to call Peter.


Peter Burke knew that he was a lucky, lucky man. Elizabeth was smart, beautiful and talented. And she enjoyed a good Giants game almost as much as Peter himself did. And she was more than understanding when being an FBI agent meant late nights for Peter at the office, or stakeouts in the van, or even the occasional last minute flight to follow up a lead. Thankfully this wasn’t going to be too late a night, he thought, as he opened up the last of the evidences boxes that needed his attention…and set it aside again to check the caller ID on his now ringing phone.

“Hey, El!” he said in greeting. “I’m almost done here,” he started, about to update her on his progress.

“Hon,” El interrupted. Something was ‘off’ in her tone and Peter’s gut clenched.

“El? Hon? Is everything okay?”

Peter heard his wife draw in a deep breath. There was a long pause, long enough that he was about to ask again.

“Hon. Neal Caffrey is here.”

“What? Wait! Where are you?”

Whatever Peter might have been expecting to hear, whatever he might have guessed was going on, if he’d been asked to do so, this wasn’t on the list. He wasn’t sure it was even in the same ballpark as the list.

“I thought you were working from home today,” he added, mind spinning with the possibilities. She had a wedding reception coming up in a private residence. Were they wealthy enough to draw Caffrey’s attention? That didn’t sound right, though. Nothing in the kid’s history suggested he’d steal from a family on their daughter’s wedding day.

Peter didn’t get any farther in his ruminations, as his wife’s next words stopped him cold.

“I was working from home, Hon. Neal’s here. At the house. Apparently looking for you.”

“What? He came to the house?” That was about as much as Peter had heard. And it was enough. Neal Caffrey might have been just about the least violent criminal Peter had ever encountered, but he’d just crossed a line.

“Are you okay? El?”

“I’m fine, Hon. It’s okay. I’m doing a lot better than he is, frankly.”

“It’s not okay. I can’t believe he’d involve you in, well, whatever he’s up to.”

“I told you, Peter, he came here looking for you. He’s hurt.”

“I’m still arresting him for breaking and entering. To start,” Peter grumbled, unappeased. Maybe, once he had Caffrey in cuffs, he’d listen to whatever harebrained story the kid was selling. Okay, to be fair Caffrey wasn’t really the harebrained story type. He was good. Very good. But he was also in Peter’s house.

“He didn’t break in Peter,” Elizabeth said, interrupting his train of thought. “He collapsed outside the front door. He tried to leave when I told him you were at work, but I convinced him to come inside so I could call you.”

“Right,” Peter thought. “Of course you did.” His toughest (and most interesting) case, the cheeky forger (and thief) Peter had been after for the last two-plus years, had shown up at his house. And of course his wife had invited him in. Okay, that wasn’t fair either. Although he hadn’t been listening to everything she’d said, he had eventually gotten enough of it to realize that Caffrey was hurt. Of course Elizabeth tried to help him.

Peter took a deep breath, pulling himself together.

“Okay,” he said. “You’re okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“And Caffrey is? Injured? What?”

“I’m not sure exactly. He seems kind of out of it. I don’t like the look of his eyes. But he got so upset when I suggested he should be at the hospital. I thought he was going to take off. He’s hurting too, maybe his side? And he was sitting on our stoop in just a button-down. In the snow.”

Peter sighed. Leave it to Neal Caffrey. “He’s still there, right? What’s he doing now?”

“Sitting on our sofa. Drinking tea. Hopefully getting warm. Probably barely staying awake.”

“I’m getting in the car now, El. Just…I…”

“I’ll be fine, Peter.”


Peter decided that driving home, at least today, counted as pursuing a suspect, and he took full advantage of the beacon light on his dashboard to help clear his way to Brooklyn. Luck was actually with him when he got to their street, as there was a space just down the block from the house.

Elizabeth hadn’t called again, and he’d reminded himself – several times on the way home – that Caffrey was non-violent. And apparently not in the best shape.

Peter practically jumped out of the car, double-checked his gun (not that he was going to need it, he reminded himself), and quickly crossed the street to his house, unlocked the front door, and made his way inside and to the living room…

…where Neal Caffrey was in one corner of the couch, curled up under what appeared to be a fleece blanket and one of Elizabeth’s quilts. His eyes were half shut, and he was absently scratching Satchmo behind the ears. El sat at the other end, a book in her hand.

“Caffrey!” Peter said, not quite shouting, and pulled out his handcuffs.

Their unexpected guest looked up, startled.

“Peter?” he said. He did sound a bit woozy.

“You’re in my house, Caffrey. On my sofa. With my wife! And…and you’re petting my dog!”

Caffrey just looked blankly up at him.

“That’s it,” Peter grumbled. “I’m arresting you.”

“Peter!” Elizabeth protested, putting her book down.

“It’s okay,” Neal said, sitting up a bit straighter and starting to extricate himself from the layers of bedding. The quilt slid off his shoulders.

“And you’re wearing my clothes!” Peter said, staring in disbelief at the sight of Neal Caffrey in a sweatshirt that Peter knew had come out of his own closet.

Caffrey gave him a shrug and a “Who, me?” look.

Peter just glared. Caffrey held up his hands in a placating gesture.

Peter ratcheted the cuffs open and stalked across the room.

“Peter!” Elizabeth admonished, standing up.

Peter paused in his advance and looked at Elizabeth. “El…he’s a suspect in a forgery case and multiple art thefts.”

“He can barely stand.”

“It’s okay,” Neal said again, struggling to his feet and holding out his hands.

Caffrey was standing, but just barely. El was right, his eyes had a glassy look that was worrisome. And he was favoring his right side. Peter sighed, feeling like a bit of a bully.

“I’m not so sure, Caffrey. I think you need a hospital more than a jail cell right now. You don’t look so good.”

“No hospital!” Caffrey sounded spooked now. Well, El had said he’d reacted badly to that idea before.

“Why not?”

“That’s the first place they’ll send someone to look for me,” Caffrey replied, looking genuinely concerned.

“And I suppose ‘they’ are the ones who did this to you?”

Caffrey just nodded.

“I’d be there with you, you know. Or someone from my office.”

“We don’t have time, Peter. I’m sore. Probably a few bruised ribs. Maybe a concussion. But I’ll be okay. And I get that you have to take me in.” Caffrey shrugged then, looking resigned. “But please, just listen first? There’s a heist going down tonight and you have to stop it.”

Now that got Peter’s attention.

“All right,” Peter said, putting his cuffs away. “No hospital.” Caffrey looked relieved at that. “For now,” Peter added. “And I’m listening. Why don’t you start at the beginning? And sit back down, before you fall down.”

“So I may have…possibly…heard there was a crew in town looking for a forger. And they might have somehow gotten the idea that I was – allegedly – the man for the job.”

“Look, Caffrey,” Peter interrupted. “You want me to stop a crime here, right?”

Caffrey nodded his assent.

“Then I’m not interested in going after you for whatever your alleged involvement might be.”


“They” turned out to be a group of thieves planning to hit the DeArmitt Gallery, which was setting up for a special exhibit of Impressionist paintings. It seemed that they had (allegedly, of course), recruited Neal to create several forgeries of two of the pieces and to help with the plan to take care of the museum’s security system. Easy money for a man of Neal’s talents…right up until the plan turned out to involve “taking out” the guards, and it became clear that even if their MO didn’t as a rule include killing, it did involve guns. Neal tried to sell them on a less violent and potentially less dangerous plan, and when his suggestions fell on deaf ears, he tried to walk away from the whole thing.

Unfortunately, his soon to be former associates were not on board with that plan. Neal knew too much. Besides, they already had his paintings in hand, and his insights on the security. So they told him just how they felt about him leaving, first with a gun butt to the head, and then with their fists and their feet. But they were on a clock, and whatever they were going to do to (or with) Neal, it would have to wait. Which was how he ended up lying on the floor, his hands cuffed behind him, in a locked basement.

Thankfully the plan for the heist involved getting to the museum early to set up surveillance and get everything in place. And thankfully even bruised, battered, and quite possibly concussed, Neal had yet to meet a lock he couldn’t pick.


“And you’re sure. They’re hitting the gallery tonight? In about,” Peter paused there to look at his watch, “three and a half hours?”

“I’m sure.”

“Is there anything else we need to know?”

“Peter,” Elizabeth said. Peter looked up. She’d stayed out of the conversation while Neal had told his story, but now she was looking at Peter with worried eyes. “Look at him, Peter,” she said. “He looks like he’s going to pass out any minute now.”

Peter did look. And felt a stab of guilt. Caffrey had brushed off his injuries, partly, yes, because he was trying to avoid a trip to the hospital, but also because he had time-sensitive information that he wanted Peter to have. But Elizabeth was right. The kid looked pale and tired, and he was clearly in pain.

“I could make you go get checked out,” Peter said. “You know that, right?”

Caffrey apparently had enough energy to look hurt and betrayed by that. “You said,” he started to protest.

Peter held up a placating hand. “Okay. Fine. No hospital. But here’s what’s going to happen, and I don’t want any arguments. I’m calling in my team and we’ll follow up on your story. If these guys stick to their plan, we’ll get them. And you, Caffrey…I appreciate the information. I’m glad you came to me with this. But you’re still under arrest.”

“You’re not dragging him off to jail in this condition, are you?” Elizabeth asked, clearly upset.

“I’m calling a couple of my probies to come and keep an eye things here. Phillips used to be an EMT. He still volunteers with an ambulance crew. He’s going to check Caffrey out.”

“And you,” he said sternly, fixing Neal with a hard look. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you are going to behave yourself and listen to my wife.”

Caffrey, who really did look like a strong breeze would blow him over if he weren’t already sitting down, managed a surprisingly cheeky grin at that.

Peter sighed. Again. How had this become his life?

“I’m serious, Caffrey. This my house. My wife. I’m not playing around here.”

“I get it, Peter,” Caffrey said, sounding serious now. “I never meant to get Elizabeth involved in any of this, you know. I’d never….”

Peter nodded. “Good,” he said, then paused for a moment. “You really do look awful you know. So let my guy check you out. Try to get some rest. No collapsing on my kitchen floor. No wandering off alone in the snow in nothing but your cat burglar outfit.”

“You really have a wonderful bedside manner, Agent Burke.”

“Funny, Caffrey.” Peter paused again, looked him over. “You know, you keep on like this, and one of these days the bad guys might do more than just work you over.”

Peter saw what looked like surprise on Caffrey’s face, but it was gone in a flash. “I can take care of myself,” was all he said.

Peter shook his head. Stubborn kid. But this wasn’t the time – or the place – for this conversation, so Peter just told him to stay put while he made his calls.

“Would you like some more tea?” he heard his wife asking as he made his way into the hallway and hit the speed dial for Clinton Jones to tell him to start scrambling the team.

About ten minutes and several calls later, Peter made his way back to the living room, where Neal Caffrey was once again cocooned in blankets on his sofa. His hands were wrapped around a mug of tea, and his eyes were half closed. He looked awfully young. And vulnerable.

“Caffrey,” Peter said, more gently this time.

Blue eyes opened and peered blearily up at him.

“Look…I’m glad you brought this to me. It was the right thing to do. Agent Phillips will be here soon to take a look at you, and then you can rest.”


Agent Phillips’s diagnosis, it turned out, was pretty much the same as Neal’s. Bruised ribs, mild concussion, and some general bumps and bruises. He gave Elizabeth a list of symptoms to keep an eye out for and told Neal to rest and take some more acetaminophen in a few hours.

“If you need anything,” Peter said to El, pulling her aside after instructing Phillips and another probie to keep an eye on the house.

“I’ll call, Hon,” Elizabeth replied. “Go. Get the bad guys. I think two FBI agents and I can handle one concussed forger.”

Peter smiled at her, leaned in for a kiss, and headed out.

Elizabeth went back to the living room, where their unexpected guest, clearly spent, had dozed off on the couch. Dressed in Peter’s too-big sweatshirt, eyes closed, his dark hair tousled, Neal Caffrey looked awfully young, more like someone’s little brother home from college than a master criminal. Looks could be deceiving, though. And in the morning he’d be leaving the house in handcuffs.

As she watched, Neal turned in his sleep and the peaceful expression on his face changed to a grimace of pain and his eyes shot open. Elizabeth sighed. Whatever else he might be, Neal Caffrey was hurt and in pain. She’d intended on letting him sleep a bit and then trying to get some food into him – who knew how long it had been since he’d eaten – but now that he’d woken up anyway….

“Hey,” she said, crossing to the sofa and putting a gentle hand on his shoulder. “I know you’re tired, but you should probably eat something.”

“I’m fine. Not hungry,” he said, just as his stomach grumbled, belying his words.

She gave him her best, “Sure, right,” look. He shrugged and lowered his head in defeat, starting to push himself up.

She kept his hand on his shoulder. “Sit. Stay,” she ordered.

That got her a smile and a nod.

Elizabeth heated up some leftover meatloaf and potatoes. Comfort food probably wouldn’t go awry right now, she thought, as she brought him a plate and a TV tray. And they both discovered that he’d actually been quite hungry after all.

After he finished his food, she left him on the sofa with the TV remote while she put fresh sheets on the guest room bed, then took her laptop into the kitchen. After the day he’d had, Neal probably needed some space, she thought. And she could get some more work done.

A few hours later and she’d finished the research for two more events, walked the dog, and made coffee for the FBI agents camped in front of her house. And Neal had apparently dozed off in the middle of an “Antiques Roadshow” marathon on PBS. She hated to disturb him, but she knew she should make sure he wasn’t having any of the symptoms Agent Phillips had told her to look for. And he needed to take some more medication, not to mention that he’d be more comfortable sleeping in a real bed.

“Neal?” she said, softly at first. “Neal.” A little louder this time, and a gentle shake of his shoulder.

Bleary blue eyes opened, and she was relieved to find that he looked less fuzzy than before.

“How are you feeling? And I don’t want to hear ‘fine,’ mister.”

He had the grace to look abashed at that. “Better. Head still hurts, but not as much. Still sore all over. Feels like someone used me as a punching bag.”

“That would probably be because someone did use you as a punching bag, sweetie,” Elizabeth replied. “Sweetie?” she thought. Where did that come from? Deciding it was best not to dwell on it, instead pushing on with her list of symptoms. Thankfully, there were no signs of a more serious head injury, and after a half-hearted objection, Elizabeth convinced Neal that it was no trouble and he’d be more comfortable in the guest room. She showed him the way, and left him with more of Peter’s clothes – sweatpants and a t-shirt this time – while she got a glass of juice and more Tylenol.

He’d changed by the time she got back, and was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking around the room with a somewhat lost expression on his face. Which turned into a smile when she came into the room. He took the offered pills, and she pointed out the bathroom across the hall.

“Good night, Neal,” she said. “Try to get some more sleep, okay?”

“Elizabeth.” She was just about the door when she heard her name.

“Yes?” she said, turning back to look at him.

“Thank you.”

“For what? Not leaving you outside to freeze?”

“For being kind,” he said, his voice soft. He was looking at his lap. “To a very much uninvited guest. You didn’t have to be.”

Any number of responses to that went through Elizabeth’s head, but she decided on a simple, “You’re welcome.”


Getting home early in the morning usually meant a decent chance of a good parking space, as long as at least some of the neighbors had started leaving for work. Unfortunately this didn’t apply on Saturdays, and Peter ended up parked several blocks from the house. Luckily he was in the mood to be generous. He and his team had stopped a robbery, preventing the loss of multiple multimillion dollar pieces of art and the injury, or possibly worse, of several museum guards. And as the icing on the cake, Neal Caffrey, slippery Neal Caffrey, was in custody. And if he felt a little bit bad about that, given how bad Caffrey had looked when Peter left the house the night before, no one needed to know. Any more than they needed to know that somehow the whole thing didn’t feel quite right, that he was supposed to catch Caffrey, not have him collapse on his doorstep.

But that’s what had happened, and so Peter got out of the car and made his way up the street to his house. He checked in with his agents, who reported that all was quiet, had been all night. Elizabeth met him at the door with a cup of coffee and a kiss.

“Hon,” he greeted her.

“Hey, Hon,” she replied. “You got the bad guys?”

“We did. You’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” she said.

“Neal?”

“I managed to get him to eat some meatloaf and potatoes.”

“Wait! Now he’s eating my food?”

“Oh, Hon,” Elizabeth said soothingly, though she was smiling at him.

“So you fed the felon who just showed up at our house unannounced….”

Elizabeth just gave him a look and continued her story. “Yes, I fed the felon who was clubbed in the head, beaten, and managed to make it here to report a crime to you while he was still conscious. Then I put him to bed in the guest room. It took a bit to convince him that he didn’t have to stay on the couch.”

“You’re a good woman, Elizabeth Burke. But he’s a criminal, El, not a stray puppy.”

“Says the man who didn’t haul said criminal off to jail last night.”

“He could barely stand, or keep his eyes open.”

“You’re a good man, Peter Burke.”

Peter was reluctant to follow that conversational thread any further. “I take it he was doing okay?” he said instead.

“I checked on him a few hours after he went to bed – no new symptoms. He was still asleep a few hours after that, so I let him be.”

Peter could tell that Elizabeth was still concerned about Caffrey.

“He’ll be okay, Hon. I’ll keep an eye on him.”


In the end, however, there was no need. Elizabeth went upstairs to wake Caffrey up so Peter could take him to the FBI building (after Peter convinced her that it would be better for everyone if she didn’t fix them all breakfast).

“Peter! You’d better come up here,” she shouted down the stairs, sounding upset.

“El?” he said as he jogged up the stairs. She was standing just inside the doorway of their guest bedroom. Peter looked past her to where the bed was made, his clothes neatly folded on top of it, and on top of that a note of some sort and what, upon closer inspection, appeared to be an origami Christmas angel.

Peter took the note, read it, and passed it to Elizabeth.

Peter,

I’ll understand if you don’t believe me, seeing as you’re reading this note and not hearing it face to face, but I really did appreciate you taking the time to listen to me, and taking me seriously. Sorry I couldn’t stick around – maybe next time. And really, it’s not as if you caught me anyway – I don’t think me collapsing at your door counts. Better luck next time. Oh, and don’t be too hard on your agents, okay?

Elizabeth,

Please know how much I appreciated your hospitality. My manners are usually much better – I don’t generally barge into people’s houses like that. You made me far more welcome than I had any right to be. Thank you. Again.

And if both Peter and Elizabeth Burke found themselves smiling at the note left behind by their uninvited guest, well, no one had to know that either.
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