sam_storyteller: (White Collar)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2010-11-20 08:49 am

Exquisite, Chapter 13

Title: Exquisite
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: None.
Summary: Neal is finding a place for himself, both at the Bureau and in Peter and Elizabeth's life. Unraveling the mystery of the music box might ruin everything -- but that's a risk he has to take.

Chapter Twelve

***

The next morning, Peter put on the shirt that made his skin look warm and the tie that made his shirt look tacky, asking Neal which knot to tie. He gave Neal his cufflinks to fasten and then handed his jacket over so that Neal could help him into it; Neal wasn't even sure he knew he did it. Peter just casually passed them to Neal like it was Neal's job.

Elizabeth was already gone, and he should have been at the FBI's offices fifteen minutes ago, but he wanted to see his handiwork: the shirt and tie Neal had picked out the night before, the erect line of Peter's back and the tight brush of his collar against his throat. Peter Lassen was a work of art, and Peter might be playing Lassen but Neal felt as if he'd had a part in sculpting him.

And if Neal teased Peter a little bit about how he could have been a millionaire accountant, with a house in the Hamptons and a cushy job (that didn't involve guns, or late-night stakeouts, or brilliant CIs), well, that was just to see if he was in character. Peter took it with his usual quiet grin -- and then neatly destroyed Neal.

"Company booked me in a suite at a four-star hotel," Peter said.

Neal raised his eyebrows, only a little sarcastic when he answered, "Impressive."

Peter, adjusting his tie, glanced at him in the mirror before he turned around. "Yeah. Almost as impressive as your getting Kate's flight-recorder data."

Neal was completely unprepared for that, and he'd never been all that good at lying to Peter anyway. He just stared, trying to school his features into innocence.

"That's right, Sara told me," Peter said. Neal mentally cursed Sara Ellis from here to Jersey.

It wasn't fair of Peter to force his hand that way, and it wasn't fair to force Mozzie to work with Diana; Neal had acquired the flight-recorder data and had it dropped to Sara and recovered it all on his own, without using any of the Bureau's resources, and Mozzie was working his ass off trying to wring every last drop of information out of it. If anyone was going to get that information it ought to be Peter himself.

So Neal kept quiet, and agreed to arrange a meet between Mozzie and Diana that morning (of course, that was why Peter had sprung it on him, so they had no time to prepare), and then Neal Caffrey set up a con.

"Mozzie," he said, after checking in with Diana at the office that morning. "I need you to help me run a short game on Peter."

"Conning your Suit? I'm impressed," Mozzie said. "What's the plan?"

"I can't get into details. Diana thinks I'm setting up a meet between you and her, so we don't have a lot of time. Today at eleven, can you be outside Federal Plaza?"

"Sure," Mozzie said. "Wait, you want me to meet with Lady Suit?"

"She has a name," Neal said, and didn't bother to give Mozzie time to argue before he continued. "Peter wants you to meet with her. It's about Kate. All you need to know for now is that we want to get what they have and give away as little as possible. You'll see what I mean when we meet. I want you to dial Mozzie up to eleven, can you do that? Paranoia, cloak and dagger, the works."

"With pleasure," Moz said. "I will be so Mozzie your jaw will drop. Can I have histrionics?"

"As long as you eventually do everything she tells you to do, and make sure your first meeting is at my place, you can have a seizure for all I care," Neal said, and hung up.

Mozzie was beautiful at the meet. There were moments in their partnership, patchwork and sometimes frustrating as it might be, where Neal wanted to kiss him purely for his brilliance. Mozzie was, at the best of times, a little neurotic; when he was laying it on thick he could put anyone's teeth on edge. Neal thought his plan to write a sonnet telling Diana where to meet was a particularly nice touch.

"I know!" Mozzie said on the phone, later that day, when Diana wasn't breathing down his neck quite so hard. "I'm tempted to write the sonnet just to see if I could do it. Something Italian."

"Not French?"

"French sonnets are for lovers. Italian sonnets are for seducers."

"That's beautiful, Moz, really. I think I just shed a tear," Neal said. The blood was singing in his veins; this was a small, stupid, and petty con, and Diana wasn't even their mark. Peter was their mark -- Diana was just the mark they had to conquer to get to Peter. Still, even a small and petty con made him feel good, made him long for the old days a little.

"What's our next step?" Mozzie asked.

"You're meeting up with her?"

"Yeah, tomorrow morning. What's the game plan?"

"Give her the standard stuff on Fowler. Try to get out of giving her any of the actual recorder data."

"So that's why you were so focused on Fowler at the meet."

"I want Diana and Peter chasing Fowler, not us," Neal told him. "Stall her and then give up Fowler's information. Get what you can from her but don't work it too hard."

"I assume you have a plan beyond 'don't work it too hard'," Mozzie drawled.

"I'm arranging a diversion. Probably not a long one, so I want you to snoop fast once it hits," Neal said. "You on form?"

"I'm like Muhammad Ali in his prime," Mozzie announced. "Only short, white, and out of shape."

"Attaboy, Moz," Neal said, grinning, and hung up. He scrolled through his contacts and found June's personal number.

"Neal," June answered, sounding pleased. "To what do I owe this pleasure in the middle of the day?"

"June, are you home tomorrow morning?" Neal asked.

"Yes, I think so. Why?"

"How would you like to run a five-minute con?" Neal asked.

"Oh my darling boy," June laughed. "What did you have in mind?"

"Diana's coming over to talk to Mozzie. I need you to give them fifteen minutes alone together and then distract her."

"What's my angle?" June asked.

"Getting her away from Mozzie so he can look in her files. Out the door if you can, but don't worry too much if you can't. He's fast."

"As I have reason to know. Oh! Peter just gave me your new custody paperwork, that's a good diversion, isn't it?"

Neal grinned. "Bureaucracy at work. That's perfect. Can you pull off slightly confused and devastatingly good-looking? I mean, I know you can manage the second."

"Mmhm," June sounded amused. "I think so, yes. Oh, this is exciting, I haven't pulled a quick-and-dirty con in years."

"Play your cards right, sweetheart, and I'll make you part of my crew," Neal said, laughing. "Thank you, June."

"My pleasure, Neal," she said, and hung up. Neal sat back, beaming.

"What're you so excited about?" Jones asked, as he passed Neal's desk.

"You know what?" Neal asked, not bothering to wipe the smile off his face. "Jones, I love my work."

***

That afternoon, Neal got a text message from Peter Lassen's phone.

5pm, 45th Floor.

How...pragmatic and yet vaguely pornographic. Neal grinned.

Like a good con man, New York had layers. The 45th floor of a four-star hotel was one, of course, all shine and wealth and elegance, but the loading dock of the same four-star hotel was gritty and surrounded by dumpsters and had a cranky man in an ill-fitting uniform sitting inside it. Neal walked up the slightly grimy staircase to the dock door and stepped inside, taking his hat off and beaming at him.

"Hi there," he said, offering a hand. "George Wheeler."

"Delivery?" the man asked, bored.

"You could say that," Neal replied. The man looked up and took in his tight suit, his face, his hair.

"Lobby's around that way," he said, pointing back at the way Neal had just come.

"Aw, come on man," Neal said, resting both arms on the counter of the desk and letting one hand drape over, a twenty between his fingers. "You can let me in off the books, right?"

The guard glanced at the cash. "You working?" he asked.

Bingo. Every hotel security guard and maid and lobby attendant, and every escort in town, knew what that meant.

"My client likes discreet," Neal said. "Peter L., forty-fifth floor?"

The guard checked a computer screen, then tugged the twenty out of Neal's fingers.

"Service elevator's down and to the right," he said. Neal doffed his hat and walked on.

He toyed with telling Peter about it -- well, not telling him, just letting enough slip that Peter would ask -- but they were on the job here and Neal could respect that. Undercover work wasn't easy. No reason to throw Peter off his game this early, especially since Peter had to live here for the next week and was the kind of guy to fret about what the maids and valets thought of him. He probably made his bed in the mornings. So Neal went up and gave his report like a good little consultant, and only teased Peter a little.

"You were right about the tie, by the way," Peter said, once they'd finished plotting to get Neal into the company so he could snoop around.

"Yeah?" Neal asked, leaning back on the couch. Man, this was a nice suite. Wasted on Peter, but then Peter had other qualities that made up for his puritan work ethic. "How so?"

"You should have seen Kent," Peter told him, gesturing at his own shirt. "Yellow plaid."

"No," Neal said, horrified and delighted.

"He looked like a tablecloth was attacking him."

Neal laughed. "You should listen to me when I tell you about clothing."

Peter made a noncommittal noise. "I like my shirts just fine, thank you."

"Yeah, who'd get any work done if you started dressing to impress?" Neal asked, and Peter gave him a strange look. "What?"

"Nothing," Peter said, shaking his head. "I'll get on the phone to Jones, have him set up an alias for you, and then talk to Kent. You got a name you want?"

"I have an alias that'll work. Jones can look it over," Neal said. "George Danbury."

"Yeah, we have that one on file," Peter said. "Should I even ask if you have current ID for it?"

"Peter! I'm an upstanding -- "

"Just...stop right there," Peter sighed, holding up a hand. "Go, get ready for an interview in the morning."

"Studying to do," Neal agreed, standing up. he looked down at Peter, who was sorting the printouts Jones had sent along with him. "I could come back this evening."

Peter frowned, looking up at him.

"You know. Big bed, nice suite..."

"Tracking anklet," Peter muttered.

"Right. Well, Mr. Danbury will see you tomorrow, Mr. Lassen. CPA," Neal added with a grin, and let his hand drift across Peter's shoulders as he walked to the door.

Downstairs, on his way back out through the loading dock, he caught the guard's eye and mouthed animal at him. This time the guard actually grinned.

After all, it wasn't technically a lie.

***

Elizabeth was expecting a quiet if perhaps somewhat lonely evening ahead of her, with Peter off playing dress-up. No matter how long they'd been married, or how dangerous she knew undercover work could be, it always struck her as funny that her husband spent a good half of his time at work pretending to be someone else. She didn't enjoy it when he was off on assignment, and she hadn't enjoyed it when he'd had to travel so much, chasing Neal across the country and then consulting on cases in other field offices once he'd established a name for himself, but she'd grown used to it. Besides, these days, it was relatively rare -- usually she was the one traveling, or out late at events.

She was considering treating herself to dinner somewhere when she heard the unmistakable sound of lockpicks in the door, which could only mean Neal. When he opened the door to find her standing there, arms crossed, he had the decency to look sheepish.

"We're going to get you a key," she told him, as he pocketed the picks. "It's not good for the locks."

"Old habits," he said, bending to receive his customary kiss on the forehead. She bestowed it only a little grudgingly.

"Are you setting off alarms right now?"

"Nope!" he pulled up his pants leg, showing off his lack of tracking anklet. "They put me on a GPS, but the Marshals aren't monitoring it. I told Hughes that Peter asked me to check up on you."

"Did he?"

"No, but I thought you might like some company," he said, flashing that trust-me-and-give-me-your-money smile he did so well. Peter was the only one who never fell for it; even when she knew what it was, it still made her feel special. It didn't, however, make her feel like leaving Neal alone with her purse.

"Would you like dinner?" she asked, looping her arms loosely around his shoulders as he pulled her against him, nuzzling her hair.

"I was thinking more like dessert," he said, and bent for a genuine kiss. "If you're free."

"Hm. What brought this on?" she asked. He tensed; just slightly, but she could feel it.

"We don't have to," he said, pulling back just a little.

"That wasn't what I asked," she reminded him, playing with the soft curly hair at the nape of his neck. Getting a little long; he should get it cut soon.

"I never get you all to myself," he said, sounding a little like a spoiled child. She laughed. "What?"

"Well, as reasons go, you couldn't come up with one more flattering," she said, and a real smile broke over his face.

"I don't want you to think everything's about Peter," he said. "It isn't."

"Baby, I knew that before you two did," she said, while Neal -- apparently encouraged -- kissed her jaw, just below her ear. "Oh, you're good at that."

"Sleeping with your husband's partner while he's away," he murmured in her ear. "For shame, Mrs. Burke."

"Sleeping with your partner's wife," she replied, as he walked her backwards towards the stairs. "What will he do when he finds out. He might handcuff you."

"I live in hope," Neal laughed, letting go of her so she could take his hand and pull him along up to the bedroom. "Why, do you want to...?"

She shook her head, already working on his tie. "That's your thing, you boys -- oh -- " she added, as he ran warm hands up under her shirt. "And I love to see it, but if this is my treat -- "

"It is," he assured her, undoing her bra one-handed. He was a pickpocket, after all.

"I want something sweet," she said, pushing his shirt off his shoulders. "Well. Maybe with a little bite."

They undressed with probably more speed than grace, Neal skimming her clothes off her and getting caught for a moment in his undershirt when he kept trying to kiss her while she was pulling it over his head. She laughed and smoothed his hair when he emerged, but he just wrapped both arms around her and lifted her up, falling back on the bed with her on top of him. She rolled, tugging him over, fruitless for a second before he got with the program and settled on top of her, kissing his way down her breasts. He bit gently around one nipple and she moaned.

"Tell me what you want," he said, resting his chin on her stomach, gazing up at her. She could feel the pulse in his throat, against her skin. She could feel his fingers, too, roaming up her leg and inside her, thumb rubbing gently at her clit. "Anything you want."

She tugged on his hair. "Come up here."

"What, no foreplay?" he asked, laughing, but he slid up her body and kissed her, his cock trailing along her thigh. Neal was all nerve endings sometimes, incredibly responsive to touch, and without Peter's steadying presence he seemed uncertain -- and then he pressed his face to her throat, and oh, now she understood. That was his surrender to Peter, part of the wordless pact they had, and it was amazing. All of Neal's power, his skill and intelligence and grace, offered up freely.

"Here, here," she said, pulling him up into a kiss, cradling him against her body. "Neal -- fuck -- "

"Yeah," he agreed, sliding into her, hips a little jerky and eyes closed, mouth open. "Elizabeth, that's good, you're so..." he moaned, and apparently lost his train of thought, rocking against and inside her, like she was the only thing in the world that mattered. For Neal, whose focus could be extreme and sometimes a little worrying, perhaps she was.

She bucked against him, trying to get him to move faster, push harder, but Neal just kept kissing her, languid -- slow and gentle. And she felt this was, perhaps, wasting the moment a little.

"More," she said, kissing him roughly, and he jerked hard against her for a moment but then stopped and moved slower again -- "Neal, I'm not going to break."

"I don't -- " he said, and then shuddered.

"You can be rough," she whispered against his temple, right in his ear. He tensed. "It's okay. I want it. Think about Peter," she tried, and his head snapped up.

"What?" he asked. "But -- "

"Not like that," she said, and rolled her hips a little, and he moaned. "Peter's rough sometimes. You think he would be, if I didn't enjoy it?"

Neal looked at her for a long moment, breathing fast, and then she saw something click. He groaned low and dropped his head to her throat and his whole body pushed, hard, all that beautiful muscle uncoiling when Elizabeth arched her back. She felt him let go, start taking what he wanted, raw and harsh and just what she wanted from him, too: to see him give it up, that last little vestige of control, of mistrust that she would lie to him.

He was suddenly relentless, frantic and greedy, biting her shoulder, hands probably leaving bruises on her thighs. He raised one hand and cupped her breast, thumb scraping across her nipple and she was so -- close --

When she came she might have screamed, she wasn't sure; Neal was still thrusting into her, breath ragged when he wasn't saying El, El, El -- and she raked her fingernails down his chest, which made him go silent and tense and still as he came.

All she could hear was their breathing for a brief second, and then Neal's hips pushed again and he collapsed against her, sweating, mouthing hungrily at the bite he'd left.

"See?" she said softly, after a minute, stroking his hair. He grunted and raised his head for another gentle kiss, almost chaste. Damn.

"Did I hurt you?" he asked, sliding away from her, eyes opening and tracking down to the narrow reddening bruise on her skin. She sighed.

"If you were hurting me, I'd tell you," she said, smoothing her palm over the scratch marks on his chest.

"I'm just..." he closed his eyes again. "I worry."

"Because you're big and strong and I'm not?" she asked, a little sarcasm in her voice. He winced, nodding.

"It's easier with Peter," he murmured. "He's really strong."

"Neal," she said. "I trust you. Tell you what," she added, pushing herself up on one elbow and leaning over him. He looked up at her. "I promise, if you hurt me, I'll tell you. And I promise, if I want something from you, I'll tell you."

He nodded slowly.

"But you have to promise that if I say what I want, you'll believe me," she said. "You can say no, but it has to be because you don't want to do it. Not because you're afraid I'm lying. Okay?"

"I'm not used to being asked. Not for that," he said. He looked hesitant.

"What is it?"

"I...Kate never asked," he said. "Maybe I didn't give her the chance. I don't know. And she wasn't the first."

"Trust me," she repeated. "I know you think you're supposed to protect the whole world, Neal, but I can protect myself. Besides," she said, "it was good, wasn't it?"

He exhaled, slowly, and gave her one of his bright grins. "Yeah. Yeah, that was -- really great."

"Good." She lay back, stretching. "How long can you stay?"

"Mm. Not long. I have a dinner tonight, and a bunch of spy-versus-spy after that," he said. "I'd bring you along as my date but trust me, you would hate it. Man, I'm glad I don't work in an office."

"Well, technically, you do," she said.

"Nah, that's just where we go when the interesting stuff's not happening." He waved a hand. "These guys are...their big thrill in life is running up a restaurant tab and then flipping for who has to pay for it."

"Some people would say that getting your kicks going undercover and being shot at is probably even less sane," she said. Her hand drifted to the raised white scar on his shoulder where that man they'd been chasing had grazed him -- over a year ago, now.

"I don't like being shot at," he agreed. "But you have to admit it keeps life interesting."

"Hm. Try not to make life too interesting," she replied. "Peter and I don't want to lose you, you know."

"I do my best," he said, and kissed her one more time before climbing over her, out of the bed. "I gotta go."

"I know," she sighed. "Will you see Peter tonight?"

"Yeah, probably not till late."

"Give him my love," she said, and he looked over at her and smiled.

"Like he needs reminding," he said.

***

Peter fully understood that he probably sounded like an idiot, talking to a photograph, but at least it was keeping him awake.

It was too late to call Elizabeth, really; she put up with enough without maudlin caffeinated calls from her husband at midnight. Neal's dinner was at nine, and he had to have time to stake out the office as well. Peter didn't expect he'd get to bed much before two in the morning.

Besides, it was soothing, talking to El, even if she wasn't really there. Especially in the early days of their marriage, when they both had crazy schedules and sometimes didn't see each other until late, they'd lie in bed and take the day apart together, rambling at each other until they both fell asleep. With all the insecurity of youth, he'd worried about their sex life, but there were nights he vastly preferred to listen to her talk as he dozed, or hold her while he talked about Bureau politics and Caffrey's latest audacity.

Caffrey. God, even then Neal had been in their bed. And Neal was -- something else, strange and new, much-desired, but Peter and Elizabeth had ten years together. There were some things you had to build over time, and no amount of love or desperation could replace that. It might come, in time, but Peter's thoughts shied away from the future when it came to Neal. There were too many variables, and too many close calls in Neal's recent past to bank on a future just yet.

"Room service!" Neal's voice called from the entryway. Cute.

Peter let him in, tolerated his gentle mocking, and studied the dossier Neal brought with interest. Neal seemed sulky, but Peter figured he was probably tired; he'd worked all day (for a given value of work) and then had to con his coworkers all night, stake out an office, pull files from the FBI, and sneak into the hotel.

"So how did you get in, anyway?" Peter asked, carrying his dinner to the coffee table and settling down across from Neal.

"You sure you want to know?" Neal asked.

"Am I going to have to put you back in prison if you tell me?"

"I bribed a guard," Neal said, and then switched subjects with bizarre speed. "You know what the room service guy thought I was doing here, right?"

Peter frowned at him. "What?"

"The guy who just brought you the steak. He saw me. What do you think he thought I was doing here?"

Peter glanced over his shoulder at the doorway. "I don't know. I doubt he cares. You know normal people, people who don't work for the FBI or run cons their whole life, they don't notice things the way we do."

Neal gave him a grin. "He thought I was the evening's entertainment."

Peter choked on a bite of steak, thumping his chest with his fist. "What?"

"Well-dressed pretty man like me, rich guy like you..." Neal shrugged.

"He didn't," Peter said, horrified.

"Trust me, compared to what they've seen, this doesn't raise an eyebrow," Neal drawled.

"He probably just thought we were having a late business meeting!"

"At half past midnight? In your bathrobe?" Neal asked. Peter put his fork down.

"Neal, did you purposefully give the impression to the hotel staff that you were my..." Peter trailed off, gesturing vaguely.

"Escort? Hey, it's a good cover," Neal said. He looked unperturbed by it.

"Not for me!"

"What, are you afraid the random hotel staff are going to think you're gay?" Neal asked.

"It's not the -- " Peter ran a hand over his face. "Look, I don't care if some stranger thinks I'm gay. I happen to be fucking a man as well as my wife, so it's not like the estimation is completely incorrect. I'd rather they not think I'm hiring prostitutes."

"Dirty talk! Peter, I didn't know you had it in you," Neal said, getting up to join him on the couch. He stole a spear of asparagus off Peter's plate and took a bite, grinning at him. "Damage is already done. No sense in worrying about it now."

Peter, however, had caught the flash of bare wrist on his left arm. "Where's your GPS?"

"Huh?" Neal looked at his wrist, where the watch should be, all exaggerated innocence. "Must have left it at the Bureau when I pulled the file. I'll grab it tomorrow before work."

"Neal...." Peter shook his head.

"I'm off the leash," Neal said. "Gonna cuff me?"

"You'd enjoy that," Peter pointed out. Neal rested his chin on Peter's shoulder.

"I saw Elizabeth this afternoon," he said. Peter turned his head slightly. "She said to send her love. You know, she and I don't get enough alone time."

"What, you want to kick me out of my bed now?" Peter asked with a grin.

"Well, her husband was away, a woman has needs...."

"Yeah, yeah, rub it in," Peter muttered. Neal twitched his chin a little; when Peter looked back, Neal seemed almost sad.

"You really aren't enjoying this, are you?" Neal asked. "You're not jealous about me and Elizabeth. You're frustrated you have to be here."

Peter looked down at his food. "I miss my wife," he said. "I miss my home, I miss my dog. You," he said affectionately, "I can't seem to get rid of. Frankly, I don't know how you find the energy. Full day's work, alone time with Elizabeth, big dinner, stakeout, research. How are you not exhausted?"

He felt Neal shift, and then the familiar sensation of Neal's face pressed into the crook of his throat. There it was; push Neal hard enough and he'd trip and show some real damn emotion once in a while. It would be gratifying, if it wasn't so sad sometimes, that Neal had to be told to let go even when he was barely holding on.

"You are exhausted," Peter corrected himself, raising a hand to rub Neal's scalp, just above the hairline. Neal exhaled hard, a sigh of relief. "Okay. I get it. Off the leash. You could stay here tonight and nobody would know."

Neal nodded against his skin; one hand drifted across Peter's thigh, and Peter caught it gently.

"There's some pajamas in my suitcase," he said. "Go."

"I could -- "

"Neal, was I asking your opinion?"

He could feel Neal smile against his skin, a quick kiss at the base of his throat. Neal left his hat on the table and got up, and Peter listened to his footsteps up the spiral staircase until they were deadened by the carpet in the bedroom loft. He finished his steak at his leisure, set the plate back on the room-service cart, put it near the door, and shed the bathrobe before climbing the stairs himself.

Neal was out cold, blankets thrown off, Peter's spare pajama pants riding low on his hips. When Peter climbed into bed he muttered something half-consciously, eyes sliding open.

"You want to sleep?" Peter asked. Neal shook his head, reaching for him. "Ah -- don't even," Peter said, catching his wrists. He pulled them up over Neal's head, pinning him down and kissing him. He kissed hard, maybe a little harder than he meant to, but Neal was still half-asleep and he gave easily.

"Is this what you'd do?" Neal asked, words running together a little. Peter made an inquisitive noise. "If you were paying for me?"

Peter leaned back a little. Hard to know what approach to take in situations like this, but that was why Neal had always been so intriguing.

"I couldn't afford you," he said finally, and then, "No games tonight, Neal."

"But I want..." Neal trailed off, writhing a little. Peter put a hand on his shoulder and he stilled.

"Stay there," Peter said, and nuzzled his throat, mouthing along the lines where his muscles met. "What's this?" he asked, when he caught the red streaks down the side of Neal's chest.

"That's your wife," Neal said, twisting a little. "You should see what I did to her -- "

"I hope to," Peter replied. He pressed his face into Neal's stomach and rested there for a minute, inhaling warm skin and -- perhaps only his imagination -- the smell of Elizabeth on Neal's body.

Fifteen years ago, Neal would have been just his type. Well, he was Peter's type now, but back then a guy like him would also have been completely out of Peter's league. Of course, fifteen years ago Neal was a weedy teenager breaking out of a juvie boot camp, a resourceful kid who'd gone over the fence and hiked sixty miles out of the wilderness to hitch a ride to New York, while Peter was studying theoretical mathematics and shyly hunching over his drink at the gay bars on Friday nights or trying, clumsily, to talk to girls at clubs. Now he had Elizabeth, who loved him and didn't care that he couldn't flirt, and Neal, who wanted to pretend to be his toy, who let him handcuff him and who adored Elizabeth. It was just overwhelming sometimes, this gift.

Neal twitched impatiently and Peter smiled against his skin, ignoring Neal's hands trying to tug him up. Instead he moved lower, pulling down Neal's pajamas and wrapping his hand around the base of Neal's cock.

"Peter," Neal moaned, head tipped back, but there was surprise in his voice as well as arousal. Peter licked his lips and then ran his tongue across the head of Neal's cock, lightly, looking up to gauge his reaction. Of all the things they'd done, they hadn't done this -- Neal too wary of the power balance between them, Peter admittedly a little insecure about his skills. Neal's left arm was still thrown over his head, but his right hand hovered in the air as if he wasn't sure if he was allowed to touch. He took Neal's wrist and pulled it down to the side of his face, then bent and slid his mouth around just the tip of Neal's cock, sucking gently. Neal's hips pushed up, an easy roll, and Peter smiled. Still not quite fully awake, maybe, though well awake enough to grip Peter's hair and tug a little as Peter took him deeper.

Neal moaned again. "Peter -- oh, that's -- " he said, as Peter sucked, encouraged by the broken sounds Neal was making. Peter hummed a little. Neal whimpered.

"Hold still for me," he ordered, pulling back, and Neal relaxed a fraction. "Good. Feels okay?"

"Mmhm," Neal said, and then a grin lit up his face. His thumb rubbed the shell of Peter's ear. "Do that again."

Peter concentrated, hard, trying to remember half a dozen things at once, no teeth and what to do with his tongue and how to keep from choking if he tried to --

He coughed, pulled back, shot Neal an apologetic look. Neal's eyes were half-closed, pupils wide, a flush high on his cheeks. Peter moved up his body, wondering if Neal was even still really awake, and Neal shifted subtly to accommodate them, one hand drifting over Peter's stomach to stroke him clumsily, stroke them both together.

"I'll get better at that," Peter promised.

"You're perfect," Neal slurred, and yeah, he was going to fade out from exhaustion unless -- "Perfect, oh..."

Neal came without much fuss, without any warning, and Peter groaned and pushed into his hand a few more times, losing the rhythm they'd been building, coming with a muffled grunt against Neal's skin. He rolled away, catching his breath. When he looked over at Neal he was completely out, body lax, mumbling something occasionally but obviously already well over into sleep.

Peter went to the bathroom, ran some cold water into his hands and rubbed his face, and then with a silent, guilty apology to the cleaning staff, wet a washcloth and cleaned himself and Neal up. When he climbed into the bed, Neal shifted again, but he calmed when Peter touched his arm, curling a hand around his shoulder. Peter pulled the blankets over them, trying to sleep, but the caffeine was still pinging through his bloodstream, and his concerns about Neal rolled back over him.

Well, if it was insane to talk to a photograph of his wife, it had to be at least a little less insane to talk to his sleeping boyfriend.

"We work hard," Peter said softly, considering how to phrase this, not so much for Neal as for himself. "I know you know this is a good life, but I don't think you get why. I wish..." he broke off as Neal snorted and burrowed deeper into the pillow. "I wish you wanted easier things, things that don't ask so much risk from you. You do good work, now. Don't think I don't appreciate the sacrifice. Maybe I should give you a better reward, but this is the best I got, Neal."

Neal answered with a snore. Peter smiled and relaxed, willing himself to sleep. He must have drifted off eventually, though it felt fitful and brief; at one point he opened his eyes to dim light, awakened by soft sounds of movement. He turned his head and saw Neal, pulling a shirt on.

"What time is it?" he asked groggily, flailing for a clock.

"Almost seven. I gotta go, I have to get back to June's and change and pick up my GPS before work," Neal said. "Go back to sleep."

"Mmf. Had something to tell you," Peter said, groping mentally for what it had been. Something about work.

"It'll keep." Neal sat on the bed and bent over, kissing his throat. Peter arched into it a little and Neal laughed. "Last night was...we should try that again sometime," he said. "You guys should think about silk sheets."

"Already on it," Peter mumbled.

"I'll remind you later that you said that. Sleep," Neal repeated, and stood up, disappearing down the stairs. Peter rolled over again and into the still-warm sheets, dropping back down into deeper slumber.

***

Neal played off his tiredness the next day as a hangover from dinner, which he thought everyone but Jessica probably bought. Trent was suffering too; Andrew, the only one in the office who seemed to have a real sense of humor, took delight in tweaking them both all day long. Neal would have been amused, even appreciative of Andrew's turn for mischief, if he wasn't so damn exhausted.

Things were moving fast, too -- by that afternoon he'd been held at gunpoint, hauled Peter back to the FBI to deal with Jessica and her very big gun, heard from Mozzie that Diana knew about the music box and might have it in her possession, and plotted a totally legal but still pretty perilous mission to break into the CEO's office and rig a remote scanner onto his shredder. He had never been so happy to leave his marketing-genius alias behind at five-thirty, go home, and collapse into his own bed. Peter might claim he worked harder, and he certainly had to put in more effort to achieve legally what Neal could achieve illegally with ease, but this case was wearing on Neal.

He couldn't sleep.

He groaned and sat up, leaning into a shaft of early-evening sunset light. There were art markers in a drawer on his bedside table, and he grabbed a few of them and pulled out a sheet of artist's vellum, propping it on a hardback book from the table. He uncapped a black marker with his teeth and held the cap between his lips, gnawing absently on the edge of it as he worked ink into the vellum, hoping it would let his mind wander.

Everything kept circling back, though, to the following day: the plans for the break-in, whether Peter had managed to coax Kent into saying the magic words that they could re-play to get into his office, wondering if Mozzie had made any headway finding out what Diana's relationship to the music box was. Wondering how Jessica was doing with the knowledge that the following day she'd be put into Witness Protection. Wondering where Clive was, their last spectacular Witness Protection failure.

The end result wasn't pleasing, either mentally or artistically; the drawing looked like a hack-handed comic book character, a man in a suit with harsh black outlines and streaky colors, and he didn't have his fine-point markers with which to do a face. He kept working on it until he'd pretty much ruined it, then shoved it back into the drawer with the markers and flopped back in the bed. The light was gone, but sleep was a long time in coming. When it did, it was fitful.

He woke cranky and impatient, on edge, and was in very little mood that day to tolerate Peter's bookish morality. He tried, because it seemed important to Peter, but there were days in which the old youthful arrogance of his pre-prison life said, You could really mess this place up if you wanted to. Peter picked a bad day to give him a lecture on revenge, and Neal knew he took it with ill grace, but Peter wasn't the one, after all, who had spent fifteen years studying the art of the grift so that he could break into Kent's office. Neal did that; if the FBI wanted to use him they could damn well acknowledge that no upstanding citizen had the skills he had. He felt, obscurely, that by the code of the con, if Jessica wanted to exact revenge on Kent, she should be allowed to.

Right up until it was Peter in the crossfire of that revenge, until it was Peter as well as Kent who was being slowly poisoned by the digitalis Jessica had slipped into his Armagnac.

Suddenly nothing else mattered -- not morality, not revenge, not who was a con or who was an agent. His whole world narrowed beautifully down to a single focus. Find Peter, save Peter. No hesitation, no rules, and nothing short of a bullet would have stopped Neal from getting to Peter -- possibly not even that. Peter was all that mattered.

Peter, who was lying limp and unconscious on the floor of Kent's office, and suddenly so fucking heavy. Neal hoped the security guard had called 911, because if they got down to ground level only for Peter to die in some godforsaken elevator --

"Kent," Peter said, over Neal's babbling that he'd be fine, that he had to stay with him. Neal stared at him for a split second, then shook his head.

"No, Peter, we don't have time," he insisted. What the hell was taking the elevator so long?

"We can't leave him behind," Peter mumbled, eyes shifting in his face, eyes that were tracking nothing, not Neal or the lights of the hallway. Blind. The clock in Neal's head, the clock counting down the minutes to death, ticked faster.

"You are dying, Peter," Neal insisted, because he wasn't going to leave Peter to die in an elevator lobby while he went back for a scumbag murderer in an ugly shirt.

"We don't leave anyone behind," Peter insisted, and he might be blind but he was trying to see Neal, and Neal realized what Peter meant: choose to look after his own interests, or choose to do the right thing.

Stay with Peter and be a murderer by proxy, or go back for Kent and be a good man.

"Son of a bitch," Neal muttered as he ran back and hauled Kent none too gently out to the elevators. Peter was unconscious and why the fuck wasn't the elevator here?

Then it dinged, a normal little sound, and two cops burst through the sliding doors. Neal found himself staring down the barrel of a gun. He held up his hands slowly. Behind the cops were EMTs, and the most important thing was to get Peter on a gurney and not get shot in the process. Though if he did get shot, if that meant Peter survived...

"Digitalis," Neal blurted, as one of the cops hauled him up and away from the -- God, the bodies, please let them not be bodies -- and the EMTs went to work. "They were poisoned. It's digitalis," he said, struggling to be heard over the police officer telling him to step back, telling him to calm down. "You don't understand, they were poisoned!"

The rest of it was a blur. The interminable ride down to ground level, the iron grip of the cop's hand on his arm, one of the EMTs abandoning Peter -- abandoning Peter -- to shine a light in Neal's eyes, ask him if he was all right, if he'd ingested any of the poison. Neal kept shaking his head and insisting they had to be all right, he wasn't hurt, please, just make sure Peter was all right. One of them was radioing for something from backup on the ground floor, and when they left the elevator the biggest needle Neal had seen in a long time was jammed into Peter's chest.

But then Peter's eyes opened, and everything was okay.

They let Neal ride to the hospital in the ambulance with them, but only because Peter flashed his badge and insisted on it. Neal suspected the EMTs just didn't want to waste any time in argument. He tried to call Elizabeth, but she wasn't picking up; a few seconds later Diana texted him to say she'd called Elizabeth already, and Neal needed to stay in Emergency reception to meet her there. He watched them wheel Peter through a secure door and down a hallway, and then he stood staring at the door for about ten minutes, trying to get his breathing under control. Peter had been lucid, he had looked up at Neal and seen him. Peter would be fine.

Believe the con, Caffrey.

By the time Elizabeth arrived, in a pair of jeans and what he recognized as a pajama top, he'd calmed down enough to be useful at least in reassuring her Peter would be okay. She held onto him and trembled, and he was grateful for her, for someone who needed him even momentarily. He didn't even notice Jones and Diana walk in; didn't notice them go to the reception window, until Jones cleared his throat and Neal looked up, releasing Elizabeth.

"They say he's stable," Diana said, touching Elizabeth's arm. "You can go inside if you have an escort. I'll take you in."

"Thank you," Elizabeth said, but Neal felt her hand squeeze his. "Can Neal -- "

"Just family." Diana gave Neal an apologetic look.

"We should talk," Jones said quietly to Neal. "Before someone arrests you."

"Arrests -- " Elizabeth began, looking outraged.

"Mrs. Burke, I got this," Jones said. "We got it."

"Come on," Diana urged, and Neal pulled Elizabeth close, briefly.

"It's fine, I've seen him already," he whispered in her ear. "I'll sneak in later. Go on."

Jones took him up to the hospital cafeteria, bought him a really awful cup of coffee, and sat them down at a table with his notebook in front of him.

"You okay?" he asked, while Neal sipped the awful coffee. Neal nodded. "You want to take me through it?"

"Can I ask why someone wants me arrested?" Neal said.

"We're working it out. LEOs think you were involved because you were there. I need to be able to tell the NYPD how you knew they'd been poisoned and how you got your ass to a secure floor," Jones said. Neal smiled a little.

"Jessica was out for revenge," he said, and the whole story poured out -- how she'd described the symptoms, how he'd stupidly showed her the recorder that could give her access to Kent's office, how he'd found it in her purse and taken off to save Peter without a second thought. He recounted his shouted conversation with the security guard as best he could, while Jones took copious notes, and then how he'd made it into the elevator and pulled the panel out to hardware-hack it.

"Wait, wait," Jones said suddenly, as Neal was explaining the way he'd tugged a wire loose and sparked a bypass of the security system. "So you hotwired an elevator?"

"No, the theory's totally different," Neal said. "With a car you're jump-starting the engine using electrical current. With the elevator, I was using the wire to go around the security panel. It's the difference between picking a lock and rebuilding a door so that the lock is irrelevant."

Jones gave him a narrow look. "But basically, you hotwired an elevator."

Neal rubbed his forehead. "Okay, basically."

"That's pretty awesome," Jones said.

"Is it?" Neal asked wearily.

"Yeah, very. Then what?"

"When it opened on the top floor, I found Peter on the floor in Kent's office and Kent in one of the chairs. I pulled Peter out to the elevators and he made me go back for Kent."

"He made you?" Jones asked.

"Shame is a powerful motivator," Neal replied.

"So that's how you ended up with them outside his office?"

"Pretty much. Then the cops showed up. Are we done?"

"I think so," Jones said, closing his notebook and standing up. "I need to make a report. Come on."

"Can I just..." Neal started to ask if he could just stay here, or stay down in Emergency, but of course he couldn't -- Jones wouldn't leave a felon at large alone in a hospital.

"I'm going to talk to the NYPD. I'll leave you in Agent Barrigan's custody," Jones said, sounding overly formal. Neal looked up at him.

"Agent Barrigan's escorting Mrs. Burke," he said slowly.

"That's right," Jones said. He was smiling again. Neal smiled back.

One brief wrangle with the Emergency desk attendant later, Neal found himself sitting next to Elizabeth in a hard hospital guest chair, Diana standing on the other side of the bed. Beyond the privacy curtain, someone else's heart monitor was beeping; Peter's beat in off-time, unsynched with the other monitor but strong and even. Elizabeth was holding Peter's hand; he was unconscious, skin an unhealthy grey, hair flattened with sweat.

"He's just asleep," Elizabeth said, not looking away from her husband. Neal felt helpless; he couldn't touch Peter, couldn't even touch Elizabeth, not with Diana there. He had to protect them, not just from whatever poison was being flushed from Peter's system but from himself. He had a cover here and he could not blow it, as much as he wanted to.

Elizabeth reached out and took Neal's hand with her free one. He glanced at her, hesitant, before tightening his fingers in hers gratefully -- he didn't know if she understood that he couldn't be the first one to reach out, but either way at least he could have this now. He held on, looking at the bump of Peter's knees under the blanket, the badge on Diana's hip, the railing of the bed, Elizabeth's hand in his, anywhere but Peter's face. After a while, Diana disappeared; she came back pretty quickly, looking regretful.

"They say you can stay tonight if you want," Diana said to Elizabeth, her hands resting on the railing on the other side of Peter's bed. "Neal and I can't."

"I can take Neal home," Elizabeth said.

"No, stay," Neal told her. He looked up at Diana. "Am I in my radius?"

"Got your GPS on?" Diana asked. Neal held up his wrist, showing off the watch. Diana glanced at Peter, let her gaze drift to Elizabeth, and seemed to make a decision. "Where's your tracker?"

"Peter's office."

"Jones debriefed you?"

"Yeah."

Diana nodded. "Okay. You're within two miles. Don't leave your radius. Tomorrow at eight, be at the office. Go home. Sleep."

Neal stood up, but Elizabeth didn't let go of his hand.

"You okay?" she asked.

"I'm fine," he said. "Peter's going to be fine. I'll come back in the morning after I get my tracker on. I need to clear my head, anyway."

She nodded, obviously uncertain. "Are you sure?"

"I won't do anything stupid, I promise," he answered. It was a good promise to make. Doing stupid things was sometimes his first method of self-defense, and he could already tell he was too strung out to go home and sleep, at least for a while. Outside, he said goodbye to Diana and walked a little ways down the street, taking out his phone.

"Caffrey!" Mike Shattuck answered when he called, and Neal could hear noise in the background. "Little late to be making business calls, man."

"I need to talk to you," Neal said. "Where are you?"

"Enright's. You want to come out for drinks?"

Neal considered it. Classless, maybe tasteless, from the outside, going out to a bar while Peter lay grey and unconscious in the hospital. But it was better than going home and trying to paint it out, or pacing like an animal in a cage. He thought Peter would understand.

"Yeah. See you in a while," Neal said, and hailed a cab.

Enright's was busy -- Friday night, the usual crowd of cops in the bar augmented by locals and clubbers looking for somewhere new to try. He caught sight of a couple of familiar faces as he walked in, but before he could greet anyone, he heard Shattuck's voice: "HEY FED! HEY, CAFFREY!"

Neal pushed his way to the end of the bar, where Shattuck was sitting.

"Caffrey," Shattuck said, when he managed to get through the crush of bodies. "How are you, kiddo?"

"Been better," Neal said, wondering how to tell him.

"This is Deke Jackson," Shattuck introduced him to a thickly muscled man -- Neal glanced between them briefly and diagnosed boyfriend. "He's FDNY. Deke, Neal Caffrey, he's Burke's partner."

"Nice to meet you," Deke said.

"Any friend of Shattuck's," Neal said, smiling. Deke grinned back. "Mike, can I grab you for a minute?"

"Sure. Something up? Hey, Peter's not around, is he?"

Neal put a hand on his arm and tugged him off his stool, back a few feet into a quiet corner.

"Something happened, huh?" Shattuck asked. "You wanted to talk?"

"Peter's in the hospital. He's fine," Neal added quickly, as a shadow passed over Shattuck's face. "They're keeping him for observation."

"Shooter?"

"Poison," Neal said. "He was undercover."

"What a pansy-ass way to die," Shattuck pronounced. "They get him?"

"Her. She's in custody."

"Peter gonna be okay?"

"Yeah. They wouldn't let me stay."

"They never do," Shattuck said, and cupped his elbow, studying Neal's face. "Kid, you gonna be okay?"

Neal inhaled and put on his best reassuring smile. It was very good. "I'll be fine. I'm not the one who got his stomach pumped."

Shattuck nodded, face still serious. "Drink?"

"Just a beer," Neal answered, and Shattuck leaned over the bar to get the bartender's attention.

"Get him a Shiner," he said, and the bartender nodded. "On my tab -- kid drinks on me tonight," he added, jerking his thumb at Neal.

"Shattuck, you don't -- "

"It's the rules, Caffrey," Shattuck told him, shoving the beer into his hand. "Shut up and take it."

Neal closed his mouth.

"Gimme your hat," Shattuck ordered.

Neal passed his hat over silently. Shattuck gave him a nod and walked away, disappearing into the crowd. Neal stared after him and then turned to Deke.

"Where's he going with my hat?" he asked. Deke smiled.

"The New York civil servants' informal benevolent fund," he said. "He's passing the hat. It'll pay your tab, buy some flowers, maybe something for Burke's wife if there's some left over. Tonight you're drinking on the NYPD, Caffrey."

"Does everyone here know Peter?"

"Nah. But everyone knows someone it happened to, or it happened to them," Deke said. "Burke's paid in often enough. Time he got some back."

"Yeah, but I haven't," Neal pointed out.

Deke looked amused. "You're his partner. Doesn't matter. Next time they pass the hat, pay in. What goes around comes around."

"I just wanted a beer," Neal said.

"Welcome to the fraternity," Deke told him. Neal was opening his mouth to make some kind of rational, logical objection to this when Sergeant Calhoun appeared.

"Caffrey," she called, pushing through.

He managed to get out, "Hey, Calhoun -- " before she'd wrapped her arms around his shoulders and enclosed him in the kind of bear hug normally reserved for restraining suspects. His arms came up automatically and he curled into it just a little, the solid comfort of it, before she let him go.

"Captain just told me," she said. "You good?"

Neal nodded, feeling pretty unprepared for this situation.

"Burke's gonna be okay?"

"Yeah, he's just -- "

"Good. Someone get your keys?" she asked, nodding at the beer.

"What?" he said, totally lost now.

"Car keys. Someone driving you home?"

He caught on at that point. Any little society had rituals: the office kids with their credit-card roulette and cons with their pickpocket games and now, here, the cops, who expected a man who'd just come close to losing his partner would drink himself unconscious.

"I have cash for a cab," he said.

"Good. Yell if you need me, yeah?" she asked, and was gone again. Neal sat down in the seat Shattuck had vacated and gathered his wits. Okay, he could play that role; he didn't actually have to get noxiously drunk, as long as he always had a drink in his hand.

It was a weird night, and he spent almost an hour of it tense and anticipatory before he figured out that he didn't have to be. Cops came up to him and punched him in the shoulder or slapped him on the back and they all asked after The Fed, like Peter was the only FBI agent in New York. A lot of them asked if his wife was okay; some asked how the Jones kid was coming along or if he could tell Barrigan to get her ass back to the bar once in a while.

Shattuck returned with Neal's hat, stuffed with bills, and counted them out. Better than a hundred bucks, just from random cops paying in. Neal picked out a twenty and held it up, a question on his face.

"Oh, that's McConnelly," Shattuck said, adding the twenty to the stack. "He owed Burke ten bucks anyway. Another beer down here," he called, and replaced Neal's half-empty bottle with a fresh one.

Neal nursed that one through another hour of greetings, stories about Peter from Shattuck, and questions from the others. Eventually the EMTs came off shift; Neal managed to seek out the ones who'd been looking after Peter, and bought them drinks with some of the cash Shattuck shoved into his hand. Either Shattuck or Deke or Calhoun shadowed him, and wherever he went a chair or a bar stool was magically available. Cops he didn't even know told him they were sorry.

He found himself slowly coming down from the day, exhaustion settling in over the wired, quick-heartbeat panic of nearly losing Peter and all that had come after. He wound up back at the end of the bar with Shattuck and Deke, sitting on one of the stools, leaning against Calhoun's shoulder where she stood next to him. She slung an arm around his chest and took his weight effortlessly.

"How you doing, Caffrey?" she asked.

"Tired," he answered. Deke laughed.

"Send him home, Calhoun," Shattuck said.

"Or take him home," Deke added, and Calhoun slugged him in the arm.

"Come on, up," she told Neal, and he let the assumption of drunken stupor go, let her walk him to the door. Out in the cold night air, he leaned back against the wall and took a few deep breaths.

"Tell everyone thanks," he said, as Calhoun flagged down a taxi.

"Part of the job," she answered, flipping the bird as an occupied taxi pulled past. "You might be a Fed, Burke might be a Fed, but you drink here, you're one of us."

"Deke said that. Welcome to the fraternity. You know I'm not though, right?" he asked. She waved for another cab, but it turned at the cross-street. "You know I'm a criminal, Calhoun?"

"Then your balls must be enormous, and cops respect that too," she said. Neal laughed. A cab lurched to a stop in front of them. "In you go."

She held the door and leaned in after him, smiling.

"Listen, Burke matters to us. He brings you here, you must matter to him. Means you matter to us too. You don't get to pick this family, Caffrey. We pick you. Now go sleep it off," she said, and closed the door before he could reply.

"You goin' somewhere or just sitting there on your ass?" the cabbie asked. Neal leaned back and gave him June's address, watching Calhoun as she walked back into the bar and the cab pulled away.

***

Chapter Fourteen

[personal profile] elucreh 2010-11-20 03:24 pm (UTC)(link)
*flails*

I don't...I can't...It was...the whole thing, I loved it already, I loved El teaching Neal about ordinary sex, I loved Jones all impressed by the elevator and being sneaky about custody, I loved what Peter can offer Neal and what he can't, I loved Neal drawing until the art was ruined, I loved it so much already...

and then you broke into the rituals, the ridiculous, simple, important rituals, the formation of community and identity, the ways they take care of their own, and I fell in love with your use all over again.

You always get me with the folklore, Sam, every damn time, dammitall.

[personal profile] elucreh 2010-11-20 03:24 pm (UTC)(link)
MUSE, I meant. Not use. *facepalm*
mathsnerd: ((white collar) wizardry of Mozzie)

[personal profile] mathsnerd 2010-11-20 03:57 pm (UTC)(link)
Right. Real family picks you and doesn't give you up. I'm going to go cry over here now. Don't mind me.

And Mozzie being Overly Mozzie was just too awesome and gets his icon used today.
mathsnerd: ((vorkosigan) hopelessly monosexual)

[personal profile] mathsnerd 2010-11-20 04:23 pm (UTC)(link)
I have the BEST selection of White Collar icons. That one, however, has a special spot in my heart.
tree00faery: (Default)

[personal profile] tree00faery 2010-11-20 04:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Aaaah, this was so excellent! I think my favorite so far. (I loved this episode, too.)

Also, the line "Like a good con man, New York had layers" made me grin. As did the El/Neal adorableness, and Peter getting upset that people think Neal's a prostitute, and Peter finally going down on Neal, and the super adorable scene with the cops at the end. Okay, pretty much the whole thing made me grin. :P
alexiel_neesan: Neal can't go with the Doctor, Peter would be jealous (Doctor Who/White Collar) (Neal can't go with the Doctor)

[personal profile] alexiel_neesan 2010-11-20 05:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Don't mind me. I'll be just sniffling in the corner. Loudly.
alexiel_neesan: Neal can't go with the Doctor, Peter would be jealous (Doctor Who/White Collar) (Neal can't go with the Doctor)

[personal profile] alexiel_neesan 2010-11-21 05:03 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes. You really have a knack to create those incredibly believable moments in time and community. The disconnection Neal is feeling at that moment is not helping with the sniffles.
lizzledpink: (neal caffrey)

[personal profile] lizzledpink 2010-11-20 06:52 pm (UTC)(link)
First: Mozzie Mozzie-ing, and Peter's vaguely pornographic text. /died laughing/

The scene with El was absolutely lovely. I'm such a sucker for Neal/El on its own, like crazy, and now you've given me that a second time and with adorable, utterly sweet sex for the two of them. And then Neal goes and falls asleep in Peter's office... <3 Awwwwwww!

Jones + elevator = :D

Finally, I have so, so much love for the cops right now. That was a stroke of brilliance. Neal finding a secret family within the cops, when Peter's... I'm utterly... Well. It feels like all the cops are cuddling Neal, therefore me. Warm and fuzzies, you know? That's awesome. Passing Neal's hat, and all, it's just... Right. Beyond right. Yay. I had more to say but it all got swept off in a wave of happiness.
msilverstar: (Default)

[personal profile] msilverstar 2010-11-20 07:32 pm (UTC)(link)
I am liking this so much that I almost want to watch the series, just to see how it fits around this story. I'm not a fan of "caper" shows, I like actual plot arcs and characters, so this is much better for me.
trinity_clare: (white collar)

[personal profile] trinity_clare 2010-11-20 09:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Neal in the cops' bar: <33333333333333333
coriana: (Default)

[personal profile] coriana 2010-11-21 01:24 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, Sam. The camaraderie, the fraternity, the family. Oh, my. I love community. I love it more almost than anything else. That last bit almost made me want to be a cop. Oh, Sam.

(Also, Mozzie is my favorite Mozzie that ever there was. Dialed up to 11. "Can I have histrionics?" And THANK YOU for creating a reason for that somewhat awkward June-and-Diana interlude -- that felt so weird and contrived to me in the actual episode, I'm glad you explained why June was playing stupid over stupid bureaucratic paperwork.)

~ c.
coriana: (Default)

[personal profile] coriana 2010-11-21 03:51 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, I am well aware that "Mozzie" is 95% a character that Mozzie performs, and that Neal is aware of it -- I just wasn't thinking of them having explicitly prearranged it in this instance.

~ c.
grey_bard: (Default)

[personal profile] grey_bard 2010-11-21 02:01 am (UTC)(link)
I'm enjoying this story so very much. For a number of reasons, but I'm particularly enjoying Neal finally enjoying the benefits of having a community around him without having to give up himself. And yes, Peter, you are a very lucky man to have them both.
melusina: (White Collar Neal/Peter smooch girlpearl)

[personal profile] melusina 2010-11-21 03:00 am (UTC)(link)
Finally got a chance to catch up on the last few installments - I loved *all* of it (including the dressing porn!). And I really do love the way you're weaving canon into this. . .
ext_348818: Jack Harkness. (Default)

[identity profile] canaana.livejournal.com 2010-11-21 05:01 am (UTC)(link)
Among the many other things in this chapter I love, I really appreciate your treatment of the cops. One of the things so many fanfic writers seem to miss about White Collar is the partner relationship that goes with any kind of law enforcement. You've nailed it here, along with the sense fraternity.
minkrose: (Default)

[personal profile] minkrose 2010-11-21 07:07 am (UTC)(link)
I can't believe I'm the first to catch this! Clearly your sex scenes are distracting.

"More," she said, kissing him roughly, and her jerked hard against her for a moment but then stopped and moved slower again -- "Neal, I'm not going to break."

You need a "he" instead of that first "her."

The scene with El definitely worked! I also liked the NY layers con thing (late, tired, tipsy, sleepy... but wanted to read this before I went to bed). Yay!
j00j: rainbow over east berlin plattenbau apartments (Default)

[personal profile] j00j 2010-11-21 07:51 am (UTC)(link)
I'm really enjoying this!
whoaitslaur: (Default)

[personal profile] whoaitslaur 2010-11-22 02:58 pm (UTC)(link)
I loved seeing Neal do things alone that he usually does with Peter. Elizabeth, the cops... it makes him seem more like a real person and less like an intelligent shadow. Awesome stuff.
blushingflower: (Default)

[personal profile] blushingflower 2010-11-30 07:20 pm (UTC)(link)
I spent half of my workday yesterday absorbed in thinking about this story. You do such a terrific world-building job, not just here but in so much of your fic, and they're always worlds I want to vacation in. This story, like so many of yours, is turning out to be a warm, comforting blanket I can wrap myself in.

Thank you.
princessofgeeks: (Default)

[personal profile] princessofgeeks 2010-12-16 12:32 am (UTC)(link)
okay, now i'm crying. i really should respond to each chapter but i'm reading so fast i can't. thank you. for this story. omg it's so wonderful.
debitha: (White Collar - Tuesday)

[personal profile] debitha 2010-12-20 04:49 pm (UTC)(link)
OMG, Neal playing rent boy to get into the hotel. I died.

I love the NYPD looking after the man with a partner down, regardless of who he is. And I may have teared up a little when Calhoun just walked up and hugged him. (Although that may be a slight fever talking. Whic I also blame for any typos that are sneaking through.)

And awwww, he needs Calhoun to know he's a con. Bless.

[personal profile] maudgonne 2011-02-04 09:24 pm (UTC)(link)
I love your juvie camp backstory for Neal. Have you ever thought about writing out a little bit of that story?

[personal profile] maudgonne 2011-02-05 01:01 am (UTC)(link)
Oh yeah, I guess technically it has been jossed, since Peter in canon doesn't know anything about Neal before he was eighteen. I'm definitely more interested in your world-building than the canon version, so I stay stick with this--not that the opinion of an internet stranger should inform your writing at all, of course. :)

I would love to read it as its own story, too--just reading your version of a teenage Neal being locked up for the first time sounds really compelling, however he ends up escaping.

[personal profile] maudgonne 2011-02-07 11:31 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, I would love to read that if you do decide to write it out!

[identity profile] aliannesecunda.livejournal.com 2011-04-17 03:03 am (UTC)(link)
So, again, not like I watch White Collar, but I'm reading through this (well done on me being able to follow it, by the by) and that last bit with Neal at the bar and the cop fraternity made me cry. I don't know why it hit home so much, but it did, so thanks and I thought you should know :)
vickita: Vicki the Biker Chick (Default)

[personal profile] vickita 2011-05-30 04:52 pm (UTC)(link)
Aw, you made me cry. *g* It's easy to do today. Stupid hormones. Stupid holiday, gettin' me where I live...
droolfangrrl: (Default)

[personal profile] droolfangrrl 2011-06-13 08:57 am (UTC)(link)
rereading this, yum!

fyi: "and her jerked hard against her for a moment but then stopped and moved slower again"

did you mean he not her there?