“That’s it for me,” Elizabeth said, covering her mouth as she yawned and stood up.
“Bed time?” Peter asked. He wasn’t tired -- should have been, but wasn’t -- but he’d go to bed with her if that was where she was headed. He’d follow her anywhere.
“For me,” Elizabeth repeated. “You stay up until the end if you want to.”
“I’d be the only one,” Peter said ruefully. Next to him on the couch, legs curled up so that his socked feet were tucked against Peter’s thigh, Neal was asleep.
“Sleeping beauty.” Elizabeth said it fondly, and bent to kiss Neal’s forehead. He slept on peacefully, unmoving. The kiss she then pressed to Peter’s lips was lingering to the point where Peter nearly stood up to follow her, but Neal shifted and murmured something and by the time Peter looked up again, Elizabeth was gone.
There was another half hour left of the movie they’d been watching, but Peter found that watching Neal sleep was more compelling. He didn’t turn off the TV because he figured that would wake Neal, and right at that moment, Peter didn’t want anything to change. They were all warm and safe and under the same roof, and that was good enough for him.
When the movie finally ended and the credits started to roll, Neal, right on cue, stirred. Peter moved his hand from his thigh to rest on top of Neal’s foot -- two inches at most. Such a small distance it hardly counted. “Shh,” he said softly.
But Neal didn’t do as he was told -- when did he ever? -- and opened his eyes slowly, gaze coming to focus on Peter’s face.
“I was trying not to wake you.” Peter patted Neal’s foot gently. “Go back to sleep if you want. It’s okay.”
Neal’s eyes studied Peter’s; he took his time doing it, probably because he was half asleep. At least, that’s what Peter tried to tell himself. There was a warm, unguarded, open vulnerability in Neal’s gaze that made Peter’s knees weak.
“What?” Peter said. The solid, slender line of Neal’s foot against his palm was reassuring, comfortable, like all the moments in his life up to now had brought him here, right here. Like the universe was some giant puzzle and somehow the fit of Neal’s ankle to the ball of Peter’s thumb was the click when everything fell into place.
Neal exhaled through his nose; it wasn’t quite a snort. “You’re looking at me.”
“I look at you all the time,” Peter said, his voice unexpectedly rough. “You want me to stop now?” It wasn’t a real question, because he didn’t plan on stopping.
“No.” Neal lifted his chin and tilted his head to the side, just a little bit. “El go to bed?”
“You should go, too. It’s late.”
“I’m good.” The truth was, Peter was caught there as if the weight of Neal’s feet in his lap was a hundred times greater than it actually was. “I wasn’t just looking at you.”
It was an admission he shouldn’t have made, even though Neal probably knew it already. “No?” Neal asked.
“I was watching you.”
“And there’s a difference?” Their voices were hushed in a way that had nothing to do with disturbing Elizabeth’s sleep.
“You know there is.” Peter slid his thumb a little bit higher, to the edge of Neal’s sock, so he could feel the warmth of Neal’s skin.
Neal blinked like a cat, one corner of his mouth lifting in a half smile. His eyes were soft, affectionate. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think...”
“What?” Peter asked, when it seemed Neal wasn’t going to finish his thought.
“I’d think your true colors were showing,” Neal said slowly.
“They always are,” Peter said. He moved his hand higher up Neal’s leg, fingers gliding along to the back of Neal’s calf. Neal was slender, perfectly fit, the muscle solid in the curve of Peter’s hand. “You think this is me hiding?” There was no way Neal thought that; they knew each other too well.
Neal shook his head slightly. He looked, suddenly, spooked, like Peter had surprised him. “I don’t,” he said, uncertainty flickering in his eyes. “Peter? What are you --”
He knew exactly what Neal was asking. “You know. Neal.”
Sitting up, Neal curled himself toward Peter until their faces were six inches apart, no more. Neal’s eyes were an amazing shade of blue that had the ability to seem cold or warm depending on mood and lighting, but right then they were bright with hope. “What about El?” he asked softly.
“El’s been pushing for this for months,” Peter said.
“And... you? What’s this going to do to us?”
Peter cupped Neal’s face in his hand and smiled. “Let’s find out,” he said, and leaned in to press his lips to Neal’s.