It may have something to do with catching Neal Caffrey two, too many, times. Or perhaps, it’s because FBI agent, Peter Burke truly wants to believe that people change. A bet he isn’t exactly willing or ready to place all his money into.
Can’t blame him though, Neal has never been his winning horse.
(Just the dark one who ends up winning all the races when he is betting on another.)
“Two miles? That’s really generous of you and the FBI, Peter.”
Neal smiles that charming smile, eyes bright at the sight of that anklet in his hands, like this is exactly the compromise he wants. This arrangement of a two miles radius that has him circling about.
It doesn’t sit well but Peter just snaps on the tracker with a grimace, and calls it a victory for now.
“There you go, all pretty now, Neal.”
They say, keep your friends close, your enemies closer.
And Neal is many things, just not friend or foe. So what is he to do? Keep him closest to see which he turns out to be? Peter doesn’t think he’ll have the patience, not when Neal probably won’t ever confront him.
Not when he himself isn’t about to ask him why he wants to stay.
You have everything but you always want some more.
Flight is a simple process.
Of jumping, and soaring, and falling until you have your feet planted firmly on the ground. You leap off the penthouse balcony, freefalling forty-three floors with the rest of New York coming up at you. You pull the cord, tension dips, but landing is a whole other art all together, sometimes it’s perfect, other times, the wind catches at just the wrong angle and you are stumbling the last few feet.
This time, it isn’t the latter.
You hit the ground running with an ease that’s only ever hard to feign if you don’t actually have.
The Degas makes it’s switch between the two of you easily, like you’ve been doing this your whole life. (And you have been, since you passed Peter that bright green sucker in front of that bank, you’ve marked yourself for a criminal until he’s found Kate for you when you couldn’t. Did you a favour for you when he shouldn’t.)
But it’s him, and you don’t tell Mozzie you glanced back behind your shoulder to see him walk into that penthouse before you jumped. Your heart is still beating hard, like you’ve run too many miles just to come back to the starting line, right into his line of vision.
Still you know exactly what this means. It means he’s actively searching for you and you can’t let go of those two miles that is keeping you tied to him, like a lapdog sitting quietly at his feet with the leash dangling in his hands. Old Neal Caffrey would’ve been disappointed, you remind yourself, and that, it keeps you grounded with a wretched feeling growing inside of you.
Like you shouldn’t when you still do.
He opens the door to the holding room and you look up at him with a tilt of your hat.
“Took you awhile, Peter.”
Your forgery holding tightly in his hands.
All the while, your heart beats just a little louder.
Oh, it’s unforgivable but it’s in your nature to take and take and never look back.
Trust isn’t hard to come by. But this game of cat and mouse has worn through and through. Now, it’s a simple show of hands, your cards for my cards, one at a time until we’re left with one last trick up our crisp suit sleeves.
It’s a warning, a loud and pleading please don’t do anything stupid I can’t save you from.
“I know better, I’ve got a life here.”
It’s a promise, one where he may or may not have his fingers crossed behind his back. But that’s a given, always has been, he’s a conman for god’s sakes.
“That’s never stopped you before.”
“Trust me, Peter. This time, I won’t try a thing.”
It’s not entirely fair, but it’s not like they haven’t been warned, far beforehand. He has his blue-blue eyes and a slick silver tongue he doesn’t mind showing off. This has been rigged from the start.
Peter narrows his eyes up at him as the anklet comes off, a silent beep as the light switches from green to red. (It’s called possession but you don’t know it yet, a dangerous voice seems to be saying in his head.) He tries to get a last reading on him but it’s a futile try at best.
“Just behave, Neal.”
The tracker is still warm from the press of Neal’s bare skin against the inside of the device.
That familiar hat trick, that easy grin and Neal is gone from the van. Peter puts the anklet down, rubs a thumb through his palm, all traces of Neal’s warmth already flitting from his hands.
And then, it’s gone.
No one tells them that roots have the tendency to dig in too deep the same way people always come back.
“Yes… your anklet definitely does.”
(But still, you can’t let go.)
And neither of you can speak your mind when it matters the most.