On a cold, dark, midwinter Thursday morning, Peter didn't show up for work. In all the months that Neal had been working with Peter, he'd taken exactly one day off, and that was because Elizabeth had actually handcuffed him to the bed until his fever went down. She'd called Neal, sweet as pie, before she'd even called the Bureau, letting him know that Peter wouldn't be picking him up that day.
But it was 7:35, five minutes past Neal's normal pickup time, and Peter wasn't there. Traffic, he told himself. Traffic was a bitch in the snow.
At 7:36 he called Peter's phone. It went right to voicemail. No ring.
At 7:45, he called El. She answered, sounding harried. "Neal? What's going on?"
"Peter hasn't showed yet." Neal slowly unstuck and re-stuck a Post-it from a pad on the table in front of him. "Was he running late?"
"Oh, hon, I'm at a conference in Boston. I have no idea." She paused and Neal could hear keys clacking in the background. She was probably checking her email. "I talked to him last night before dinner." She paused again. "Call the office and call me right back. This isn't like him."
"You got it," Neal said, already twitching with impatience. "Full disclosure."
"You don't get that too often with the FBI" El said, choking out a tense laugh. "Call me."
Neal hung up and dialed the office, barely taking the phone away from his face.
Two rings, then: "This is Jones."
"Jones, hey, it's Neal." Neal noticed that he was pacing and forced himself into a steady stroll.
"Caffrey, shit, we almost forgot about you." Neal heard shuffling papers and a rush of fabric. "Stay put. I'm coming to get you."
"Peter -- " Neal couldn't finish; the question died in his throat.
"Agent Burke is missing. I'll fill you in when I get there. We have an agent from the Boston office on the way to notify Burke's wife, so please don't contact her." Jones hung up without another word.
Missing. The bottom fell out of Neal's stomach. He'd known. He'd known something was wrong, but he didn't want to hear it. He called El back, but there was no answer. He guessed that the agent was already there, but he left a message anyway.
Neal decided to wait outside for Jones. Pacing his apartment was going to drive him insane and people-watching always relaxed him. Jones pulled up in a FBI-issue SUV in a surprisingly short time. "I'm not supposed to give you any details," he said apologetically. "Hughes will fill you in at the office."
They rode in silence for the rest of the excruciating trip. Jones led him right into one of the empty conference rooms.
Hughes came in and sat down across from Neal. He looked exhausted. Nodding briefly at him, Hughes said, "Caffrey, I need you to go over the case you and Agent Burke were working on."
Neal nodded. He should have expected the suspect treatment. Hughes' mild tone and the fact that Neal wasn't cuffed were all the concessions he was going to get. "We don't really have any big cases. The last thing we were working on was an investigation into a rash of art thefts across the city. The paintings weren't immensely valuable, but there were enough of them to net someone a nice, steady income."
"And this wasn't a big case?" Hughes asked, like he didn't know already. Neal didn't mind playing along if it meant that he could get Hughes' cooperation when he went to look for Peter. He'd give him an hour. Tops.
"Most of the work had been done by junior agents. The crimes were so small that they were bordering on petty and they didn't seem to have any obvious connection. Someone in the Bureau took notice and got a lot of flunkies to put in a whole lot of research time, then handed it off to Peter." Neal twirled a pen and tapped it on the table. "We asked around at a few of the galleries involved, figured out the connection, cross-referenced the research we had on hand, and came up with a few theories of our own."
"What was the connection?" Hughes flipped a page in the slim file he was holding.
"Joe Rabisi." Neal noticed the small squint of satisfaction that flashed in Hughes' eyes as he put the file down.
"Mob," Hughes said. "Makes sense."
"Yeah." Neal stopped twirling the pen and used it to sketch an increasingly messy and frantic series of arrows. "They have the manpower and the patience to get a steady revenue stream from that kind of larceny. Not like a real art thief who's out looking for the next big hit."
"So you handed the case off to Organized Crimes?" Hughes asked, his voice steady.
"Yep," Neal said. "It was on Peter's caseload for less than three days."
Hughes let out a relieved sigh. "Well, Caffrey, your statement matches Agent Burke's reports." He nodded at Neal, his grim smile not quite touching his eyes. "It would be damned difficult for us if you were a suspect."
"Tell me what happened," Neal said. "I want all the details." He gritted his teeth, trying to summon up the right kind of subservience. "Please."
"Burke dropped you off. Left to go home. At 8:32 P.M., he activated the emergency GPS signal on his phone. At 8:43, a team of agents found his phone in an alley behind a bakery on 18th." Hughes shook his head at Neal's unfinished question. "It's not a mob joint. We checked." He ticked off the list on his fingers. "Not only his phone, but his gun, his badge, and the alternate concealed GPS alert hidden in a pen. No prints, no DNA, no sign of a struggle." Hughes shook his head. "Everything was in a nice, neat pile underneath a tarp."
"Professionals," Neal said slowly, turning the scenario over in his mind. "Acting on the word of the boss. If it was some goon, they would have roughed him up."
"But why did they take Agent Burke?" Hughes asked steadily, staring at Neal. Neal froze. Everything was so clear now.
"Not to stop the investigation," Neal said. "Because they had to know he wasn't going to be on the case long enough. That's a waste of time. And leaving his belongings was a message. They wanted your attention."
"Our attention. They don't want Agent Burke," Hughes said. "They want what he has and they don't."
This was why Neal had rules about not getting involved. Except he broke them so damned often that they didn't mean much anymore. "I know," he said. "They want me."
Hughes nodded. "My guess is they want to diversify their interests. The mafia isn't what they used to be, not since the Russians and the Japanese have been moving in on their turf."
"Fine," Neal said. "They want me? They can have me."
"Despite what you see on television, the United States government has a lot of strict rules about how we treat prisoners in our care. Particularly model prisoners like yourself." He grimaced. "I couldn't send you out as bait on official business without, at the very least, a ream of paperwork and a judge. And you can imagine the press." He rubbed his forehead. "We could go in the usual way, of course."
"Guns blazing, guys in Kevlar?" Neal asked, shaking his head. "Rabisi's not dumb enough to hold Peter anywhere the Feds know about."
"Exactly. There aren't a lot of good options. And in a few hours, Organized Crimes is going to be all over this case." Hughes looked Neal steadily in the eyes. "I won't have time to babysit you. I hope you don't consider going after Peter on your own."
Neal smiled. He was being given the choice to be bait or not. That was more than he expected from the FBI. "I understand, sir."
"If you were to escape, we'd have to go find you. You're a valuable resource to this department." Hughes looked off into the distance. "Of course, with an agent missing, it would take some time for me to get a team together. A few hours, at least."
He'd get a head start, then. He could either lead the FBI to wherever Peter was being held, or help him escape somehow.
"Well, if I can't be any help," Neal said, rising from his chair. "I'd best lay low at my apartment." He shook Hughes' hand. "I can take a cab back. No need to bother Agent Jones again."
Neal hailed a cab, left another message for El, and one for Moz, who was out of town on some bizarre and unnamed business, then settled back to come up with a plan.
Getting the tracker off was easy; both Neal and Peter knew that if Neal really wanted to be gone, he would be. A little piece of electronics wasn't going to hold Neal Caffrey in a two-and-a-half mile radius unless it was in his own best interest.
As soon as that was done, he took a seam ripper and carefully (silently begging June's forgiveness and apologizing to Mr. Armani) opened a seam in the lining of his trench coat. He dropped his phone down between the lining and the outer material, adjusting it so the bulk wasn't too obvious. Even if they found the phone, he was hoping that it wouldn't be until he got to wherever Peter was. Neal had no doubt that the FBI was tracking the GPS chip in his phone; they would need to find him and Peter somehow.
Neal quickly sewed up the coat, dressed, and stepped outside. A thought hit him. I could escape. Really escape. He could leave; he could go to Rome or Paris or Shanghai and live the good life until someone tracked him down again. But there wouldn't be anyone to follow him if he ran, because Peter would be dead, and that pretty much took all the fun out of running.
The entire thought took less than a second before Neal dismissed it. Peter needed him. That was all there was to it.
Neal headed toward the subway, intending to go to one of Rabisi's hangouts, but he was scarcely past the neighboring building when a sleek, unobtrusive black sedan pulled up next to him. A large, uniformed driver with a pug nose and a thick scar twisting around his knuckles got out and said, "Mr. Caffrey? I'm going to ask you to get in the car." He walked -- smoothly, Neal noted, graceful for his size -- over to the rear door and opened it.
"Since you asked so nicely," Neal said, tipping his hat as he walked around the front of the car to the open door. He slid inside, hoping that there weren't going to be any guns in his face when he got in there. Not that these guys weren't already armed and dangerous, but Neal hated those stupid things waving under his nose. Guns made people unpredictable, which made Neal nervous.
There weren't any guns waiting for him. Just a small, neat, well-dressed man with graying hair and laugh lines around his eyes. "Mr. Caffrey," he said, holding out a glass of brandy. "I'm so pleased to finally meet you."
"You certainly went through a lot of trouble," Neal said, accepting the glass and raising it in a salute. "Setting up those jobs, kidnapping Agent Burke." He inclined his head slightly. "I'm flattered."
"You should be," Rabisi snorted. "I don't go to these lengths for just anybody." He patted Neal on the shoulder. "I knew you didn't need us to make money, but you need an organization that can protect you from the Feds. And I need a man with your talents, Mr. Caffrey. We're making a nice little profit with our art reselling business, but we could be doing a lot better if we had your help."
"I'm doing just fine with the Feds," Neal spread his hands and leaned back. "I'm just looking for my friend."
"I wonder what your 'friend' is going to say when he sees you're missing that jewelry he bought you," Rabisi said, nodding at Neal's ankle.
"He'll be happy to get back home to his wife. Any assistance I give to your organization is predicated on Agent Burke being tucked safe and sound in his bed by tomorrow." Neal said, just the slightest hint of threat in his voice.
"Can't say my boys haven't been having fun with him, but he's alive," Rabisi said. He pulled a long, thick piece of black cloth from the briefcase on the floor in front of him. "Now, Mr. Caffrey, you'll understand that we have to take precautions."
"Of course." Neal sat still and didn't fight while Rabisi blindfolded him. Calm. Confident. Not subservient.
He couldn't follow the twists and turns of the sedan, and didn't even bother to try. They hadn't searched his jacket and the phone would, hopefully, lead the FBI right to them. Wherever they were, they'd left Manhattan. Neal could hear the tunnel traffic, then the silence of the freeway.
They didn't take his blindfold off until he was inside the building. It wasn't a warehouse, like in the movies. It was actually an abandoned business, likely in some anonymous office park. They led him past rows of empty cubicles to a heavy, locked door.
"These places are a dime a dozen, since the economy crashed," Rabisi said. "Cheap real estate, already wired for high-speed Internet, and we can do whatever renovations we want to make the rooms more...secure." Rabisi unlocked the door. "You can stay in here with your friend until I get back from my business meeting."
He led Neal into an empty room. It had been a conference room, probably, or a computer lab. It had been stripped bare. There was nothing in there except ugly blue wall-to-wall carpeting and Peter, in a heap, curled on his side in the far corner.
Peter was a mass of bloodstained khaki and bruised skin. They'd taken his button-down shirt off, leaving only his thin white undershirt. Neal shuddered, fighting the urge to wheel around and kill everyone else in the room. People thought he was just a thief and never got his hands dirty. Bullshit. He didn't like killing people. It gave him fucking nightmares and made a hell of a mess, but for what they'd done to Peter? It just might be worth it.
Peter turned his head. His arms were awkwardly twisted; his hands probably bound behind his back. None of his injuries looked fatal, just painful. Bruises on his face, a cut lip, a gash along his cheek. Peter rolled back slightly and went white, gasping in pain. Dislocated shoulder, Neal thought. I am going to kill them all with my bare hands.
"Peter," Neal said, crossing the room as quickly as he could. "Hey, hey. It's okay." Neal motioned to one of the goons. "Cut him loose. Now." When the thug hesitated, Neal snapped, "Your boss wants me, not him. I'm here and he's not going anywhere fast. Cut him loose, bring him some water, and get a goddamned doctor down here. Or I walk and your boss loses three months' worth of work."
"You don't leave the room," the goon grunted. "You got that?" He went over to Peter and cut the ties with a big utility knife he'd had hanging from his belt. "I'll be back with water. No doctor. Doc doesn't see anybody but family."
"Fine." Neal gently sat Peter up and said, "Tell me you're okay. Mostly okay." He patted Peter gently all over, looking for signs of internal bleeding, smoothing Peter's hair away from his face, and almost crying from relief. Peter was alive; they were together. They could get out of this. Something in Neal's chest let go and he breathed deeply for the first time all day.
"Fags," the goon sneered. "I should have known, pretty face like that."
Neal didn't correct him; any false assumptions on the part of the enemy gave you a position of power. "I'm out of your league, sunshine," he answered. "Now go get me that water."
The goon left, spitting on the floor as he walked out.
"You're here," Peter whispered. "Stupid."
"Yell at me later," Neal said, arranging Peter's good arm at his side and positioning himself over the bad one. "Actually, you can yell at me now, because I'm going to put your shoulder back. You ready?"
"Go," Peter said, his eyes fluttering shut. "Don't...don't let me pass out."
Neal answered by shoving Peter's shoulder as hard as he could back into the socket. Thankfully, mercifully, Peter did pass out, almost immediately, so Neal didn't have to listen to him scream.
Some other mob guy came in with a small paper cup of water. He looked down at Peter, still and white on the floor. "He dead?"
"No," Neal said, crouching over Peter, putting his body between him and the door. "Now get out."
"Pushy fag," the guys said, but he put the cup of water on the floor and left.
Neal patted Peter's face as hard as he dared. He really needed Peter to be awake for the escaping part and the initial shock of pain from his shoulder should be receding into a duller ache pretty soon. Neal had purposely dislocated his own shoulder to escape from a Russian jail once. It wasn't something he'd care to repeat, but he was intimately familiar with the recovery process. "Peter," he hissed. "Come on, wake up."
Shit, shit, shit; he looked really bad. Neal hadn't come this far to fail. He thought of El's face. He thought about working for the mob. He thought about going to jail. He thought about not having anyone to catch him.
Peter's eyes twitched, and then opened. "Christ, Caffrey. Don't do that again."
"Don't get kidnapped by the mob again," Neal said, in a rush of relief, pressing his forehead against Peter's. "Seriously, don't." He pressed a kiss to Peter's mouth quickly, without thinking. Peter's lips were dry and tasted like blood, but they were gorgeously warm and alive.
"Um," Neal said.
"Are Rabisi's men watching the room?" Peter asked, a crease furrowing his brow. "Was that for them?"
"No," Neal said quietly.
"Oh." Peter smiled and coughed out a wheezing laugh. "You're taking this honesty thing pretty seriously now, aren't you?"
"You're a bad influence on me." Neal got up and dusted off his pants. They'd deal with the fallout later. Or ignore it. Ignoring was good.
"So what's the plan?" Peter asked, and then winced as he slowly sat up. "I hope it doesn't involve fighting our way out. Because I don't think I'm going to be much good at hand-to-hand right now."
"I'll think of something," Neal said, checking the perimeters of the room. No windows, no surveillance, center of the building, first floor, likely two guards outside--
"I'm sorry, what?" Peter was staring at him incredulously. "You rescued me without a plan?"
"I didn't know where you were!" Neal said. "Can we talk about this later?"
"I'm pretty sure that's not rescuing," Peter said, leaning against the wall, his eyes closed. "Because getting both of us caught is a bad rescue."
"Can you not criticize my technique? I'm thinking." Neal drummed his fingers on the wall. "I'm going to cooperate with them until I see an out. That's the basic plan."
"Wait," Peter said, frowning. "Where's your bracelet? The tracker?" He opened his eyes and pushed himself to standing. "Neal, tell me you didn't cut it just to get me. Please."
Neal smiled. "Now why would I do that? If I left on my own, I could be halfway to Cairo by now."
"You could be halfway to Cairo anyway," Peter said, looking Neal straight in the eyes. "You don't have to be here."
"Cairo is terrible this time of year," Neal shuddered elaborately, looking away. "So crowded, and all those tourists."
Peter opened his mouth to say something else, but whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the dull thud-thud-thud of distant gunfire and muffled shouts.
Neal pressed his ear to the door just in time to hear the guards running away to deal with whatever was going on. "Guards are gone," he hissed to Peter. "Get ready to run."
Peter limped forward, clutching his ribs. "I'm going to have exactly one adrenaline rush before I collapse. Better make it count." He leaned on Neal's shoulder. "And, Neal?"
"Yeah?" Neal asked, trying to make out the shouts as they grew closer.
"Thanks for rescuing me," Peter said, stepping closer and pressing a kiss to the corner of Neal's mouth.
Neal was still standing there in shock, his mouth hanging open while Peter was saying, "You should see your face, Caffrey," when the door burst open next to them to the glorious, heavenly shouts of, "FBI! On the floor!"
For so many reasons, Neal had never been so grateful in his entire life to see the Feds.
After that, the government machine took over, and Neal was happy to just go with the flow. Rabisi and his men were busted, Peter was whisked away to the hospital, Neal was patted on the back and immediately fitted with another tracker, and Hughes agreed to drive Neal to the hospital himself. "I already called Burke's wife," he said, as they were getting in the car. "She's on her way to the hospital and she'll give you a ride home." He looked at Neal. "You have some leniency on your tracker for the next 24 hours. You can't go out of the city, but you're not going to have another agent sitting on you while Burke recovers. You've earned that, at least."
"Thank you," Neal said, and meant it. He couldn't really handle some nameless Fed following him around right now.
Hughes' badge got Neal up to Peter's floor amazingly fast, but a nurse politely blocked him from the room. "Sorry," she said. "The doctor is looking him over. And he needs his rest."
Hughes said, "Tell Agent Burke that the Bureau sends their best wishes for a speedy recovery." He nodded down the hall, where El was rushing toward them, wearing old sweats, with her hair pulled back and tears streaking her face. "I'll leave her in your hands, Neal." He shook Neal's hand and left, pausing to stop El with a comforting hand on her shoulder. She nodded at whatever he said, then ran full-force at Neal, wrapping her arms around his waist.
"Oh, Neal, she said, sobbing into his shoulder. "Thank you. Thank you so much."
"He's okay," Neal said, rubbing her back. "He'll be okay. Bumps and bruises."
"I know; I saw him for a few minutes before the doctor went in." She looked up at Neal, and damn if she wasn't gorgeous through all those tears, with no makeup. Neal felt his heart squeeze. Peter was so lucky. They were both so lucky.
El frowned. "You're hurt," she said, touching his face. "There's blood on your mouth."
Neal reached up and touched the side of his mouth. "It's not mine," he said, puzzled. "I didn't get hurt."
"Huh," El said, raising her eyebrows. "Interesting."
"What?" Neal asked, grabbing a tissue from the nurse's station and dabbing at his face.
"Peter was the only one who was hurt. And his mouth was bleeding." El gave him a significant look and handed him a wet wipe that she'd fished out of her purse.
Neal took it from her and wiped his face slowly, trying to think of the right words, but there weren't any smooth words that could fix this. "I kissed him," he blurted out. El deserved nothing but his honesty. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean--"
"Oh, shut up," she said, smiling. "Of course you meant it. It's okay, really." She pulled a mirror out of her bag, sat down in the waiting room, and started fixing her hair.
"It's...okay?" Neal sat down next to her.
"I've been sharing him with you for years. I'm used to it." El carefully applied some lip balm, pursing her lips in the mirror.
Neal didn't really have a good response to that. "It'll never happen again," he tried.
El laughed, snapped the mirror shut, and gave him a look. "Of course it will. Don't be ridiculous." She leaned over and rested her head on Neal's shoulder. "I know my husband," she said. "And I trust you."
"I'm confused," Neal said slowly, looking down at her.
"Boys," she sighed. "Honestly."
Before Neal could puzzle out what she was saying, because he couldn't dare hope that she was saying what he thought she was saying, the nurse came out and called, "Mrs. Burke? You can see your husband now."
El jumped up and squeezed Neal's hand. "I'll be right back," she said.
Neal watched her run into Peter's room, her face shining. He was suddenly swamped with exhaustion, his body aching and his head filled with rocks. Nothing made sense right now; he needed sleep and food and...space. Time. Time to think things through.
He was almost asleep when El came back out, about 20 minutes later.
"Hey, sleepyhead," she said, shaking him lightly on the shoulder. She jerked her thumb toward the room. "He's out too. You guys had a hell of a day, huh?"
Neal rubbed his eyes. "Yeah," he said. "Can you give me a ride to June's?"
"You got it, hon," she said. "They're letting Peter out when he wakes up. He'd be out now, but they figure he needs the rest."
They spent most of the ride in silence, Neal nodding off occasionally in the passenger seat. When he got up to his apartment, he collapsed on the bed, not even bothering to undress, and passed out.
Neal woke to the sound of a ringing phone. Ringing and ringing. He fumbled for the bedside table. The clock showed that he'd been out for nearly 12 hours. "Hello?"
"Neal?" It was El. "I need you to do me a favor."
"Is it Peter? Is he okay?" Neal asked, sitting up.
"He's fine, but ugh, sometimes I hate owning my own business." She sounded stressed. "I have to go back to freaking Boston, if you can believe it. It's this huge contract; I can't pass it up and I already missed a day to get my bid together. If it wasn't so much money -- if it wasn't seriously huge, huge money, -- I wouldn't leave him, but--"
"I got it," Neal said, already grabbing fresh clothes from the wardrobe. "Let me take a shower and I'll be over for babysitting duty."
"Thank you," she gushed. "You are the best." She paused. "Hey, Neal?"
"You can kiss him more if you want," she said, and he could hear the laughter in her voice. "As long as you do it again when I get back."
Neal froze, but he could feel a smile slowly spreading across his face. "Elizabeth, you are a rare woman. Have I ever told you that?"
She laughed. "You just take good care of him while I'm gone, okay?"
"Okay," he said, but she'd already hung up.
By the time he got to the house, El was dashing out the door, a carry-on bag in her hand, waving at his cab to stay. "I'm stealing your cab so I can make the early flight," she said, kissing him quickly on the cheek. "Soup's in the fridge, don't buy him beer, meds every six hours, you can stay the night. Bye!"
Neal opened the car door for her and kissed her goodbye on the mouth, just a quick peck. She pulled back, laughing in surprise and he winked at her. "Safe travels."
"I'll see you on Monday," she called, waving.
He waved after her, standing outside until the cab was out of sight.
When he got inside the house, he could hear the TV on in the living room. "Neal?" Peter yelled.
"Yep," Neal called back. He hung up his coat and hat and went into the living room. "How are you feeling?"
Peter was on the couch, blankets bunched around his waist, looking a lot livelier than he had the last time Neal saw him. He had the soft, slightly unfocused gaze of someone on the really good drugs. "Do you know how old I am?" Peter demanded.
Neal smiled. "To the minute," he said.
"I am forty-five years old. Forty. Five." Peter pointed at Neal as he eased himself up to a sitting position. "I am middle-aged."
"You have good genes," Neal said, smiling.
"Look who's talking," Peter said. "Nobody would buy that you're over thirty."
"Most people don't know that I'm over thirty." Neal sat next to Peter.
"The point is," Peter said, "I do not need a babysitter. I am perfectly capable of caring for myself."
"I can see that," Neal said, picking up the bag of Doritos in front of Peter. "Tasty and nutritious." He put the bag down, reached over for the remote and flicked off the TV. "I told El that I kissed you," he said in a rush.
"We're going to talk about this now?" Peter grabbed the remote back and flicked the TV on again. He sat, quietly watching whatever basketball game was on for a long few minutes, until he said, "I know. Do you think we don't talk about this stuff?"
"I don't have a lot of first-hand experience of marriage. Or honesty," Neal admitted.
"I'm not some rich mark you're luring away from her husband so you can get to her Matisse," Peter said. "I don't do clandestine. I don't do --" he waved the remote around expressively. "Dirty things."
Neal opened his mouth, but Peter cut him off. "Not what I meant and you know it."
"She said I could kiss you again," Neal said, which was really not what he meant to say. He was going to back off, make Peter some soup, and forget about this stupid crush.
Peter laughed, wincing and wrapping an arm around his ribs. "I'm surprised she didn't ask you to wait until she got home. She has quite the thing for you."
"She asked me to uh, repeat the performance," Neal admitted. Peter smirked back at him.
Sometimes, life handed you things. Sometimes it was a flawless Renoir sketch in its original notebook, crumbling in someone's attic. Sometimes it was a jail cell. And sometimes, it was everything you ever wanted.
Neal moved over until his thigh was resting next to Peter's. He smiled his very, very best smile, parting his lips slightly, and placed his hand on Peter's thigh.
"I'm immune to your charms," Peter muttered, but he leaned in and kissed Neal anyway.
Neal tried to be careful because Peter was still hurt, but it was so hard not to grab, to pull himself closer. He stroked the side of Peter's face, running his fingers up and down the stubble of his chin and skating gently along his neck.
Peter angled his mouth to get closer and grabbed a fistful of Neal's shirt. He broke off, gasping a little.
"Are you okay?" Neal asked, frowning. "Did I hurt you?"
"Yeah. No." Peter shook his head. "I'm okay. It doesn't hurt. It just, it's been a long time since there's been anyone but El. It's...surprisingly intense."
"I was in prison for almost four years," Neal squeezed Peter's thigh. "Think how it feels for me."
"Please don't remind me of prison sex right now," Peter said, covering his eyes. "I can't take it."
"Can you take this?" Neal asked, sliding to the floor and positioning himself between Peter's knees.
Peter froze. He didn't say anything, but Neal could see his throat working. "Yeah," he said, his voice rough and hoarse. "I...wow. I wish El was here to see this. You look...wow."
"She can watch when she gets back," Neal promised, gratified by the way Peter's eyes unfocused at that. "I promise."
Neal very gently eased Peter's sweatpants down past his thighs, making sure that Peter's arm was in a good position and that he was well supported. "Don't move," he whispered.
Peter didn't answer; he just leaned back and closed his eyes.
Neal ran his hands up and down Peter's chest and stomach, feeling the strength of him. Neal envied that; he acknowledged his own good looks as one of his strengths, a weapon in his arsenal, but he'd always been lacking in sheer bulk. Peter wasn't a huge guy, but he was solid. Neal liked that.
Neal bent and pressed his face to the front of Peter's boxers, mouthing his cock. Peter jerked and groaned in pain.
"I said not to move," Neal warned. "Or I'm going to stop."
"We can't have that," Peter said. "Please. Don't stop."
Neal lowered his head and brought both his hands slowly up Peter's thighs, raking his nails gently over the sensitive skin. Peter hissed and his cock strained the front of his boxers, but he didn't move. Carefully, Neal eased Peter's cock out of his shorts and damn, he couldn't wait anymore, he couldn't hold back. He swallowed Peter's cock down, his mouth watering, both hands anchored to Peter's hips so he couldn't move and hurt himself. Peter moaned again, but it was pure pleasure this time. Neal sucked him slow and hard, wanting to make it good, so good that Peter wouldn't even think of changing his mind about this.
"I thought," Peter rasped. "I always imagined you'd be really good."
Neal's cock jerked in his pants at that. Peter had imagined-- Neal paused to grind his hand down on his own pants, moaning around Peter's cock. He unzipped his pants and palmed himself as he found his rhythm again, sucking Peter and grinding against his own hand. He couldn't get the perfect angle, but it didn't matter; it had been so damn long. It was fast and messy, and he was losing track of whether or not Peter was moving, because Neal couldn't stop moving, couldn't stop this, and then he was coming hard, stars behind his eyes, making loud and wet noises around Peter's cock. Peter scrabbled at Neal's hair, saying, "I'm going to; I'm going to--" like Neal was going to pull off, like Neal was some blushing virgin.
Neal responded to that by opening his throat and sinking down as hard and fast as he could, and then Peter was coming in hot spurts, shaking under his hands, his breath hissing out at the end in a way that wasn't all pleasure.
"Careful," Neal said, wiping at his mouth. "Did I hurt you?"
"Feels like you killed me," Peter said, his head falling back against the couch. "In a good way." He rolled his head to the side to look at Neal. "What do you say we go upstairs, I take some more happy pills, and then you can call El and give her all the sordid details."
"How sordid are we talking here?" Neal asked as he helped Peter off the couch, draping his arm over his shoulders. "And how detailed?"
Peter just laughed. "You just wait until you see what you've gotten yourself into, Caffrey."
"I can't wait," Neal said, pressing a kiss to Peter's temple. "I really can't."