Peter can remember the first time Neal went off his tracker for a case. Everyone was nervous except Neal, presumably because Neal was the only one who knew for certain he wouldn't run. Peter can remember, too, how it felt to take a leap of faith (in retrospect, more like a small step of faith) and how triumphant he felt when his faith was justified.
Each time the tracker comes off, it gets easier. No matter what else is going on between them, every time Neal is in the wind and chooses to come back, it satisfies something in Peter. Maybe it shouldn't be as enjoyable as it is, knowing Neal will heel when Peter whistles, but Peter never claimed to be perfect.
"So," Neal says, leaning back in the conference-room chair and putting his feet up on the table, "pen or watch this time? You know the pen's my favorite."
"Watch," Peter tells him, sweeping Neal's feet off the table with a hand. Neal slams forward in the chair but manages to make it look graceful. He winks at the probie who's standing uncertainly in the doorway, holding the key to his anklet. "Don't wink at her," Peter orders, taking the key from her.
Neal lifts his left leg and pulls his knee to his chest, hooking his heel on the edge of the chair so Peter doesn't have to crouch to unlock the anklet. When he straightens and sets the tracker on the table, Neal's holding a flat case in his hand, picked out of Peter's pocket. He pops it open and slings the watch around his left wrist, then pauses.
"Dominic Connors is left-handed," he announces, and swaps the watch over to his right wrist.
"Can you fake left-handed?" Peter asks.
"Sure. The watch'll remind me," Neal says. "Cake walk, Peter, I got this covered."
"All right, then," Peter answers, and Neal frowns. "What?"
"No be-careful speech?" he asks.
"Do you need it?"
"No, but I like it. It's my lucky charm. Like prayer before a ball game."
"Have you ever played a ball game in your life?" Peter asks.
"For all you know, I was a Pop Warner all-star pitcher."
"Pop Warner is football," Peter points out. Neal just grins, because odds are good Neal knows that, and is just screwing with him. Before Neal can reply, Peter bends close so that he's got good eye contact and says, "Backup's two minutes away in the van, but I strongly doubt anyone in the office is armed. Still, don't mess around. Be careful."
Neal looks up at him, and now his eyes are serious. "I promise," he says.
It's an easy job. And, Peter hopes, a short one.
Neal is posing as Dominic Connors, a corporate fixer with shady connections who's just been hired as a consultant by a monolithic, market-dominating tech firm. Peter gets the parallels, because he's willing to admit that the FBI can also be monolithic sometimes, and just hopes Neal won't be too vocal about them.
Peter has no idea why Neal decided Dominic should be left-handed. He only runs the sting; Neal's the one who has to front it. Neal gets to spend eight hours socializing with all of his new colleagues, and Peter gets to spend eight hours in the van, listening in. Honestly, Peter isn't sure he'd trade places.
Neal's job is to figure out who's ripping off the company and how, which involves a lot of cozying up to a lot of different people. If Peter didn't know Neal as well as he does, he'd be worried about how good Neal is at kissing ass. He doesn't like the idea that Neal thinks of him like the suckers Neal is conning, but he knows Neal enough to be confident that's not the case.
By the end of the day, Neal has a dinner date with the head of accounting (female), a power lunch date with one of the marketing executives (male), the personal phone number of the CEO's assistant (male), and an invitation to the opera with the head of product development (female).
"Don't worry, Peter, opera's not till next week." Neal's voice over the watch is loud but a little staticky; he has it too close to his mouth again. Peter's going to have to train him out of that sooner or later. "We will totally have this solved before you have to surveil me through Carmen."
"I like Carmen," Peter protests to the van at large. Jones raises an eyebrow.
Neal's anklet is controlled by the US Marshals, and the software that tracks it in realtime is different from the proprietary FBI software that tracks his GPS-enabled watch and receives its audio broadcast. That night Peter pulls up the anklet software out of habit, sitting in bed with the laptop, waiting for Elizabeth to finish brushing her teeth. It's early yet, but she likes to read before sleeping and he likes to be wherever she is, and anyway it's a good quiet time to catch up on work.
The anklet hasn't moved, of course; it's not even on, a bright red dot at Federal Plaza showing its last known location before being deactivated. Peter closes the program and opens the other one, the one tracking Neal's watch.
The map comes up first, a series of lines and dots following Neal's path throughout the day. A second later, however, the speakers crackle and blare to life as well. The GPS and audio transmitter are tied together, and Neal must have forgotten to deactivate the mic before going home for the day. Not like him to be so sloppy.
It's a little invasive, perhaps, listening down the wire, but you never know what you might hear, and Peter is curious enough about Neal's extracurricular activities to call it a gray area. The GPS places him at June's; the sound of running water, creak of a faucet tap, and then a soft swallowing sound means Neal is in the kitchen, maybe the bathroom, getting a glass of water. Neal hasn't just forgotten to turn the watch off -- he hasn't even taken it off his wrist.
Usually, Peter knows, Neal leaves it on the bedside table, and the unspoken understanding is that Peter won't call him on taking the watch off as long as Neal doesn't do anything stupid like leave the watch at home and go out on a crime spree somewhere.
The swallowing stops; Peter hears the click of the glass on the counter. In the bathroom of his own home, a strange parallel, the water shuts off and he can hear El putting her toothbrush in the rack.
"Honey, did you say something?" she asks, coming into the bedroom. She's wearing a yellow nightshirt with little red hearts across the front, bare legs tantalizing in the dim room.
"No, it's the speakers..." Peter fumbles with the sound control, going for mute and somehow raising the volume instead. "Sorry, it's Neal's GPS, he forgot to turn the mic off."
"What is that, a book?" she asks, climbing onto the bed. There's a rustling noise over the speakers.
"I think it's blankets. Bedtime for con men too," Peter says with an indulgent grin. "Good for him, I -- "
He breaks off because there's another sound, one neither of them can identify if Elizabeth's confused look is anything to go by. It's like something's being pulled off the microphone, or drawn across it, and then...
Elizabeth puts her hand to her mouth. Peter's still puzzling out the noises, until he hears a sharp inhale from Neal.
"Is he..." he starts, looking at Elizabeth. "I mean, is that what I think...?"
"Well, it's not a sound I hear often, but..." she smiles at him.
"I should call him," Peter says, reaching for his phone. "Let him know his mic's still on."
Elizabeth catches his wrist before he gets very far. There's a soft slap from the laptop, skin on skin.
"I don't suppose there's video," she asks, still smiling.
"El, that's not funny," Peter replies. "Also, no."
"Shame. Well, he's pretty, honey, don't tell me you haven't noticed," she adds, when he frowns at her. She lets go of his wrist, but he's distracted now, and he doesn't reach for the phone. Neal grunts, which is something Peter's never heard. Neal likes to pretend his very existence is effortless; he'd never make a noise like that in front of other people.
Peter pictures it, Neal with those ridiculous silk sleep pants pushed down around his thighs, his right hand on his dick, the watch gleaming on his wrist. Neal is pretty, and Peter's not immune, much as he wishes he were.
Elizabeth tugs on Peter's arm and he settles back into the pillows, giving her a questioning look. Neal, over the speakers, says uh and then yeah and then stops making sense, just makes sound.
El's hand slides over his stomach and under the waistband of his pyjamas, stroking his cock. She smiles up at him when she finds him already half-hard, and then kisses his cheek.
"Jesus, El," he manages. Neal's making soft, uninhibited noises on the mic. This is fucked up, this is so fucked up.
But not actually illegal, a little voice in his head points out. The watch is a bug. It's not the first time Peter's heard wire of people having sex, but it's the first time it's...
Well, it's Neal, and that changes everything.
He can hear Neal's fingers on his own skin, the rough slide of the watch's mic against his wrist, the increasing speed of his breath. Neal moans and Peter just about loses control of the laptop as he bucks into Elizabeth's touch. She pushes it away and straddles his thigh, hand still working his cock, but they can kiss easier like this. Neal moans again.
"He's vocal," Elizabeth says into Peter's mouth. "Think he likes to talk?"
"Hmm?" Peter himself is not up for much discussion, the dissonance between Neal's rhythmic breathing and El's conversation shorting out most of his brain.
"When he's with someone else, I mean," Elizabeth says in his ear, and Peter pulls her up against him, biting down on her lip when he comes.
Neal's moans are faster now, higher and more desperate. He's obviously close; Elizabeth brushes Peter's hand away when he tries to hitch her nightshirt up, curls up against his chest and just listens as Neal suddenly goes silent and breathy and then --
"Peter," Neal says. Low, steady, just a bare edge of lust. "Peter," and Peter's pretty sure Neal is coming.
Neal's breathing evens out slowly, and there's a noise like fabric rubbing on the mic. Peter hitches Elizabeth up along his body just slightly and this time she doesn't stop him when he touches her. This is familiar, the short whine in the back of her throat, the feel of her riding his fingers -- he loves to make her come like this, when he's not distracted and she's pressed against him, leaning into him, hips hitching against his hand. She buries her face in his shoulder as she comes.
A soft huff from the laptop's speakers indicates Neal is, if not asleep, very close to.
"Well," Elizabeth says finally. "That was interesting."
Peter laughs, mostly amused, a little awkward. Elizabeth traces aimless patterns on his chest with a fingertip.
"What do you think about it?" she asks.
"I don't know," he says, hoping she's not actually going to bring up the fact that he just came while listening to his partner -- realistically, his best friend -- jerk off while thinking about him. "I guess pretending this didn't happen -- "
"Before you finish that sentence," she says, raising her finger to press it to his lips. "Were you recording that?"
The watch transmits live, but there's a recording program on the transmission, and audio files are automatically dumped to Peter's server space every hour. Peter fumbles for the laptop, and Elizabeth laughs as she tumbles off his lap so that he can transfer the last half hour of recording to a password-protected file and lock it down. When he's done securing the recording -- nobody else should hear that, if only because Neal belongs to Peter and it's nobody else's business -- he leans back, relaxing. Elizabeth curls up under his arm.
"Save a copy to the hard drive," she says around a yawn.
Normally he'd object, or at least question, but he's already hidden a copy in a file on the desktop, so he just murmurs, "All right," and lowers the screen, switching the computer to sleep mode.
The room seems unusually silent, all of a sudden, without Neal's sleeping breath in it.
Neal doesn't make mistakes.
Occasionally, he acts without sufficient information and it looks like a mistake, but Peter knows that when Neal's in possession of all the facts he doesn't make mistakes. Poor life choices, perhaps, but not actual mistakes. Neal is careful and incredibly intelligent and always, always deliberate. He is not the sort of man who jerks off still wearing a watch that transmits sound, unless he intends to do it.
Neal did that on purpose. To what end, Peter has no idea, but he's going to nip it in the bud, whatever it is.
"Nice performance you put on last night," Peter says, as Neal gets into the car the following morning.
"I'm not a fan of radio, but I try to work with what I have," Neal replies coolly, which means yeah: that was not in any way an accident. Peter adjusts his grip on the steering wheel.
"How'd you time it so well?" he asks.
"I know you think I'm a slacker, but really I work very hard," Neal says reproachfully. "I keep telling you that as much as you learn about me, I learn about you. You always check my tracker around nine."
"What, do you have me bugged?"
Neal scoffs. "I interrogated your wife."
"Who heard your little show last night, by the way," Peter says. Neal looks pleased. "What exactly were you hoping to gain by all that?"
Neal is quiet for a while. "How long did you listen?"
"All the way to the end."
"Oh." Neal shrugs. "Just messing with you."
But Neal doesn't play games for no reason, either, and certainly not where something this unguarded and intimate is concerned.
Neal is right-handed, or at least he favors it, ambidextrous though he might be. So putting the watch on his right hand brought the mic closer to -- well, to the action, as it were. Which means Neal was planning this since he swapped the watch over to his right wrist, yesterday morning. He knew what time Peter would be listening. He arranged this, for Peter at least, probably for Elizabeth too.
That explains things. Clearly asking what Neal hoped for with his stunt was the wrong question. Peter rarely asks the wrong question, and never for very long.
"You should come over for dinner tonight," Peter says. Neal gives him a sharp, wary look. "Elizabeth's curious to see if you're a talker when you've got someone else in the room."
There's a suspiciously timed cough from Neal.
"Unless your interests are more narrowly focused," Peter says carefully. "In which case, maybe not."
"I'm not following," Neal says. He is following, Peter can tell. He's just not believing.
"I don't cheat on my wife," Peter tells him bluntly. "We come as a pair."
"That's not what I meant -- you know what I meant," Peter corrects hastily.
"I think I do," Neal replies, after a while. "I mean, I knew you'd be listening. I didn't have odds she would be. Seemed like a safer plan, using your name. I'm not interested in breaking up a matched set. Very much the reverse."
"So dinner tonight, then. Okay," Peter says.
The case they're on wraps even quicker than expected; Neal's power lunch with the marketing executive gives them everything they need. It's almost ridiculous, really. The poor bastard gets two martinis in and just spills it all, because "You look like you, you know, really get it."
Neal just strings him along, mostly listening, occasionally interjecting sympathetic noises when the man tells him about his debt issues and how he's totally going to pay the company back someday. At one point Neal, who is playing the part to perfection, actually says, "Man, that's so wrong," and Peter is pretty sure Jones is going to make that his new ringtone.
So they're relaxed from closing the case and done by five-thirty. Neal's sitting at his desk tossing that stupid rubber-band ball up and down, waiting, when Peter walks out of his office with Neal's anklet in one hand.
"Uh oh, time to saddle up," Neal tells Diana, who rolls her eyes. Peter just jerks his head for Neal to follow him along.
"So you gonna put that back on me, or what?" Neal asks, as they get into the car.
"Not yet," Peter answers, tossing the anklet carelessly into the cup holder. "What, you don't like the watch?"
"I love the watch. I can take it off when I shower," Neal replies. "Plus it has other uses."
Peter just grins and keeps his eyes on the road.
Elizabeth is home when they arrive, but apparently only just; she's hanging up her coat and stepping out of her heels as they edge through the door behind her.
"Hello, my boys," she says, kissing Peter and then turning to Neal, knocking his hat off with a flick of her fingers. Peter catches it and sets it on the hall table. "Kinky little exhibitionist," Elizabeth says, and kisses Neal on the cheek. Neal looks, for once, completely at a loss.
"Well, we encourage audience participation," he says, just a beat too late. Off his game, Peter decides. Just as well. El takes Neal's hand and undoes the watch from his wrist.
"Honey, how do you work this thing?" she asks. Peter takes it from her and checks it; the mic is switched off. Another flick of a button and the GPS goes dark too. He sets it on the catch-all table inside the front door.
Now nobody knows where Neal is, except for him and Elizabeth.
"Are we seriously going to go through the charade of dinner?" Neal asks. Elizabeth raises her eyebrows at Peter. "Well, either I'm about to get a lecture on inappropriate behavior, or -- "
He breaks off into a kiss Peter didn't even plan, didn't know he was about to instigate until it was happening. But there you have it -- he's kissing Neal Caffrey, and Neal's pressed up against him like he's trying to crawl inside his shirt.
"Door number two," Neal says, not even pulling back at all. "Exciting."
"You have no idea," Elizabeth murmurs, taking his hand. She tugs, and Neal reluctantly disengages; Peter follows them up the stairs, already working his tie off.
Elizabeth, step by step, is doing the same for Neal -- the jacket of his suit discarded halfway up, tie dangling over the top of the banister, shirt and undershirt just outside the door. Peter tosses his shirt on top of Neal's and closes the bedroom door behind them, circling around Elizabeth to unzip her dress from the back. Neal's struggling out of his shoes and socks. By the time Peter's helped Elizabeth undress, Neal is naked, entirely naked, not even the tracker on his ankle.
Peter still has his pants on, and there's a good reason for that. His cuffs are in one pocket, keys in the other one. He casually sets the keys on the bedside table, slipping the cuffs into the palm of one hand as he takes his pants off.
Neal is staring at Elizabeth, an odd expression on his face; it's possible he's thinking of Kate, or it's possible he just hasn't seen a naked woman in years.
"Hi," Elizabeth says, kissing him, and Neal's whole body goes rigid, hands flexing at his sides. Peter estimates he has about two seconds before Neal remembers he has arms, so he grasps Neal's hands and has the cuffs on him, pinning his wrists to the small of his back, before he knows what's happening. Neal jerks back, startled.
"What -- " he says, twisting, but Peter holds him, hands still wrapped around Neal's wrists. "Oh, hey there," he adds, when Peter leans over his shoulder to smirk. "And your wife calls me kinky?"
Peter tugs him backwards gently. Neal stumbles, off-balance, and Peter catches him around the chest, holding him up. Neal struggles for a moment, trying to get back onto his feet, and then --
There it is. His body goes lax, and Peter takes all of Neal's weight, propping him up. Elizabeth is watching, a small smile on her face.
"You know it's illegal to broadcast obscenity," Peter says in Neal's ear.
"What are you going to do, punish me?" Neal asks.
"I always feel the punishment should fit the crime," Peter replies. Elizabeth can see that he's up to something, and her smile widens a little. "Hon, can you pass me a tie?"
"That's not going to sting very much," Neal observes.
"That's not why I want it," Peter answers, and moves Neal to sit on the edge of the bed, settling himself behind him. Neal's fingers flex against Peter's thigh, groping. Elizabeth presents him with a tie from the closet -- his lucky tie, very funny El -- and Peter loops it around Neal's head, over his eyes, knotting it easily in the back.
"Okay, slightly worried now," Neal says. There is real concern in his voice, however light he's trying to keep things.
"Don't be," Elizabeth says, adjusting the makeshift blindfold under the guise of stroking Neal's hair. "Nothing to be afraid of, Neal."
Neal inhales once, twice, like he's testing he can still breathe. "If I asked you to take the handcuffs off, would you?"
"Yes," Peter says. "Are you asking?"
Neal considers it, with another few deep breaths.
"No," he says. "Just warn me if you're going to hurt me."
Peter wonders, idly, who made Neal quite so cautious, and whether he can get away with killing them.
"We're not going to hurt you," Elizabeth insists, cupping Neal's face. "At all."
"Well, I don't mind a little -- "
"We mind," Peter says. "It's not our thing. You want that, you're going to have to go somewhere else for it."
"So why...?" Neal turns, unseeing, trying to at least face Peter. Peter edges back and goes with the turn, pushing Neal's shoulder down until he's lying on his side on the bed -- perhaps not as comfortably as he could be, given his arms are behind him. But he isn't complaining, either.
Elizabeth looks at Peter and he beckons her to the bed; she mouths oh as understanding dawns, and sheds her panties on the way. She crawls up over Peter and kisses him, loudly enough for Neal to hear it.
"Oh, you cheats," Neal says, because he gets it too: they're going to make him lie there, bound and blindfolded, so that now he's the one who has to listen.
Peter, however, is too busy sucking a kiss to Elizabeth's throat to reply, one hand on her breast, one on her hip to help her ease down. He loves his wife and he loves the way she moves, and if he's never had another man in his bed, another man listening now in a sort of awed silence, well, it's Neal.
Perhaps they're a little theatrical for him, but he knows the way El moans when he thrusts just right, and he's never been averse to making noise. Especially when she digs her fingers into his hips and lets him get a hand between them --
Neal is so quiet Peter wonders if he's still breathing, but he hasn't got a lot of time to check because Elizabeth is saying Peter, Peter the way Neal did, and when she tightens around him he comes along with her. She's tense for just a few seconds before she collapses onto his chest and sighs, satisfied.
He looks over to Neal and sees his head tipped back, muscles in his jaw clenching, chest rising and falling slowly. Elizabeth gives Peter a wicked grin and shifts over -- Neal flinches briefly when she touches his hip to turn him onto his back, but that's the only reaction until she wraps her fingers around his cock and goes down on him, no warning, surprise!
Neal's whole body arches.
"Oh, God -- fuck," Neal manages, and turns his head blindly in Peter's direction. "Take the cuffs off," he says, in a voice Peter's never heard before from Neal. It's oddly raw. "Please, Peter, take off the cuffs -- "
"Okay, okay," Peter says. Elizabeth hasn't stopped sucking Neal's cock, looks like she doesn't ever want to. Peter leans across Neal to retrieve the keys from the bedside table and then tugs him up to half-sitting, chests together, one arm around his body, the other unlocking the handcuffs. Not an easy task, but he manages, and as soon as one of the bracelets is free Neal wraps his arm around Peter's shoulders, hanging on. The metal is warm where it dangles against Peter's back.
With his other hand Neal tugs the tie off his eyes -- wide and dazed -- and then reaches down to stroke Elizabeth's hair. He's still clinging to Peter for balance, panting into his shoulder. The edge of the cuff on his wrist scrapes the nape of Peter's neck.
"Elizabeth," Neal breathes. "Elizabeth, it's been -- I haven't, I can't -- " he grunts and stiffens against Peter, almost throttling him with his arm, and Peter watches his wife gentle Neal through his orgasm, sees her swallow. He has to swallow himself against the dryness in his throat.
Neal relaxes by degrees, leaning into Peter, nuzzling at his collarbone. Peter eases them both back down onto the bed, and Elizabeth slides up Neal's body, tucking her head under his chin. Neal lays an arm across her waist, holding her on top of him securely.
"Well, as plans go," Neal says finally, "this was a lot more successful than I expected."
"What exactly did you expect?" Peter asks.
"A couple of awkward looks and for you to never, ever bring it up," Neal admits. He untangles his arm from Peter's shoulders, offering him the wrist with the cuff still on it. Peter laughs and unlocks it, and Neal tosses the cuffs down to lie with the tie on the floor. "Figured it was worth a shot, though. Besides, it was hot."
"Peter saved the recording," Elizabeth murmurs into Neal's throat. "We'll play it back for you some time."
"Kinky little voyeur," Neal tells Peter.
"Hey, she asked," Peter replies. He takes stock of everything, slowly. He can feel a raw spot on the back of his neck where Neal might even have drawn blood.
And he's hungry.
"You want some dinner?" he asks, pushing himself up on an elbow. Elizabeth laughs. Neal gives him a dry smile and nods. Peter climbs over them to get off the bed, then helps Elizabeth to her feet and reaches back to do the same for Neal. Neal stumbles into him, accidental-on-purpose, and kisses the corner of his jaw.
"Anytime you want a show," he offers, which is a little sad, because Neal sounds like he thinks he's just going to be their playtoy.
"Nah," Peter says, and Neal goes tense all over again. "I prefer the hands-on approach."
Elizabeth, already dressed and in the doorway, turns and laughs. Neal relaxes, raising his head just in time to catch the underwear she throws at him.
They eat reheated leftovers, half-dressed, and Neal and Peter re-enact the afternoon's action for Elizabeth between bites. By the time they're done, Neal looks antsy, almost anxious; when Peter finally gathers up the plates, Neal says, "I should go."
Elizabeth, who always knows the right thing to do, slides off her chair and sideways into Neal's lap, curling an arm over his shoulders.
"No," she says, giving him an earnest look. "You should stay."
She turns to Peter, Neal following her gaze. Peter absorbs the image -- two dark heads of hair, two pairs of blue eyes on him -- and smiles.
"The luckiest guy," he says to himself, as he carries the plates to the kitchen. And when he comes back, Neal's still there.