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50 Things (Bits and Pieces remix)

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/Lauren Cruz did not like Neal Caffrey. No way, no how, no chance. She'd done her thesis on him, yes, but because she wanted to stop other people like him, not because she was a fan of his work. No matter how often Neal laughingly taunted her with claims of hero-worship. She did not admire his style (which was out-of-date and inappropriate for the office), his skill with women (he was pretty, not Casanova), or his intelligence - because he was the enemy. He wasn't funny, or sweet, or cute. He was a con man./ (Five Things, 01)

*
five things Lauren Cruz didn't like about Neal Caffrey

1. his charm

Diana was practically gushing when she talked about Neal - it was petty, perhaps, to dislike a man purely because a woman Lauren might consider attractive seemed to more than like him, but he was a criminal, for crying out loud, and Diana was a lesbian.

"- and I'd love to read your thesis once it's finished," Diana said, finally, smiling.

"Thank you for your assistance - you've been very helpful," Lauren said, knowing she sounded cold, and knowing Diana would misunderstand. "I'm sorry I can't stay for dinner; I'm very busy."

2. his good looks

"It's a curse I was born with," Neal said, shrugging, making Lauren want to slap him for being so dismissive of nature having provided him with the kind of face women would throw themselves at him for; she'd been raised not to think of herself as ugly, but also to believe that everything came at a price, that there always was a price to pay for everything - and yet there was Neal, never having paid for anything at all, complaining (even if he didn't mean it, of course).

3. his compliments

He never used stock-phrases; whenever he complimented someone, he made it sound sincere and original and flattering - that last bit was the worst, of course; on a rational level, she knew he couldn't possibly mean it, and yet on a purely emotional level, he made her want to smile every time he told her she looked beautiful.

4. the way he looked at Peter sometimes

Like he owned Peter, instead of the other way around.

Like nobody else mattered - like Peter was the only real thing in the world and the rest of them were just background noise, less important, less interesting, less real.

Like he was in love.

5. the way Peter looked back sometimes

Like he loved Neal back - 'as a friend,' she tried to keep adding in her mind, unsuccessfully.

*

/Diana'd told Jones fantastic stories about the con artist who'd ordered pizza for the agents trailing him with all of their favorite toppings. And the time he'd thrown a surprise party for the team who'd been chasing him through Wales. And the notes he'd left for Peter, hidden in the weave of the newspaper delivered to his house. (Brilliant, she'd said, and fun. Peter's crazy about him.)/ (Five Things, 02)

*
five things Diana Lancing believed about Neal Caffrey

1. that he was perfect for Peter

" - smart, funny and did I mention drop-dead gorgeous?"

"I'm a married man," Peter said, which was not at all the same as saying 'I'm not interested', let alone 'I'm not interested in men that way'.

"Of course, sir."

2. that Peter would catch him

"Four years." Peter could be a cheerful drunk, Diana knew, but tonight, he wasn't.

3. that he would catch Peter

"It's crazy," Lauren said.

"Unusual," Jones more or less agreed - a little more less than more, perhaps, Diana judged; he hero-worshiped Peter in a completely straight, man-to-man kind of way.

"True love," Diana said.

4. that he was a romantic

"Shall I compare Peter to a summer's day?" Neal sighed.

Diana grinned. "You mean he gets you all hot and bothered? Tell me something I don't know."

"I love him and he hates me - I am suffering."

"You love him and he loves you - you're both being idiots."

Neal looked offended. Diana just smiled.

5. that it was a pity he hadn't been born a woman

Christy looked good in a suit; Diana knew she didn't look bad in it herself, really, but there was just something about a woman in a classic suit wearing a hat and a fedora that got to her nowadays.

"Anything you want to tell me about, Dee?" Christy let the handcuffs dangle off her fingers - long and elegant fingers, they were, not unlike Neal's, perhaps, although of course Diana wasn't at all thinking about him at a time like this.

(Neal would use handcuffs on Peter at least once, she thought; something about justice and fairness and Peter needing to stop being in control of himself all the time - and then she was the one being handcuffed, Christy's warm body pressed against hers, and she finally stopped thinking about Neal.)

*

/Lauren thought that sometimes Peter's affection clouded his judgement, that he shouldn't be defending Neal's actions to her./ (Five Things, 01)

*
five things Peter Burke believed about Neal Caffrey

1. that Diana had been right about him being smart, good-looking and sexy

"I talked to Diana about your new case today," Elizabeth said, and she was wearing one of those things that were a lot like wearing nothing at all, except that he needed to get it off her before there's be any sex (her rule, not his; he suspected she knew what it did to him, to touch her and yet not touch her). "He sounds like quite the catch."

"He's got nothing on you." Which was wrong, of course; Neal had quite a lot on Elizabeth, such as where she lived and when she'd started dating Peter and what kind of flowers/jewelry/chocolate she liked, but he didn't know all that at the time.

She made a sound that was half-groan and half-moan as he fumbled with what he hoped was the knot that would enable him to get her flimsy something-or-other off her without ripping anything.

"I bet he'd be a lot better at that. Clever fingers and all that." She smiled as she said it.

(She also smiled when she scolded him for another expensive and now ripped item of clothing.)

2. that Diana had been wrong about him being perfect for Peter

Peter was married; he might have business looking at other people, or putting handcuffs on them, but never more than that.

3. that Peter'd catch him and feel good about himself afterwards

"Diana said you might want me to use these on you," Elizabeth said, face neutral as she held up a pair of handcuffs. Peter wondered what else Diana might have told her, what he might have told Diana the night before, when she'd proposed they go for a drink and he'd said 'yes'.

"Please."

She sighed and shook her head, dropping the handcuffs on the nightstand. "Oh, honey."

4. that he'd catch Peter and make Peter feel good about it

He did. In one sense it took him close to ten years; in another sense, it had taken him no time at all.

5. that he'd always meant well

It was tempting to dismiss Neal's story about his first con as just a story, something he'd made up to score some sympathy points with Jones - who Peter knew had fought hard to get where he was now, like Lauren had, and like Peter had, too, in some ways (he'd had it easy, he thought sometimes).

On the other hand, Neal had to know the story was a classic, and that Peter liked classics, and that Peter knew Neal knew Peter liked classics.

Still, "You don't really want to hear about that," Neal said airily when Peter asked him about his youth - nothing about living on welfare, just a general, perfectly neutral question.

"All right," Peter said.

*

/"Peter tell you to apologize?" And his voice was silky, he was moving closer to her, like a predator - she wanted to move away but reminded herself that she was carrying a firearm, and Neal was basically a glorified gigolo. "He give you some talk about assumptions, and what they make you?" He didn't touch her. Just stepped close enough that every inch of her exposed skin buzzed with anticipation. "An ass, Agent Cruz. It makes you an ass." The title had definitely lost whatever shine it had left. Neal walked away and she closed her eyes. Agent Lauren Maria Cruz, she told herself: your mama would not be proud of you right now./ (Five Things, 01)

*
five things Mama Cruz taught her daughter

1. to never trust men who talked smooth and smiled a lot

"There's this new restaurant where they serve a great paella," Neal said, toying with one of Lauren's pens, smiling and relaxed and obviously expecting her to ask him for details and possibly an invitation.

"I'm trying to work," she said.

"I'm distracting you." Neal smiled, as if she'd complimented him. "Sorry."

"You're not - " she started saying, before she caught herself.

Neal looked at her expectantly. "I'm not distracting you?" Clearly, if she answered in the affirmative, he'd stick around until he drove her mad, or until Peter wanted him for something.

She was grateful Jones came in just then, wearing a new tie and a new shirt - or so Neal asserted, looking proud and delighted and like it had been all his doing, which it surely hadn't been; Jones wasn't the kind of person to pay any attention to someone like Neal.

2. to trust her gut feeling

Neal was a criminal. It made sense that any system he'd claim inside knowledge of would be a system he'd once abused in the act of committing a crime.

3. to apologize when she'd wronged someone

"Do I owe you an apology?" She forced the words out, wondering if she was honestly expecting honesty. Neal was still a conman. He might lie and say 'yes', just to see her squirm.

Peter had said himself that they didn't know. The only person who knew was Neal, and he -

- wouldn't say anything either way; just cracked some stupid joke and made her get annoyed with him, right before he made her feel ashamed and a little bit scared. (An answer after all, in a way.)

4. to not lie to a dying man

She still said 'maybe' when she felt his cold blood on her hands, soaking her clothes, and he asked her if he was dying; she knew Peter would be looking for them, wouldn't rest until he'd found them and gotten them to safety.

5. to not wait for a man to propose to her if she knew he was the one she wanted to marry

Jones looked like she'd hit him over the head with a brick, and even Peter looked a little surprised.

Neal was the one who said: "He loves you, too," and then added: "He's just speechless with joy," at which point Jones's face flushed and he stammered out a 'yes'.

*

/Jones thought there was a language to Caffrey's eyelids. Like how dancers in Japan waved their fans, Neal was fluttering and shuttering away, blinking cryptic messages in Morse code. He thought Peter had probably decoded him years ago./ (Five Things, 02)

*
five things Neal Caffrey never said to Clinton Jones

1. that he was afraid of going back to prison

Although the way he'd kept stressing that Peter would get him out again ('this time' being the unspoken addition, the bit Neal almost convinced himself he didn't need to add) probably rather gave it away, that one time when they needed to go there, when Peter had somehow talked Neal into going back there for a case Peter ought to have been able to solve without needing Neal to go back there.

2. that he liked his freedom

Didn't everyone?

3. that he'd give up his freedom if it meant getting to stay with Peter

Possibly, it was a guy thing; Lauren was beginning to catch on and Diana seemed to never not have known and Elizabeth was looking sympathetic every time Peter brought Neal home for dinner (every time Peter failed to take up Neal's suggestion they go and have dinner someplace where it would be just the two of them) but Jones didn't seem to notice anything.

Maybe he was simply too busy staring at Lauren.

4. that he wasn't quite the agent Peter was

"Peter'd have caught that sooner, eh?" Jones said ruefully, handing back the piece of jewelry to the store owner who looked a little stunned.

Neal shrugged, not wanting to hurt Jones's feelings by saying 'yes', but not wanting to do Peter an injustice by saying 'no' either.

"Peter has known me for a very long time," he compromised.

"And he'd never just trust you not to walk out of a jewelry store without having stolen something."

5. that he was a good man all the same

"He know I'd trust him to not trust me," Neal said, knowing how odd that sounded, how illogical.

Knowing it was true, all the same.

*

/He'd said it was a birthday, of a sort, and he'd thrown himself a party: baked a cake, brought handmade pointy hats, and the rest of the team had suffered through it good-naturedly while Neal beamed at them and piled more devil's food cake onto their paper plates./ (Five Things, 03)

*
five things Neal Caffrey considered essential to a birthday party

1. party hats

The ones that made everyone look a little silly when they put them on. The ones everybody put on all the same, because he asked them to with a smile and a wink.

2. a cake

"I don't believe you baked this," Peter said, which was a great compliment, really.

Neal beamed at him as Jones asked Lauren in a whisper when Neal had claimed he had baked the cake and she muttered something about body-language and Peter being able to read him like a book.

"June gave me the recipe, actually," Neal told Peter. "I'm glad you like it."

3. friends and family

Although he thought he might settle for just Peter.

4. presents

Again: he thought he might settle for just Peter.

5. being alive and not in any danger of dying

He'd never been aware of it before - he'd never liked guns, of course, but it had been a dislike based on a belief, not an actual experience; he'd never been shot before, and while part of him pointed out that if it hadn't been for the FBI, he might have spent the rest of his life continuing to never have been shot, a rather larger part of him was pointing out that what had happened to him could happen to other people, too. It had happened to Lauren, even if her injury had been less severe.

It could happen to Jones. It could happen to Peter.

It could happen to Neal. Again.

(It probably would, he thought; the only way to be sure to avoid it would be by leaving, and he knew that wasn't an option, not as long a Peter was there.)

*

/And Lauren knew Neal was bleeding out. Her legs were wet with his chilled blood, she knew what the wet coughs that wracked his body meant. He was afraid and in pain and dying, and because he did not have love of his own to keep him warm, he'd asked her to tell him a story./ (Five Things, 03)

*
five things Lauren Cruz never said to Neal Caffrey

1. that he got in the way

She'd never overdo things the way he did, of course, but there were days when Jones was wearing a new shirt or a new tie and she'd have liked to say something about it - something casual, one colleague to another - and always, always Neal got there first. She could have said something anyway, only then it would be as if she'd needed Neal to point out to her that Jones was wearing something new, which simply wasn't true.

2. that he was scary when he got angry

Actually, what had scared her most was the realization that Peter'd been right, that she'd jumped to an assumption about someone who'd made a living deceiving other people; it didn't matter that in this case, the assumption hadn't been one in his favor - what mattered was that she'd fallen for it.

Even so, when Neal had faced her in the stacks, voice cold and eyes colder, she'd frozen. It had not been a pleasant feeling. It hadn't reminded her that he was dangerous; she'd never thought of him in that term before. People like Neal weren't dangerous; they were slippery, cunning, clever ...

Perhaps Diana was right when she said Neal wasn't like 'people like him'.

3. that he was going to die

Even when she'd been almost sure that it was true.

4. that he was being totally obvious about Peter

"Can you believe those two?" Diana grinned, sipping her latte.

"They're really good friends," Jones said a little uncertainly, the way he always did when the subject of Neal and Peter came up.

Given that he didn't seem to have any trouble sharing a table with Diana, Lauren didn't think it was any kind of homophobia. "They should get a room."

"Date first, I think," Diana said. "Neal is a romantic." She sounded fond.

5. that he had impeccable taste in men and suits

"In here," she said, shoving Jones into the closet (he let her, looking a little confused and a little nervous and a little turned on).

"Er," said Jones. "Not that I'm complaining but - "

(It had to be true love, she thought; it certainly wasn't any kind of comfortable, although of course, with the proper incentive, that was easy enough to forget about.)

*

/Lauren enlisted Elizabeth's assistance, and on June 8th they threw Neal Caffrey a totally awesome birthday party. Well - there was no pool full of champagne, no nude models, and no ice sculptues, so she'd been a bit worried he'd find it boring - but he just sat on the Burke's couch, absolutely stunned, one hand to the bandage under his shirt and the other over his mouth./ (Five Things, 03)

*
five things Elizabeth Burke considered essential to a birthday party

1. a birthday

A bit of a no-brainer, perhaps, but important nonetheless.

2. party hats

Not really, actually.

3. a cake

With candles, so that he'd get to make a wish when he blew them all out in one go (as she'd known he would, because Neal had always been good at improvising) - he was looking at Peter, after, and Elizabeth wanted to smile and pat his hand and tell him just to be patient a little longer.

4. friends and family

They'd considered throwing the party over at June's - she wouldn't have minded, Peter thought and Elizabeth had agreed, but somehow, they'd ended up at the Burke household.

Peter had made some noises about going to drive Neal home afterwards, but in the end, Elizabeth found Neal sleeping on the couch the next morning, surrounded by his presents and a lot of wrapping paper, and Peter asleep on the other side of the bed, rather than in the guestroom she'd made up, just in case. (She'd have to be blunter in her hints, clearly.)

"Elizabeth?" She'd gotten up and out of the bedroom without Peter noticing but Neal, clearly, slept more lightly than her husband.

"Good morning. I see I gave you quite a scare yesterday morning."

"Huh?" Neal did 'confused and half-awake with tousled hair' very well. "Oh."

"Peter's still asleep, you know. Would you like to take him some breakfast in bed?" She had a reception to organize anyway, and Peter usually wasn't too grumpy in the morning.

Neal shook his head. "No." Then seemed to think about it, and added: "Thank you." Then appeared to consider that not quite an adequate response. "It's very kind of you to offer."

5. presents

She thought he might have settled for Peter - and she'd have given that to him, gladly, because she rather thought it would be easier to give than to be given to, and for all that Neal was dear to her, she was not the kind of woman who would accept her husband as a gift from another man.

*

/Peter'd gotten him a hat-rack, Jones got him a gift-card for his favorite restaurant and some art history book that made Neal's eyes go soft, and she gave him a framed photo of the team that Elle'd taken when Peter'd received a citation for bravery./ (Five Things, 03)

*
five things Neal Caffrey got for his birthday

1. breakfast in bed

"I'm not even decent!" Neal objected, knowing he sounded whiny but feeling any man had a right to whine when the privacy of his bedroom was breached at an unholy hour in the morning by a fully dressed and fully awake woman with a tray full of food.

"Tell me something I didn't know already," Elizabeth snorted.

"I'm naked under here!" Neal said, just in case that part had failed to register. "No clothes!"

"And I'm sure you look very nice that way, honey. In fact, I think I brought a camera. It'll be Peter's birthday in a few months, too, you know."

Neal knew a cue to make a run for the bathroom when he heard one.

2. a hat-rack

"You're not sleeping with the thing, are you?" Peter said, shrugging. "Seemed nice and practical."

"Does this mean we can have sleepovers again now?" Neal asked brightly.

3. a gift card for his favorite restaurant

"To prevent you from needing to weasel your way out of paying the bill," said Peter. "Good thinking, Jones," and Jones looked like he wasn't sure whether to be offended at Peter's assumption or pleased at his approval, and Lauren wondered if she was the only one who noticed Peter's eyes were smiling.

"I think I'll take Elizabeth," Neal said, looking completely uninsulted. "She deserves a nice night out in civilized company. Unless Lauren's changed her mind, of course ... "

"Dream on, Caffrey."

Jones chuckled. "Losing your touch there, Neal. No woman likes to think she's your second choice."

"I'm injured," Neal said, grinning at Lauren. "Possibly dying. Might be your last chance." Making what had passed between them in the freezer something he could joke about.

"Well, it's true I've heard a lot of good things about the place," Lauren said. "Perhaps Jones would like to take me there some day."

(Neal was going to take Peter, of course.)

4. a framed picture

Peter looked serious in it, like he was only there to do his duty; Jones was the one beaming, like he'd been the one to receive a citation for bravery instead of Peter. Lauren was smiling, looking sharp and smart in her uniform (Jones was a lucky man, Neal thought).

And then there was Neal, looking handsome and smart and pretty and like he belonged there.

5. Peter Burke, naked, in his bed

In his dreams, that was.

*

/Six months before his sentence was over, Neal went to Jones for career advice. He started by asking about Jones' last girlfriend, then chatted about a new show on Broadway that Peter wouldn't let him off his anklet to see, even though Elizabeth had been dying to go, and why Peter was cruel but not unusual - then he asked about the academy. About the classes and training and probationary period./ (Five Things, 04)

*
one thing Clinton Jones imagined might happen once Neal was a free man again

He'd never quite fit in (he'd always manage to stand out) but over time, people would start to forget what he'd been, and maybe Neal would let them, for a while.

Peter'd call him his partner and Jones would call him his friend and Lauren would call him 'Caffrey' when he wasn't there, rolling her eyes, ready to leap to defend him against anyone who would offer him any less than the respect she felt other people owed him.

one thing Lauren Cruz imagined might happen once Neal was a free man again

She might miss him - more than she'd ever expected, but less than Peter would.

*

/The next week, Jones asked Peter if he knew what Neal was planning to do after his time was up. Peter - well, Peter blew up at him. Said he didn't know, and if he was so damn interested, to bring it up with Caffrey himself./ (Five Things, 04)

*
one thing Peter Burke imagined might happen once Neal was a free man again

He'd leave and commit a crime and get caught and then Peter'd get him back - except that at the same time, he wouldn't, because Peter didn't believe in owning people; he believed in making promises and commitments and in always, always giving people a choice, and if Neal would leave, then he obviously wasn't choosing Peter, and it wouldn't be fair to either himself or to Neal to believe something else, to pretend there was something more between them than there was.

one thing Diana Lancing imagined might happen once Neal was a free man again

In order to get into Peter's pants, he'd promise to give up on his life of crime (except that he'd keep his fingers crossed behind his back when he'd make the promise, so it wouldn't really be real) and Peter would pretend to believe him in order to get into Neal's pants.

They'd have the kind of mind-blowingly great sex that ought to happen after four years of foreplay, and then Peter'd tell Neal about this case he was working on (no names, no details, just a general impression) and Neal would know that Peter didn't really need his help, of course, but he'd be touched that Peter had tried to pretend, and so he'd come in and pretend to consult.

And then he and Peter would have more sex, and do that whole dating thing properly, and Neal would probably burn all that poetry he'd composed over the course of four years, about Peter's eyes and Peter's muscles and Peter's fashion sense (the only one he'd shared with her had been really funny, although Peter probably wouldn't have thought so), and they'd live happy ever after.

one thing Elizabeth Burke imagined might happen once Neal was a free man again

He'd show up on their doorstep, suitcase in hand, and maybe there'd be two one-way tickets in the pocket of his jacket (but maybe there wouldn't) - he'd be smiling at her, making small talk as they waited for Peter to come back home from work.

Peter would look surprised and happy, and Neal would look nervous as he asked Peter the question he'd come to ask (it might be 'I'm going to Europe - would you like to come along?' or it might be 'can I live here for a while?') and Peter would look at her, like he didn't know the answer.

And she'd say 'yes'.

*

/A month later, Neal slipped a copy of his scores onto Jones' desk, personal info whited-out but a smiley face drawn next to the scores. Jones insisted on taking everyone out to dinner for a celebration, even if Cruz, Peter, and Elizabeth stayed oblivious as to the reason. Cruz looked stunning in a tight emerald-blue dress, and Neal, sandwiched between Elle and Peter, looked positively radiant./ (Five Things, 04)