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Peter's phone rings, and at first it's just a distraction, but then Neal says mildly, "Might wanna take it," and flips the phone to him. Peter glances at the caller ID and grunts, because it's El, and he forgot to call, *again*, and one of these days she is going to kill him, and oh, Goddammit, why did this case have to come up *tonight*.

"Hey, honey," he says, and knows she can hear the apologies he isn't saying.

"Late night, huh?" Sounds like she's smiling, thank God, not angry. Of course. This is El.

"Yeah." They're both stating the obvious. Peter doesn't even need to look at his watch; the last time it was after ten, and that was a few thousand years ago. "It's this case. It's just..." He scrubs his face with one hand. "I can't let it go, El, not yet."

Neal leans forward. "You can let it go for tonight," he says helpfully. "It'll still be here in the morning."

"Neal!" Peter snaps, irritated. "Can you please mind your own goddamn business?"

Neal holds up his hands in surrender, and is studiously not looking at Peter in the way he does when he's got his attention fixed on the thing he's not looking at. Peter groans. "El," he says, and for one moment he closes his eyes and lets the yearning to be *home* wash over him. He wants to; wants to go there and feel the warmth of her--

Neal coughs, still not looking at him, and Peter sighs. "I gotta go, I gotta do this, you know how it is."

"I know. And I know you." If she were there, she'd probably kiss the tip of his nose or something equally ridiculously adorable, but she's not. "Love you. Go catch the bad guys."

"Don't wait up," Peter says. She's hung up already and didn't hear him, but it doesn't matter.

What does matter is that she didn't even mention the promises he'd made to her about tonight. She loves him too much for that. And he loves her too much to break promises to her, except he can't be in both places at once, and he needs to be there but he *needs* to be here, and it breaks his heart a little bit that she's so understanding.

He doesn't deserve her.

Without even looking at Neal, he gets back to the thrice-damned case files, looking for something he missed.


It's three days before he has a chance to make up the broken promise. Bent promise, really. He still delivers on the dinner, and he fully intends to deliver on everything else too, but it throws him off guard when the doorbell rings and El says, "Oh, it's probably just Neal."

"Jus-- Ne-- El, you can't be serious."

But she is, because Neal's right outside, smiling and brandishing a bottle of very expensive wine that he probably stole from somewhere, or forged the label on, or, knowing him, both.

Peter gives El a helpless look that's meant to convey /this was supposed to be just us,/ and she smirks at him and says "I invited him over."

And they'd talked about this, and they'd both agreed, but Peter feels a twinge of annoyance that she would bring Neal in on something that was supposed to be the two of them--

Barking madly, Satch comes barrelling in to greet Neal, who is apparently his new best friend or something, and Peter shakes his head, smiling. It never was just the two of them anyway. "Behave yourself," he tells Neal, who gives him his most convincing (and therefore extremely untrustable) innocent look.


El does take Peter aside and ask him if he's okay with "all this", by which she probably means Neal because the rest of it was darn well in his plans.

"Sure," he says with a shrug, but it's not until she touches his mouth that he realizes he's frowning a little.

"Peter." His name is the only thing she says, but there's a world of meaning behind it, and he knows what she's not saying. It doesn't have to be tonight. They can send Neal away, it'd just be a nice dinner, nothing else. Or--

He takes a deep breath, and lets it out. "I love you, El." Her eyes are searching his face for an answer he hasn't given yet. He doesn't look away. "I had expected tonight to be just us," he says carefully, "but, yeah, I'm good. As long as Neal's okay with it, I'm good. The plans might have to change a bit though."

She waits a little longer, just to give him a chance to change his mind, but then breaks into a radiant smile. "Oh, the plans are definitely changing, mister," she says with evident glee, and Peter groans. "You owe me."

"I owe you everything," he says, before he even realizes he's spoken.

She doesn't need to say that she knows.


"This is how it's going to work," Peter tells Neal sternly. Not that stern does anything with Neal, but hope springs eternal. "Everything, and I do mean *everything*, is consentual. If you want to get out, or stop, or slow down, or anything, *do that*. Tell us somehow, words or gestures, or just disappear. Nervous -- being nervous is okay. Being uncomfortable is not."

Neal isn't laughing but he looks like he wants to. "I get it, Peter," he says. "El explained things earlier."

"Oh she did, did she." Peter arches an eyebrow at El, who remains unrepentant.

"Yes," she says, possibly a bit smug, "she did." She sashays over to him, walks her fingers up his tie, and starts loosening it. "And one of the things that I explained..." The tie slides free. " that you..." One by one she unbuttons his shirt, but stops him when he starts to take it off. "...are in a lot of trouble." She works his belt free.

Oh, Peter thinks, and then, *Oh*, as she drops his pants down but doesn't let him take it off.

"Am I." The words come out rough, a little growly, and she bites her lip to hide a grin and sits down on the couch.

"Knees," she orders, pointing at a spot just to the left of her feet. Peter doesn't move at first, drawing it out because he can, but she snaps her fingers and points again, and he drops obediently. Her hand rests on his head, then slides down the back of his neck, squeezing gently just for a moment before she's pushing him forward, over her lap.

He gets into position, ass nicely up. He doesn't want to look at Neal, who's standing quietly, leaning against the wall, without comment or participation, but he does. Neal's eyes are dark, his lips are slightly parted, and he flinches almost as much as Peter does when the first blow lands with a too-loud slap.

El's hand caresses for a moment, and then lands again, hard, and again, never in quite the same place but always overlapping just a bit. Peter can feel heat blooming under her touch, and elsewhere, and oh Jesus he should *not* be getting this turned on by getting *spanked*, especially with -- with -- His eyes meet Neal's, and he swallows hard.

"Enjoying-- guh," as she strikes again, "--what you see?"

Neal's eyes are even darker, and his trousers are showing an obvious yes. But he doesn't answer, just turns his gaze to El.

"He's not supposed to speak," El explains sweetly. She ruffles Peter's hair. "And neither are you."

"You didn't tell me that," Peter says.

"No. I wanted you to disobey."

"Evil woman," he groans, and she shakes with silent laughter as the spanking continues. Peter's hands try to find purchase in the carpet; failing that, he clings to her ankle. He's lost count of the blows by now, and it's a bit hard to think straight, and he's pretty much forgotten about Neal until the man steps into his field of view.

"You--" He isn't even sure what he's trying to say, but Neal shushes him anyway. He slides to his knees, takes Peter's head in his hands, and kisses him, thorough and hungry and desperate and needy. He kisses well, of course, even though the angle's awkward, and he doesn't seem to want to stop.

Peter doesn't think he wants him to.

"Peter," Neal groans into his mouth, "oh, God," and he looks at El. "Please?"

Peter has no idea what he's asking for, but he mumbles "Yes" anyway. El's hand comes down again for that -- lightly, but it still stings -- but then she puts her other hand on Peter's neck and Neal puts his own over El's, and he's floating on adrenaline and endorphins and love, and he really really doesn't care.