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tonight I say it's no regrets

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Neal is stretched out on his back with one arm folded under his head and the other still cuffed to the bed. His eyes are closed, and he's smiling—sated, at rest, the long lines of his body in the rumpled sheets almost unbearably gorgeous—and Sara wishes, not for the first time, that she had any artistic talent of her own: Neal deserves to be painted, like this, naked and beautiful and not running from anything. Not that he ever is entirely naked, with the dark circle of the tracker around his ankle.

"What are you thinking about?" Neal asks without opening his eyes.

"I was thinking about going to sleep," she says, too sharply to really sell the line.

Neal's smile widens. "Or maybe another round?"

"Mmm," she says, refusing to rise to the bait. The anklet is—she's not sure why it bothers her so much. It's ubiquitous, but it doesn't exactly get in the way, and if it's a—well, call it a black plastic blight on the unfairly attractive portrait that is a post-coital Neal Caffrey, Sara still appreciates what it means. It keeps Caffrey out of prison and on the right side of the law. More or less the right side of the law; and the less parts are a lot more fun than she expected. Maybe that's the problem, then; maybe she doesn't want him tamed.

"I'd get up and get us a bottle of wine," Neal says, still not opening his eyes, "but I can't actually move."

Sara kisses the corner of his smiling mouth. "You could get out of those cuffs in ten seconds."

"Five," Neal murmurs against her mouth, "probably."

"Why don't you?" Sara teases.

Neal blinks, and Sara pulls back so that she can see his eyes; they're very blue, and he looks surprised. "Well," he says slowly, with a hint of a drawl, "you put them on me."

"I did," she agrees, and then she can't quite stop herself from glancing down at the anklet. It's on the opposite ankle from the cuff around his wrist. Maybe, Sara thinks, maybe it's that she wants to be the one to tame him—but that's ridiculous. They're both having fun, and Caffrey is gorgeous and wicked and smart and funny and very good in bed, but she doesn't trust him. She wants to, and she likes him—maybe more than she should, all things considered—but that doesn't mean she's in this for the long haul.

Neal doesn't miss the way her eyes fix on his anklet, and Sara doesn't miss the faint blush along his cheekbones. "I know it's awkward," he says apologetically, "especially in bed." He pauses, and then continues wryly, "There's no time that it isn't awkward. There is absolutely nothing attractive about black plastic, and it chafes, and none of my socks fit right, and showering is a pain, and it'll probably give you bruises if we ever try to play footsie." His blush fades as he talks.

"And you can't pick the lock," she offers mildly, watching Neal's face. He bites his lip—barely, but she sees it—and his eyes dart down to his ankle before he looks back at Sara.

"And I can't pick the lock," he agrees, matching her tone—wry, mild, not saying anything important at all.

She knows she's pushing, but she asks anyway, "Would you, if you could? Hypothetically."

Neal looks away, which is his first tell, and then he meets her eyes and smiles, which is his second—and god, really, does Caffrey honestly think she doesn't know his tells, by now? "Of course I would," he says, with the bitter edge that makes it sound like the truth, "hypothetically. I want the dream, Sara." He grins, bright and a little frightening, and turns on his side so he can slide his free hand down to cup her hip. "I'd ask you to come with me, though."

She leans into his arm, and looks at the handcuffs. There's a harsh red line where the cuff cut into Neal's skin, and if he stays like this for much longer the marks will bruise. No one will notice, not with the way Neal covers up his whole body with those sharp suits; and Peter approves of her, apparently. But she can't keep him like this forever, and she wouldn't want to even if she could. "Maybe I would," she says. "I like Europe."

"We’d make a good team," Neal says, and leans in to kiss her before she can answer.

She kisses him back, biting his lower lip and sliding her tongue into his mouth until the kiss heats up, until she has to sit up and straddle his hips again and lean down to get a better angle on the kiss. Her hair falls in his face, and he laughs into her mouth and brushes it back with his free hand, stroking his fingers down the back of her neck until she shivers and pulls away and wraps her fingers around the cuff around his wrist.

"Are you going to uncuff me this time?" He asks, still smiling.

She raises an eyebrow. "Do you want me to?"

"Peter might notice if I'm walking around with a sore wrist, tomorrow," Neal says, too lightly.

Sara sits back on her heels. "I noticed when your anklet hit me in the ass, earlier," she says, too sharp, and Neal's whole face closes down. She lets go of his wrist, and he looks away. So that was a line she shouldn't have crossed, then; sometimes she really wishes she could forget that Neal is just as much of a con in bed as he is everywhere else. It's not always charming.

"Sara." Neal is looking up at her, again. His eyes are still shuttered, but he might be making an effort. "You know I—"

She puts her hand over his mouth before he can lie. "Neal," she says, "I'm sorry, I know it's awkward. You probably don't want to be reminded that it's even there, I didn't mean to—it's just that I bruise easily. Redhead, you know." She shrugs, her mouth quirking in an almost-smile, apologetic and utterly untrue. She can feel him relax under her, and she can feel it when he lifts his leg, just a little, so that he can feel the weight of the anklet.

She takes her hand off his mouth and leans over him to get the handcuff key from the bedside table. "Thanks for not slipping them." She unlocks the cuffs and drops them on the floor.

He sits up, leaning against the headboard and rubbing his red wrist. "I do like them," he says, carefree and self-deprecating and a little dry. "Don't tell anybody."

Sara laughs. "Who would I tell? Caffrey the criminal cliché—it's not like it's a very good story."

Neal looks affronted. "All stories about me are good stories."

"Uh-huh," Sara says, "pull the other one," and Neal grins and flips them over. He has one knee between her thighs, and she wraps a leg around his waist and pulls him down, tugging on his hair with both hands. He kisses her again, and she arches up into him. She can feel the tracking anklet pressing lightly against her calf, and maybe it's just that it's a little too much like Peter is in this bed with them. She likes Peter, but she doesn't want to fuck him.

Neal, on the other hand—for all Neal's complaints about its awkwardness, Sara can read him well enough by now to know that the tracking anklet is more to him than a nuisance and a punishment, more than an anchor keeping him from running as far and as fast as he can. It isn't like the handcuffs, exactly, but it might be closer to them than it is to the tracker it's supposed to be—the tracker that always, always tells Peter exactly where Neal is. Sometimes she thinks she should just drag Peter into an interrogation room at the FBI and yell at him until he tells her everything; but even if Sara thought she could take Peter Burke—and she doesn't, not really—she likes the chase too much to ask for answers. She kisses Neal, instead, and she bites his collarbone and pulls his hair, and she doesn't ask if he slept with Peter, and she doesn't ask if he really wants to stay.