Tony looked out over his classroom and repressed a sigh. His students were doing relatively well, and he knew he should be proud of that. There were always those who weren't suited for undercover work, but at the least his training could help them identify people around them who weren't what they seemed. There were a few, though, who had absolutely thrived in the course.
"Tomorrow you'll have your final field test," Tony announced, pushing back his thoughts. He didn't want to think about this assignment ending. "Your roles are on this list—" he grabbed a stack of papers and handed them to the closest student to pass on. "— You've got this afternoon to work on your character. If you need to requisition something from our costume or prop closets, let me know."
"Now, tomorrow you'll check in here first thing in the morning, but then you'll approach your assignment in character. For each location you'll note a set of times. You must be at your location by the start time and you cannot leave before the end time. How early or late you chose to go is up to you. Your evaluation will occur sometime during that range."
One of the FBI probies — Green — held up his hand and Tony nodded at him. "Are you going to be judging us, Sir?"
"Good question, and no," Tony told him. "I — obviously — know who you all are, so my impression of your cover is colored by that. The FBI is bringing in a specialist who doesn't know any of you. They'll be the one assessing you, and they'll be giving you feedback after that. Afterwards they'll be giving you a guest lecture on undercover work from their own perspective."
Cadman — one of his two Marine students — raised her hand. "So he — or she — will be grading us as well?"
Tony smirked, knowing that she was fishing for the gender he'd purposefully obscured. "Now, now, that would be telling. And, I'll take their recommendations into account, but I'm still doing the grading. There will be surveillance, of course, of all four locations. Myself and your other professors — even some of your bosses — will have access and we'll go over it with the group."
"Any other questions?" There were none, so Tony nodded. "Then start looking over your characters. I'll be in my office all afternoon if you have questions or need supplies."
As his students started filing out, Tony gathered his binder and laptop and then walked down to his own office. He had enjoyed the past month, shockingly, and wasn't looking forward to it ending this Friday.
When Vance had blamed him for what happened with Director Shepard and exiled Tony to the USS Seahawk, Tony had feared that his days in DC were over. He had held out a small hope that his exile was a temporary one, but after how Gibbs had reacted… it was a small hope indeed. When he had been met at the helipad not by his ride to the Seahawk, but by a car containing SecNav Davenport, Tony had been surprised to say the least.
Learning that at least one person in his chain of command had read his entire file and appreciated the position that Director Shepard had put him into was a relief. Learning that — while Vance thought he was in exile afloat — he would actually be teaching classes on going undercover at FLETC and Quantico was a shock. What really caught Tony off guard was that he had enjoyed this teaching gig. The last month had been fun, actually, and he was fondly reminded of training people like Cassie, Tim, and even Kate to an extent. Tony was a pretty good teacher, if he did say so himself.
But now, the month and his class was ending. Tony wasn't sure if the class would repeat, or if Davenport had a different plan for him. His Agent Afloat stint was supposed to be for six months, and Tony didn't think that Vance's attitude towards him would have shifted after only a month away. What Davenport expected Tony to do for the next five months was a mystery, and Tony wasn't exactly in the mood for mysteries right now.
"My usual IPA, my love," Tony flirted with Cadman — playing bartender Lana, today — as he slid onto a barstool.
Cadman, for her part, greeted him with a friendly smile and a "coming right up." She did an admirable job of hiding her surprise at his presence, and even picked out a decent beer to hand him. Jefferson — Tony's other student bartender — and Mitch — the actual owner, and the only one who knew Tony was coming — also did a credible job of pretending that he was just a regular.
Tony settled into his seat, pretending to watch the game, but occasionally using the mirror behind the bar to glance surreptitiously at his students. People came and went, and Tony made a point of not looking for the first twenty seconds after the door opened, not wanting to catch anyone's eye. He knew the name of the FBI UC, — Nick — but they had decided early on not to share photos, to maintain the realism for the students, who would see how two operatives handled meeting each other.
The door opened again, and Tony kept his eyes on the TV. It was easy to do, as the Panthers had just fumbled. "Oh come on," he groused, pretending to care about the results. It was a replay, but he still always picked a side to root for. Tony sensed a presence behind him, and knew that someone was approaching the bar, but he held off on looking. Looking up too quickly was a sure sign that you were expecting someone to approach you.
The next thing Tony knew, a hand was on his shoulder and someone was cheerfully saying, "Babe! There you are!" Then he was being passionately kissed. Tony rolled with it, kissing back, even as his mind assessed that the voice had been both male and vaguely familiar.
When they came up for air, Tony found that somehow his guest had slithered onto his lap, and also he had placed the voice. There were only two options, and he was fairly certain he knew which of the two it was. Opening his eyes, Tony stared right into Neal's laughing blue eyes. "Hey babe," he greeted him. The glasses were a new look, but if he was the UC, then that was probably for the assignment.
"You know, we've got rules about public indecency, but I'm very tempted to let them slide," Cadman joked. Tony looked up and saw her fully in character, smirking and holding a fresh IPA for him.
When Neal shifted so that he could glance at her, Cadman asked "What'll you have — besides your boyfriend, that is?"
Neal laughed, "Well I'm always a fan of sex on the beach," he teased.
"The drink? Or is this another public indecency thing?" Cadman teased right back.
"Ooh, I like you," Neal decided, clearly refusing to budge from Tony's lap. "I see why you come here, babe," he directed at Tony. "And for now, I think I'll take it in drink form."
"Add it to my tab," Tony added.
"Coming right up," Cadman agreed.
Neal had squirmed so that he was sitting across Tony's lap, parallel to the bar, with one hand wrapped around Tony's shoulder. Tony was about 80% sure that Neal was actually Nick, the FBI agent, but he also had trouble imagining Neal as any kind of law enforcement. Bryce was the more likely in that sense, but Bryce could never have matched the sparkling laughter in Neal's eyes.
The other 20% was leaning towards a prank, or the possibility that Neal was in danger. Tony had done the "hey babe, there you are," deal more than once to a girl being hit on by some creeper who wouldn't take no for an answer, and he wouldn't put it past Neal to have jumped into his arms for a similar reason. Not that Neal couldn't take care of himself, but it never hurt to have backup you trusted.
That thought sent a pang through Tony — he hadn't been able to trust his backup in a while.
Cadman returned with the proper drink, and Neal accepted it with a wide grin before taking a sip. He casually glanced over Tony's shoulder before sipping again. He could be watching for someone outside, favoring the 'needing help' theory, or judging his effect on the other patrons, in the 'prank' theory. Or checking out Tony's students and their reactions, if he really was 'Nick'.
"I wasn't expecting you," Tony said easily, falling into the role of 'boyfriend' and trying to narrow down Neal's reasoning.
Neal huffed a sigh against Tony's neck, and the unexpected intimacy sent a shockwave down to his groin. Tony suppressed his arousal as best he could. "Oh, I couldn't stay at work another moment," Neal explained. "I was going to strangle one of my coworkers."
Tony took a sip of his drink. As clues went, it wasn't the best, but it was leaning him away from the 'needing help' theory. "I'm sorry. I know how frustrated they can make you," he comforted Neal.
Neal repaid the favor by nibbling on his ear, sending another jolt of arousal through Tony. If they weren't undercover, Tony would have rolled his eyes, but he was fairly certain that was exactly what Neal was trying to do — get him to break cover in front of his students and everyone watching back home. Neal was wearing glasses and a tie clip, either one of which could have been the hidden cam that was being used for this exercise.
If it was the tie clip, or a shirt button, Tony felt a little bad for this group and their watchers: they'd be getting a lot of shots of his chest and arm, instead of the room. He was fairly certain it was the glasses, though. If Neal was as good as 'Nick's' hype, he would know better than to screw up his surveillance angles. "You keep that up and you really are going to get us arrested for public indecency," he warned Neal.
Laughing, Neal gave up on his ear and took a sip of his drink instead. "Mmm, they even make good cocktails," he said in apparent surprise. "I thought most people at sports bars wouldn't know a Cosmo if it bit them!" The last was directed more at Cadman, who was slicing lemons a short way down the bar.
Cadman smirked and flipped the knife expertly, in a way that could have come from either bartender or military training. "Oh, you'd be surprised," she joked. "This isn't my first bartending gig. I much prefer sports fans to politician's dates."
Tony approved. It implied her background without being too exposition-heavy: something he'd drilled into them. She wasn't listing her accomplishments, or dropping the names of her previous jobs, but easily explaining both her proficiency and current position. He made a mental note to point her out as a good example during the debrief.
"Ugh," Neal groaned. "I completely understand. Though maybe not the sports fans bit." He glanced at Tony, who had returned his gaze to the TV while thinking. "Is your team winning, at least?" he asked, poking Tony in the chest.
"Nah, the other side's got a ringer," Tony said, testing the waters. Neal's eyes crinkled when he grinned, and Tony knew he had hit a bullseye. Neal was definitely the FBI's 'Nick.'
"Ain't that the truth," Neal teased with a little squirm that did nothing to curb Tony's arousal. Somehow, his bragging just made it worse. He took another deep sip of his drink, sucking on the straw obscenely.
"Well, since you decided to cut out early and ambush me, shall we head back home?" Tony asked, knowing Neal would catch the double meaning: are you done traumatizing my students yet?
Neal glanced around the room again and then sighed. "I suppose. Are you sure you don't want to finish your… game? Match? Whatever?" he waved vaguely at the TV.
Tony sighed heavily and bowed his head to Neal's chest. "I still don't understand how you can be so obtuse at sports," he complained. "This is why most quarterbacks date cheerleaders."
With another deep drag of his drink, Neal wiggled in his lap again. "I can find a cheerleader outfit if you'd like, babe."
Tony knew without looking that the choked sound he was hearing was Cadman's stifled laughter. He really needed to get Neal out of here before he broke all of Tony's students. "I really need to chain you up at home before you traumatize some poor bystander," Tony murmured. He quickly downed the last third of his IPA, as Neal sucked out the last dredges of his drink.
"Alright, let's go," Tony said, shifting his legs. Neal took the hint and slid off his lap, but didn't let go of him.
"Your card," Cadman slid his credit card back to him, clearly having closed out his tab. Tony accepted the card and tucked it into his back pocket. He found his wallet conspicuously absent from that locale, and knew Neal was to blame. Oh well, he'd see if any of the students had spotted that trick.
With Neal still hanging all over him, Tony made his way out of the bar. Knowing that they'd have surveillance of the entire street, and that no doubt some of his students would still be looking out the windows, Tony decided to give them a lesson in continuing the ruse. Once they were down the street, out of direct sight of the windows, Tony gently slammed Neal against the wall, nuzzling his neck.
"Tony," Neal protested breathily, "This suit is a Devore!"
"You should have thought of that earlier, Nick," Tony growled quietly, then sucked on his neck, making sure to hit the pulsepoint beneath his ear. "Oh, and give me my wallet back."
"Spoilsport," Neal pouted.
He felt Neal's hand slide into his back pocket as he used the moment as an excuse to grab Tony's ass. Tony bit a little harder in response. "Do we have a tail?"
"Hmm," Neal agreed. "Two."
Tony paused his attempt at giving Neal a hickey just long enough to ask. "Stationary?"
"Mmm hmm," Neal agreed. Tony assumed they were the duo of Seaver and Olsen across the street at the cafe.
"Well, then, I suggest we take this back home," Tony decided, though he wasn't entirely satisfied with the love bite yet.
"Ah, you know I'm an exhibitionist," Neal disagreed.
Tony was tempted to agree, but he knew he would be reviewing this footage with his students and he needed to maintain some bit of respect. "Too bad I'm not," he disagreed.
"Spoilsport," Neal pouted again, but he didn't protest when Tony pulled him back from the wall and draped an arm around his waist.
Around the corner, they found a surveillance van and a very annoyed Fed waiting for them by the open back door. "Seriously?!" the man demanded.
"Friend of yours, babe?" Tony asked, ever the protective boyfriend.
The Fed threw his hands up in exasperation. "Just get inside."
"Sorry, my mom told me never to get in some creepy old dude's van," Tony said with a straight face.
Beside him, Neal cracked up, and Tony thought he heard a female doing the same from the direction of the van's open door.
"Alright, coffee shop, you're up first," Tony said, his students immediately falling silent. "Do any of you think you spotted our guest? For once, I won't say 'there are no wrong answers', but as usual I want to hear your reasoning."
Chester — the other Marine — raised his hand. "There was a woman in the coffee shop before I arrived. She was working on a laptop, but she kept glancing around the room. She had headphones on, though, and you told us that was a good way to make people think you weren't listening to them."
"Good eye. Any other suspects at the coffee shop?"
"There was a new barista who didn't seem to know what he was doing," suggested Collins — NCIS. "She might have been in training, or she might have been undercover. She got everyone's name as she took their orders."
"Yes, and we all know that is an excellent way to commit fraud," Tony agreed, because they'd covered that in week two. "Any other ideas?" The rest of the first group shook their heads, so Tony said, "Alright, diner, anyone suspicious?"
"One of the cooks seemed a little twitchy," Juarez — NCIS — immediately volunteered. She, unfortunately, didn't have what it took to be an undercover agent at all, and Tony could only hope that she excelled in other areas.
"And why does that make you think they were our agent?" Tony prodded.
"They seemed suspicious," was all she could offer.
A few other suggestions — one of the waitresses and a sullen customer with a book who somewhat fit Neal's physical description — were put forth. Then those in the park offered a homeless man, a woman who had seemed uncomfortable walking her dog, and a young man who kept playing with his phone. Finally, Tony got to the sports bar.
"Last group?" he asked with a smirk.
"It was really you all along?" Hennesy joked. He was FBI, and Tony hated to admit that he'd go far. He'd have to suggest that NCIS steal him away.
Tony smiled. "Nope, I wasn't the FBI plant. Anyone else?"
"Mitch, the owner," Jefferson suggested. "He ordered us around, but I never saw him mix a drink himself."
"Good reasoning. Anyone else?"
"Your boyfriend," Cadman immediately suggested.
"Are you saying that because you think it was him, or because you were all so busy staring at me that none of you noticed anyone else?" Tony prodded. He knew Cadman wouldn't take offence, and used her to make the point.
Deschamps, the least proficient of the last group, blushed bright red at that, and Tony knew she had been distracted that way. Cadman, however, just smirked. "He was testing me by ordering a more complex drink."
"I was. Good call," Neal said, appearing at the side door. He strode into the room and wrapped his arms around Tony's waist. "Hey babe," he murmured. Tony smugly noted that he had removed his jacket, making the hickey even more visible. Neal had also lost the glasses, confirming that they were the source of his camera, rather than part of his usual look.
Tony nodded to Josh, the analyst, in the back, and he quickly posted the first image on the wall. It was a still from the coffee shop surveillance video, showing Neal in his suit at the counter. He had a phone against his ear and was sneering at the barista — not one of Tony's.
"Well, no one in that group was right," Tony decided. "Next?"
The next shot was from the diner, where Neal occupied a corner booth. His suit jacket and tie were gone, sleeves rolled up, and his top few buttons were undone, revealing a hint of his undershirt. He had piles of folders on the table around him, and his hair was flopping into his eyes as he appeared to study them.
"Well, 0 for 2," Tony decided. "Next?"
The park was shown, and here it was again easy to spot Neal. He was wearing black jeans, a loose blue button up, and a black leather jacket. The still showed him in the middle of loving on a chocolate lab with a frisbee.
"Don't feel too bad," Neal told them when some of the students groaned. "He's our guest expert for a reason. Next."
And here was the money shot, startling surprised gasps from those who hadn't been at this location. It was from the first few seconds, Neal wrapped around Tony and kissing him fiercely. "Well done, Cadman," Tony said. "You won me twenty bucks."
"You lost me fifty," Neal complained. "Though I made a few hundred on the first three groups," he added cheerfully. Glancing at the back row where Neal's team resided, Tony saw several scowls that told him exactly who had lost that money to Neal.
"Well if you'd gone for a less outlandish display you probably could have gotten the clean sweep," Tony teased him.
"Not as much fun," Neal smirked.
"Now, let's watch the replays, and see how many of you he made." Tony said, nodding at the analyst. "On the top left will be his camera, bottom left is the surveillance cams, and on the right are his notes from after the fact. These notes were made immediately after he left the scene, so keep in mind how fast he processed his clues," Tony explained. "Also remember that he had no idea how many students I had total, or what their distribution was across the four locations. It was up to him to determine not just who you were, but if he had indeed caught all of you at a given location."
The videos started rolling, surveillance showing Neal approaching from the street. He glanced at the supposed homeless guy out front, and from his glasses cam Tony knew immediately what Neal had seen. He quickly paused the video with his handheld remote.
"Well I know what he saw to make you, Simmons. Care to guess?" Tony said. He knew when Cadman and Hennesy saw it, as they each snorted. Simmons, unfortunately, just shook his head blankly. "Let's roll it," Tony said with a sigh.
On the video, Neal scoffed. "I'd think you had better things to spend your money on," he said at Simmons.
Through his phone, his teammate — Diana, she'd been introduced as — said, "Homeless kid with coffee mug, got it." Tony paused the video again, then used the laser pointer to circle Simmons's travel mug, tucked half behind him. He'd brought his expensive Starbucks-branded thermal mug to his stakeout.
"That's one down," Tony snarked as Simmons flushed in embarrassment. Then he restarted the video.
At the door, Neal cut off Chester, a bulky marine who was almost impossible to hide as anything but. He growled at Neal, who arrogantly dismissed him. "Jarhead." Neal's head swung forward, so his glasses didn't catch it, but the surveillance tapes showed Chester take one step towards Neal, then visibly calm himself. "Anger management issues," Neal muttered into his phone.
"Angry marine, yup," Diana said over his phone.
Tony paused the video and highlighted Neal's notes. "And here we go, 'I provoked him and he stopped himself from his initial reaction.' Chester, he provoked you, and your initial reaction was your own, not your cover's. Then you, the agent, changed your reaction so as not to blow your cover. Which, ironically, is what blew it."
Seeing that hit home, Tony hit play again. Neal was standing in the line, tapping his foot and talking on his phone. "You're supposed to be my insight into the asian markets," he said, even as his gaze swung across the customers. "You were supposed to double my investment, not trade on your looks."
"Two for one?" Diana asked.
Tony paused the video and then backed up slightly, to the point where Neal had glanced at his young lover couple, Chang and Collins. "This is when he spotted you two, let's see why?" Tony looked at the list, where the next bullet point was. "'No chemistry between the couple at table 3.' Well you'll soon get a master class in that," he said a little smugly. "Next!"
He let it replay, as Neal made the occasional hum, yes, or no. His glasses cam focused on the barista at the window, who was one of Tony's. "God, the drive-thru might have been faster," Neal suddenly announced. "Although, maybe not," he concluded sarcastically.
As he paused, Tony read the notes, "'Barista at the window had no training mentor, but was moving too slow for this to be her actual job.' I believe you had worked as a barista in the past, Kels?"
"It's been seven years," Kels — US Marshall — admitted. "I know I wasn't up to my old pace."
Tony nodded at her admission. She had potential. "Sometimes you'll get a week to brush up, sometimes a day, and sometimes two minutes."
As the video played again, Neal huffed and stomped up to the counter. "Excuse you, I have important places to be," he declared, pushing past the last of Tony's students, who had reached the front of the line. "Large, quad, Americano. None of that frilly crap," he told the barista.
"Excuse me," Vega, Tony's last student, tried to say.
Neal glanced dismissively at her. "Oh go back where you came from, if you even can," Neal said.
"Ouch," Diana said over the phone, voice clearly coming through the recording.
"Not you, obviously," Neal told the phone, even as he snapped imperiously at the poor cashier. She was the new one, who Tony's students had identified as the possible plant. She glanced at her trainer, who smoothly stepped in and took over the transaction, ringing Neal out quickly and handing back his card. "I swear, some people don't belong here," Neal complained to Diana.
"Alright, another one down," Diana agreed.
Tony paused the video. "Unfortunately, that poor barista was not our plant, though I'm given to understand that she was handed a huge tip when the van did their coffee run, to compensate for Nick terrorizing her. Now let's look at the notes? 'Hijab not pinned properly, part of neck showing.' Yep, I'd say that's a good clue that it wasn't your usual attire, Vega."
He continued the playback, where Neal stood tapping his foot as the trainer quickly made his order. "You're done, by the way," Neal said into his phone.
"I'm done?" Diana asked in surprise.
"You are," Neal confirmed. "I've identified all the shares I want, so there's really no point."
"You think you've gotten them all? No one hidden in the corner?" Diana teased.
"I'm a lot smarter than your average Harvard grad," Neal scoffed. "I know what I'm talking about." The barista handed him his drink and without so much as a thank you, Neal stormed out the door.
"You are at that," Diana said. "And you did get them all. Jones owes me twenty bucks."
"And me fifty." Neal agreed.
The video ended, and Tony nodded at Josh in the back to queue up the next set. "Alright, so what did Nick here do to throw you off?"
"He was arrogant," Chester pointed out.
"Rude!" came the call from another student.
"He drew attention to himself! We're supposed to blend in!"
"Sometimes you're blending in as a rude, arrogant, attention-seeking bastard," Neal pointed out from where he was still hanging on Tony. Tony let him do it, because he knew the shock would be greater that way when the big reveal came.
"Alright, group two," Tony said. This time, Neal was playing the young, flustered, law intern. He was polite as possible to the waitresses while pouring through files like his life depended on it. Occasionally he'd mumble some legal sounding nonsense to himself. He took notes on a legal pad, which was visible to the camera, as he quickly identified each of Tony's students in turn.
-Single mom isn't comfortable with the kid's tantrum. Borrowed.
-Couple in love are doing a good job with the sweet nothings, but their feet beneath the table might as well be in blocks of ice.
-Trucker in the corner has dress shoes on.
-Two of the construction crew have no calluses and pristine fingernails.
-Younger waitress doesn't know how to stop moving like a soldier.
-Nana is good with the kid, but she keeps looking around, cataloguing everyone.
Before you ask, yes, I'm sure. That's all eight of them.
Watching the video, Tony couldn't disagree with any of his observations. "Alright, how did Nick fool you lot?" he asked.
"He was so mild-mannered and polite, quiet," said Juarez.
"So he blended in too well?" Tony asked skeptically.
Jackson, one of the faux construction workers, piped up. "He seemed really stressed, like he was preoccupied with that. I didn't think he was looking around at us or anything."
His partner, Karl Sonnenberg from CBI, nodded in agreement. "He was focused on what he was doing, so he didn't appear to be paying any attention to us."
"The papers were law ones, and he used the right words," said Griffin — JAG, and playing the 'Nana'. They had borrowed her nephews for the day: the older one was with her while the younger one had been loaned to Juarez.
"Good catch," Tony said approvingly. "You have to make sure that you know what you're talking about. This is why we used an actual barista and bartender when we could — those skills aren't something you pick up in a hot second. Nick used actual legalese properly, and our lawyer was fooled."
"Now, group three."
Neal was enthusiastically playing frisbee with his dog, hiding his coded comments to the van between goofy baby talk with the dog. He even used the Lab — apparently named Hershey — to flirt with two of Tony's students.
"How many of you think that the dog is his?" Tony asked at one point. His students were split roughly in half. "And how many of you think that he at least knew the dog before today?" That one got about two-thirds of the class. "Nick?"
"Not mine," Neal said quickly. "I met him earlier this week when we got into town. But I do love dogs, and we picked one that was especially friendly to new faces. He belongs to the local family of one of our interns. I took him out two days ago, to get him used to playing and walking with me."
Tony nodded. "We spoke about the difference between doing things on the fly and having prep time. Since they had prep time, Neal was able to meet the dog and get it used to his presence before the operation. That preparation made him far more successful than he might have been — you all already suspected someone who was uncomfortable with their dog."
They kept rolling the tape, and in the end, Neal did catch all fourteen of this group.
"The football players were the best so far," Neal offered easily as he returned with the dog to the FBI van, "but the shirts weren't comfortable playing together like you'd expect of friends, and all but one of the skins didn't react in the slightest when they got catcalled. Plus, one of them left his shoulder holster poking out of his bag."
Here, Tony had to pause the tape and add, "We took a risk by grouping so many of you together for the shirts and skins football game, and hoped that your experience as classmates would compensate for that unease or unfamiliarity that Neal picked up on. The converse side is that once he had made a few of you, he made all eight of you."
In the classroom, the group acknowledged that Neal's complete ease with his pup had fooled all of them, and none expected his sunglasses to hold a camera, as opposed to regular glasses.
"And the final batch," Tony announced gleefully. "This group also had to contend with a surprise drop in from me," he explained. "We wanted to see how they would react to a known player, as well as an unknown."
As the video started, Neal again had his phone out, though he was texting this time. Meter Maid has her gun and badge came the first message, shortly outside of the sports bar.
Neal passed the hotdog vendor on the corner and then glanced back to check the street sign before adding, Vendor started to put his finger to his ear like he's got an earwig. Then Neal huffed "I swear to god, where is it?" he looked around in apparent confusion. Couple outside the cafe have good buddy chemistry, but they're too alert to outbursts.
Having sussed out all four students outside, Neal made his way to the sports bar itself, and then ducked inside. His gaze swept the room, the camera in his glasses following along, but when he saw Tony, Neal visibly froze. He waited all of two beats before striding forward. From the security camera, it was easy to see the huge smile that blossomed on his face.
When he swooped in to kiss Tony, Cadman led the catcalls around the classroom. Tony just smirked and accepted their teasing. Neal, the bastard, nibbled on his ear again in front of all the students.
Tony also paused and rewound long enough to show Neal lifting his wallet during the kiss, while both Tony and the students were distracted by their initial shock. Some of the students protested that Tony should be upset at the theft, but he shrugged it off as information gathering and an in-joke, causing Diana, Neal's teammate in the back, to laugh.
"Alright, here's something to note," Tony said, pausing the video replay once Neal had climbed onto his lap. "If Nick had been wearing a body cam, as police officers do, where would it be pointed right now?"
"At your chest," Jefferson said quickly. Tony was sure that he had worked this out already, having been present in that scenario.
"Yes, indeed. Now, instead, he had a glasses camera on, meaning that, despite being literally on top of me, he was still able to survey the room and catch pretty clear video. Note that in particular as we watch the next bit."
Though the security footage made it appear that Tony and Neal were completely absorbed in each other for the rest of the encounter, the glasses cam showed a different story, as Neal managed to do a sweep of each other person in the bar.
Tony also took the chance to point out Cadman's smooth line that he had appreciated earlier, and how she hadn't been overbearing with her backstory. When she handed back his credit card, Tony explained that that was when he had realized that his wallet was gone, as Neal hadn't had a chance to return it yet, and warned them that you never knew when a mark would notice their missing things.
Once they reached the point where the duo was leaving, Tony paused again. "Now, some of you were put in pairs or groups. This is very common, and practicing coded conversations is key. We did this in class, but you'll notice that Nick and I did this as well. Did anyone catch any of it?"
"You were talking about coworkers and then teams," Hennesy said quickly. "That was about us, verses the group watching, and you two, wasn't it?"
"It was indeed," Neal said.
"He was the ringer on the other team," Smith — the hotdog vendor — said, following the logic.
"Yep," Tony agreed. "Now, one last part." He played the rest of the video, including where they identified the tails, and then Peter's approach. Most of the students got a kick out of Tony's stranger danger jab, and took on board the advice about checking the surroundings while appearing distracted.
In the video, Peter, Neal, and Tony piled into the van. Since there were only four seats, Neal magnanimously gave his up to Peter and plonked down on Tony's lap again. From his angle, the other three agents were visible in the camera frame.
"For the record, the male bartender and the Bruins fan both lost their minds when I kissed their instructor," Neal said quickly, listing off the rest of the students he'd uncovered. "The Panthers fan and her date couldn't stop staring at us afterwards. Your female bartender and the pool shark were almost undetectable. She was enjoying it a little too much, though, and Bruins glanced at Pool Shark in shock a few too many times. The owner wasn't undercover, but he was enjoying having the students there to do his work for him. He thought their reactions were hilarious."
"Got it," said the female agent, adding it to her notes. Those same notes quickly appeared on the classroom screen, below the students who Neal had already spotted. Beneath it, the analyst cheekily added '38 for 38', as Neal had caught every one of Tony's students.
Before moving on, however, Tony paused again. "Now, quick survey. We've talked about chemistry for undercover couples, and the use of things like children and pets. We've even noted today how Juarez's discomfort around her child revealed her, while Griffin's was more natural, and how Nick's connection to his dog fooled you. So, show of hands: who thinks that Nick is actually my boyfriend, and we set you up?"
Roughly three quarters of the students raised their hands.
"Good, and how many of you think that I knew what Nick was going to do when he entered the bar?"
Every student except Cadman and Hennesy raised their hands. Choi, the meter maid, looked conflicted, but raised her hand halfway.
"Alright," Tony fought to hide his smirk. "Let's watch this last part."
In the video, Neal murmured into Tony's ear, "That's Jones and Diana," he pointed out the two agents who had been on surveillance duty. "Peter you've met."
"Tony DiMarco," Tony introduced himself. "I assume you're my New York guests?"
"Peter Burke," Peter introduced himself, shaking Tony's hand awkwardly. "You didn't tell us in the emails that you knew Caffrey."
"You didn't say his name was Caffrey," Tony pointed out. "The emails all called him Nick Halden."
"Wait, really?" Jones said, glancing between them.
Peter looked stunned. "We did say that. We used his alias when we set everything up."
"I knew Tony by a different last name," Neal added helpfully. "Which is why I didn't recognize his name either."
"Wait, so you two had no idea that the other one was going to be here?" Diana gaped.
"Not until I saw him," Neal said.
"Not until he kissed me," Tony added. Neal gave him a peck on the cheek for that before turning the camera back to focus on the three shell-shocked agents.
"You're telling me that wasn't planned?" Jones didn't believe it.
"Nope!" Neal said cheerfully. "But you're not asking the best question."
Peter had a hand over his eyes. "I'm not sure I want to know."
"Hmmm…" Neal said playfully. "Want to make a little wager?"
"Oh no, I've lost too much money to you already today," Diana scowled.
"Hang on," Peter said, hand dropping from his face as he stared at them. "You can't — you've been here…"
"Ooh, Peter figured out the right question!" Neal cheered.
"I'm sure he still hasn't figured out the answer," Tony pointed out.
"When was the last time you were in New York?" Peter asked Tony.
"About eight months ago," Tony answered, even as Neal said, "Not quite right."
"Did you see Neal then?"
"Nope!" Tony said, as Neal hinted, "Getting warmer."
"When was the last time you two saw each other?" Diana asked suddenly.
Even without the camera trained on them, the glee in Tony and Neal's voices were audible.
"The year after you graduated?" Neal asked.
"I think so. You weren't at the five-year thing." Tony agreed.
"Please, like I'd want to come," Neal teased.
"So a few decades," Tony decided, focusing on the three gaping agents. "It's been a few decades since I've seen Neal."
As they continued to stare, Neal turned to Tony, the glasses shifting to show his smug expression. "So, when did you become a Fed?" Neal asked.
"When did you?" Tony countered.
The video ended, and Tony smirked out at his students, who were in no better condition than Neal's team had been.
"Did you date back when you knew each other, before?" Cadman asked quietly.
"Nope!" Neal said.
"I wasn't out as bisexual back then," Tony explained. "I wanted to go into law enforcement, and their attitude wasn't the best about that kind of thing."
"So you saw someone that you hadn't seen in years, who as far as you knew was straight, and you didn't even know for certain was involved in this undercover operation, and you just walked up and kissed them?" Deschamps asked Neal skeptically.
"I knew that my contact was called Tony," Neal shrugged. "I took the chance that even though the last name was different, the first name meant that he was also undercover. Maybe he'd gotten married and taken his partner's last name. I knew if it was the Tony I remembered, then he'd roll with it. If not, then the case of mistaken identity and resulting bar fight would be a good chance to get you all to expose yourselves."
"For the record, getting yourself beat up just to see who does it isn't the best way to maintain your cover," Tony quickly pointed out. He didn't want his students getting the wrong impression. Fortunately, a few of them chuckled.
"Why are you still draped all over him, then, if you're not his boyfriend?" Jackson asked Neal.
"Because the job wasn't over until you saw the final clip," Tony pointed out. "Remember, I asked how many of you thought he was my boyfriend? Your answers were influenced by our actions in the classroom, as well as in the bar. We talked about maintaining cover through arrest if necessary, and I know you had several examples of roleplaying in interrogation. Remember our rule? The role doesn't end at the door! This is a further example of that."
"Plus, he's hot. I might just keep him," Neal piped up, then ruffled Tony's hair for good measure.
Tony gave his most put-upon sigh. "And Neal's got the maturity of a toddler sometimes," he joked. "That's another important factor you have to keep in mind."
"Hey!" Neal swatted his arm as the students laughed.
"Jokes aside, that's it for the day," Tony said, using his best teacher voice. "If you haven't already returned your props and costumes, do so before you go home. I want you all to review what slips were made and make yourself a checklist of things to keep in mind based on today's exercise. The surveillance videos and Neal's notes are all in our shared class folder, so go back over them at your own pace to see the details Neal mentioned and study his own performances. Don't be late tomorrow; Neal will be giving us his personal take on undercover work then. Now get out of here."
The students dispersed quickly, as Neal's team and the other instructors made their way to the front of the room.
"Neal, will you leave him alone?" Peter scowled.
"I don't mind, Agent Burke," Tony said. "I meant what I said to my students."
"So did I," Neal murmured lasciviously into his neck.
"Don't make me cuff you," Peter threatened.
With a sigh, Neal let go of Tony and slid a few feet over to lean against the table, deliberately putting distance between them.
Tony forcefully told himself that he didn't miss Neal's touch.
"Well, that was entertaining," said Parker, the US Marshall who was teaching protocol to Tony's students. She was on friendly terms with him, and he'd invited her, as well as the other teachers of this cadre.
"Enlightening," said Hardison, Cybercrimes consultant and another one of the teachers. Edgerton, the FBI sniper in charge of teaching marksmanship and tracking, just smirked.
"So you two knew each other in college?" came from the last professor, Miller from JAG.
"Not exactly," Tony explained. "I was doing my Master's at Stanford, and acting kind of like an elder statesman for my frat."
"And I had friends in the frat," Neal concluded.
Tony noticed that Peter looked skeptical, but he wasn't sure why. Probably related to the fact that Neal was using the word "friends" instead of "brother."
"I thought you didn't go to college," Jones asked.
"I didn't enroll," Neal pointed out. "That doesn't mean I didn't know people."
"Well, regardless, I was very impressed with your work today," said a voice to Tony's left. Turning, he saw SecNav Davenport standing in the doorway.
"Sir!" Tony greeted him sharply.
"Some of your students have a lot of potential," his boss continued. "Especially those who managed to keep their wits about them when Mister Caffrey entered the scene. It's a testament to your teaching."
"Thank you, Sir," Tony said.
"I think I'll try to drop in to hear his lecture tomorrow; I'm sure it will be quite instructional."
"I'll do my best," Neal said, thankfully without teasing.
As soon as he was gone, Tony turned to Neal. "So, want to get some drinks for real and catch up?"
"I'm sure he'd like to, but he's confined to our hotel," Peter said quickly.
Tony raised an eyebrow questioningly at Neal, who huffed and tugged up his pant leg, revealing a standard tracking anklet.
"Oh, that actually makes way more sense than you becoming a Fed," Tony smirked. "I guess we'll just have to meet at your hotel bar then?"
As Neal smiled brightly at him, Tony could swear he heard Burke mutter "Unbelievable."
Neal leaned in and pecked his cheek. "It's a date, babe."