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Telling Peter

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"So, you're on call as a gentleman escort to June?" asked Peter. It was hour three of a stakeout, and they were starting to reach a little bit for conversation topics. "Puttering her around to the well-heeled and overly bored?"

"Something like that," Neal answered easily.

Peter sat up a little straighter. "What's it like, specifically?"

"Excuse me." Neal was clearly not asking for clarification.

Peter pressed the issue anyway. "You gave an evasive answer to a straightforward question. You can call me a nosy parker, but since I'm functioning as your parole officer, I want you to explain your living situation to me. Specifically."

Neal shifted in his seat. He didn't move away from Peter; instead, his posture shifted so Neal was oriented toward Peter, his arms and legs just open enough to indicate he was receptive to the next thing Peter said. "Peter," he said cajoling. "You know she's not giving me room and board to try to stretch out her pension."

"I ran a background check on her when you moved in, Neal. I know she's loaded. Which, actually, makes this whole situation really suspicious. What's she get from you, if not a strong arm on a boring night?"

"You don't believe it's just the pleasure of my company?" Neal's cajoling was half-hearted, as if he had to give the excuse a try, but knew it was futile.

"No," said Peter, amusement evident.

"I teach Cindy about art, sometimes." This time Neal's excuse sounded wistful and thin.

Peter didn't even answer that one verbally, just rolled his eyes and crossed his arms.

And then Neal sat back, turned his attention from Peter to the brownstone they were intended to be surveilling. "It's for the pleasure of my company," he said flatly.

"I already told you I don't—You have sex with her? She's old enough to be your mother. She's old enough to be my mother!"

"She didn't give birth to either of us," said Neal. "And she's more attractive, better connected, and better-heeled than my mother ever dreamed of being, Peter."

"I…don't even know who's taking advantage of whom here, Neal," said Peter. He still sounded astonished, although less  disgusted than he was to begin with. "God, why did you tell me that? Prostitution—."

"Prostitution's not an issue here, Peter." Neal glared at Peter. "I knew you'd think that, you'd hear sex and see a mature woman and think that we had some sort of," he shuddered delicately, "verbal contract. She likes having me around, I like being around her, some of the things we like to do involve nudity."

"And for your naked activities, she feeds you, clothes you, and houses you," said Peter.

"I'm an impoverished friend to whom she can afford to be a little generous. And, I stress, it's only a little generous. She missed out on the tax break from donating her dead husband's clothes, her cook makes twice as much breakfast as before, and occasionally I steal down to her kitchen and eat leftovers for dinner, but I always eat lunch out and usually cadge dinner off of you." Neal's posture changed again, forward leaning, legs spread wider. He licked his lips. "Honestly, Peter, if I was going to play gigolo after jail, I'd have tried with you first."

"You, uh, you wo—," Peter sputtered, hands waving excitedly.

Neal waved back, but in a breezily dismissive fashion. "Relax, Peter. I wouldn't try it now. Now, I know you love your wife too much to have something on the side." He grinned, suddenly, the way he did right before saying something outrageous. "You and Elizabeth together, if you guys were into threesomes, but not just you."

Peter continued to sputter on his side of the car.

"But I'm not a gigolo, Peter. I've never been a gigolo. You know my history; you know that. I met an interesting woman, with whom I sometimes have sex, and she's kind to me. That's all there is to it."

Peter frowned but turned to focus his attention fully on the building they were watching. "For certain very interesting values of all."

Neal just sighed.