"Maybe you should put that back where it belongs."
"Maybe you should make me." Caffrey's eyes practically twinkle at him in the dim glow of the museum's nighttime emergency lights.
"You know, you could call me Neal if you wanted to, Peter," Caffrey says, and this time he winks at him.
They're in a closed wing of the Met, one of the corridors full of storage rooms or interns' offices, Peter doesn't know which. But Neal Caffrey knows this place like he's memorized the blueprints. Peter's chased him up and down over three stories and a sublevel, one end to the other, and now, Peter wastes a moment wondering how long Caffrey has known who he is as a steel door marked 'No Admittance' flies open. In a breath, it slams shut, and Caffrey's gone.
Peter shouts into his radio for someone to give him the code for the keypad, but when he punches it in, it doesn't work. A security guard arrives and it still doesn't work, and Peter has to take a long, long, long way around while a tech reprograms the door.
The item in Caffrey's pocket, the curator explains, is a small, rare, and priceless Andean artifact: a nude mother-goddess not unlike the Willendorf Woman, and the oldest of its kind found in South America. The sculpture is smaller than Peter's hand and, inconveniently for him, on loan from the National Museum of Peru. Hughes is on the phone with the State Department until midnight, quelling tempers while shooting baleful glares at the staff called in to deal with the Caffrey encounter. Peter files his report and is home by one thirty, resigned to accept that the kid has flown.
The next day, however, the sculpture is back in its proper place with a cluster of three blush-colored origami cherry blossoms at its side.
"Seriously?" El doesn't even try to suppress her laughter when he tells her about finally meeting him face to face.
"How can you laugh?" Peter feels a little wounded by her mirth.
She squeezes his hand. "Because he's flirting with you, honey. That's just too adorable."
Peter eyes her doubtfully for a moment. "Really?"
Peter could bet he knows where the anonymous tip came from. It's too big a coincidence and too significant that it didn't reach him even ten minutes earlier. Right now he's forcing a fire door to a deep balcony five stories up, shoving aside a heavy planter Caffrey hauled over to block the door. Peter catches sight of him and his unwieldy burden. It's a painting worth about ten million bucks on the current market, and culturally it's as important as the little sculpture he grabbed the last time. Peter sprints across the patio as Caffrey dodges furniture, heading toward what Peter guesses must be a fire escape. His heart's pounding. At last, at last—
"Caffrey, don't make me shoot you," Peter yells. A gust of wind picks up the painting like a kite and pulls Caffrey toward the edge of the parapet. "Damn it, Neal, don't do this!"
Caffrey reaches the corner and looks over, looks back. Peter can't see what Caffrey sees, but he has to be judging angles and distance. Peter doesn't think he can make it, not with the painting in his arms. Peter takes five quick steps forward. If he can get to—only Caffrey hangs the damned picture on the goddamned tree in the corner planter. And jumps over the wall.
"Neal!" Peter shouts. The wind has the painting again. Caffrey—Neal. The Hathaway's property. Neal. Peter rips the frame down with his left hand and with his right, he just brushes the back of Neal's hand as he falls, falls.
He lands with a clang too far below. He's sliding down another ladder, then another. There's a hard landing, and then he's in an anonymous black car, too far down for Peter to see the plate, which is pulling into late night traffic and—is gone.
He'd said one thing before he leapt: "Sorry, Peter." But it wasn't snide or taunting. It was affectionate, and the look on his face was one of exhilaration and joy, despite his having to dump the loot.
Peter picks up the painting and inspects it for damage. The frame is scraped, but otherwise it seems fine.
"You nearly had him. Again," Hughes grumbles the following morning.
"Believe me, I know. The wind blowing away a ten million dollar work of art or catching Caffrey…"
"Not really," Peter lies. He couldn't have cared less about the painting, but losing it and Neal both would have brought on a bureaucratic shit-storm and 'save the thing you can' was so ingrained now, it was pure instinct. "Easy call, just tough luck. We'll get him next time."
Peter next catches sight of Neal on a busy sidewalk. Peter's driving, stuck in traffic. Neal crosses the street, stops, makes deliberate eye contact with Peter, and walks to the entrance of a public parking garage. One illegal turn later, Peter's prowling up the concrete levels—eight, nine, ten—to the roof. He drives the circuit, missing Neal entirely until he's in the lane to go back down again. He backs up, parking diagonally across the drive. Neal takes off his hat, runs a hand through his breeze-ruffled hair, and replaces it firmly. It's gusty up here, even in the lee of the enclosed stair access.
Peter gets out, saunters over. "I take it you wanted to talk." Peter checks his watch. "You have two minutes before I read you your rights."
Neal looks wounded for a second, and it might even be genuine, Peter's damned if he can tell anymore; but then Neal's stepping closer, cupping Peter's face in his hands, and laying one on him. Peter's mouth falls open in shock, and Neal takes advantage, kissing him fast and wet. When he pulls back, Peter blinks for a second, stunned, but he recovers in good time, he thinks, considering. "What the hell—"
"I've been wanting to do that for over a year," Neal says. He looks happy, thrilled with life and pulling off a new stunt, tying a new knot in Peter's understanding of the world.
Peter shoves him hard enough to make him stumble back against the rough brick wall. "You bastard. You think this is a game. More of the thrill of the chase for you to get off on?"
"You don't get to do this. You do not get to fuck with me like this."
Neal's shaking his head. "It isn't like that. You aren't going to believe me, I know, but I promise it isn't like that."
Peter sighs. "You have the right to remain silent." At that moment, Peter's phone rings, and it's El's ringtone.
"You'll want to get that," Neal says knowingly. Peter cocks an eyebrow. "Please, do you really think I'm going to sprint down ten flights of stairs while you answer your phone?"
Peter presses the button to take the call. "Sorry, it's a bad time, honey. I'll need to call you back."
"Do you know why there's a contractor on our doorstep wanting to install a rooftop terrace on our house?" She sounds baffled, angry, and all too much like she has no time for this.
"Wait, what?" Peter puts a hand over his other ear to hear her better over the noise of the city—cars, boats, planes, echoes of car doors slamming floors below—it's never quiet anywhere.
El repeats, enunciating slowly, "There is a man here from Citywide Restoration with plans to put a terrace on our roof. He says it's already been paid for."
Peter realizes he's turned half away from Neal to focus on the call when he senses motion from the corner of his eye. And just like that, Neal's gone.
Peter lunges toward the open door of the stairwell and looks down, but it's empty. There's a clatter outside somewhere, though he can't quite tell from where. Peter goes back out and rounds the side of the structure, where he finds a ladder made of bent rebar jammed into the concrete. He hangs up on El—he'll explain later—and climbs up. There's no rail, only the corner of the roof and a narrow alley more than a hundred feet below. And Neal, clambering down a scaffold from an honest-to-God cable stretched across the way. He's still wearing his hat. He reaches a floor with tall windows and slides one up. He looks up, then, at Peter, and waves.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," Peter says that night. El puts her arms around him and pulls him close under the blankets.
"I can't believe he jumped like that."
"Hm. For all I know, he was wearing a rappelling harness the whole time."
"Mm, doubtful. It would have ruined the line of his suit."
Peter snorts. "That's what you notice? What about the damned kiss?"
She shrugs. "Tell him next time I want to be there, too."
"He may be prettier than me—"
"He is not prettier than you—"
"—but I married you and I'm keeping you."
Peter looks into her eyes, sees the steel there and the love. He shakes his head in amazement. After a minute, he says, "I don't know how I should feel about this."
She purses her lips. "That would depend on whether you're going to arrest him."
"He's a wanted felon. And my primary case. I can't protect him."
"But you're crazy about him."
Peter laughs. "He makes me crazy, El. I can't say that's the same thing."
El smiles back. "I love you. From everything you've shown me, I think Neal probably adores you, too."
"God alone knows why."
"Oh, I know. Because he has good taste, and you're a worthy opponent because you can catch him. It wouldn't be any fun for him with someone less talented." She kisses his cheek. "And he seems like a hopeless romantic."
Peter mouths her shoulder. "Doesn't mean I should let him do…this. Make advances. Bribe me with major remodeling. Christ."
El snuggles closer. "You want to kiss him again, though."
"Oh, hell yes."
She hums. "Tell me again what it was like."
Peter and El are staying at a little, antiquated inn—not quite a B&B, not quite a hotel—on a three-day Montreal getaway. They haven't been here an hour yet and Peter's had it up to here with Canadians pretending not to speak English, even if they are in Quebec. He knows for a fact Quebecois kids have to learn both languages, but the concierge is busy with another guest and suddenly Peter's plan to surprise El with tickets to a show or something evaporates like a bubble. She wants a relaxing weekend, and given that she speaks the language, he might as well leave it to her to decide their itinerary.
But then Peter sees Neal on the stairs. He catches up to him on the landing and wraps a hand around Neal's right biceps and squeezes. "Of all the people I didn't think I'd run into here. What, did you hack our reservations?"
"Shh, don't make a scene, Peter. Let's go upstairs." Neal takes a step up, but Peter doesn't let go.
"I should arrest you right here."
"You can't. Jurisdiction."
"Extradition from Canada takes about five minutes."
"Peter." Neal's eyes are wry, frustrated, maybe a little tired-looking. He tugs Peter upstairs with him. "You know I'll escape if you do, and then you'll have an international incident to deal with. Just…no one has to know, okay?"
They make it to the second floor corridor, which is soft-lit with gold sconces. There's a plush, dark-patterned carpet under their feet and northern landscapes on the walls. Neal turns to him and touches Peter's face with his free hand.
"Will you introduce me to Elizabeth? Do you think she'll let me kiss you again?"
Peter narrows his eyes. "Do you have me under surveillance?"
Neal looks confused, and genuinely so as far as Peter can tell, not as if he's performing. "You mean beyond watching for you to arrive?"
"Do you or do you not know what she said about that kiss?" Peter's suddenly aware of how tightly he's holding Neal's arm, but he doesn't let go.
Neal shakes his head. "Not explicitly, no."
Peter looks at the ceiling, exasperated. "Neal, what are you playing at?" His voice is a lot louder than he meant it to be.
"Could we not do this in the hallway, please?" Neal hisses.
A door opens and El's head pops out. "Honey? Oh my god." She looks from Peter to Neal and back and frowns. "All right, get in here."
"Do I want to know how you knew we'd be here?" El demands after the door bangs shut behind her.
Neal looks sheepish. "Probably not?"
"Yeah, tell me anyway."
"The confirmation email."
"You hacked my email?" she said, outraged.
"Sorry," he says, and finally does look sincerely apologetic. "I had no right, obviously. I apologize."
"Never do it again." El folds her arms over her chest and does nothing but stare at Neal for a long moment.
"Elizabeth—can I call you Elizabeth?—I—"
Neal shoots her an irritated look. "There are only so many ways I can safely make contact with you."
"Do you have our phone numbers?" she asks.
"Do you want the FBI tapping your phone?" Neal counters.
She sighs. "Neal, you're wanted by police all over the world, and you decide to follow Peter and me on vacation. To Canada."
"And not even the good part," Peter says.
"Hush, it's beautiful here," El says.
"I know you just got here, but you have to have noticed the architecture!" Neal gestures broadly; he sounds positively scandalized. "This city is beautiful." He looks from Peter to El. "Look, if nothing else, let me show you around. Please. I know a little restaurant you'll love. And a dozen places you have to see while you're—"
"Stop," she says. "Why are you here?"
Neal looks at Peter as if for help, but Peter raises his hands. "No way. This is all on you."
Neal makes a face that as good as says, "Fine, be like that." To El he says, "I wanted to meet you. I wanted to—" He looks at Peter. "—spend time with you in a more social environment."
"One that doesn't involve leaping from rooftops," Peter grouses.
Neal beams. "Yes."
El looks like she's smiling despite herself, and if Peter knows her at all, she's choosing to let the breach of privacy lie. Hell, it isn't as if she hasn't heard what Neal's capable of.
Her anger's fading fast under the onslaught of Neal's hopeful smile, and Peter's heart does a damned flip in his chest. His wife. His suspect. Neal glances over at Peter and his expression changes. El catches it and looks to Peter, too. He blushes, and El winks at him where Neal can't see her do it.
"Okay, I have an idea," she says. "Or a suggestion, I guess, for some ground rules. First, no one's getting arrested, not here and not today." She looks at Peter, but he's not willing to agree yet, so he doesn't answer. "Second, Neal, I want to know your interest here."
Neal grins, then leers, then grins again with a smoky look in his eyes. El raises an eyebrow, but he holds her gaze and doesn't flinch. She doesn't look over at Peter, but that's okay. He knows the look on her face: it means she's amenable, more than amenable.
"Third, you have to—"
"Wait," Neal says. He steps forward and takes her hand, folding it into both of his own.
"—know that Peter wants you," she blurts.
"El!" Peter protests, and she and Neal both turn to look at him.
"It's very, very mutual," Neal says, eyes fixed on Peter. Then he looks back at El. "What do you want to do?"
She sighs. "Look, Peter has a lot to lose if there's ever the slightest implication that he let you get away—much less met up with you in a hotel in another country—"
"—and engaged in things we have yet to be guilty of, yes." She nods. Neal says, "But it would be my word against yours, and no one can prove I've been here."
"What?" Peter asks.
"I'm not a registered guest and their only working security camera is over the cashier's counter."
"Really." Peter moves closer. He has El in full view and a great view of Neal's back in his long-sleeve shirt and black trousers.
"Really," Neal says. He's still holding El's hand.
"How'd you get across the border?" Peter's close enough to smell his skin, close enough to reach out and rub his thumb up the back of Neal's neck.
Neal shivers under his hand. "I drove," he says. "Only the highways have border patrol. There are plenty of old back roads that go through."
Peter steps forward again, closing the space. His mouth grazes Neal's left ear, and Peter breathes in expensive cologne and Neal. "I am so compromised here." He's looking at El, but speaking to them both. "Neal, it's going to kill me to send you to prison."
"Peter, no," Neal says, and El's hands hold him fast where he is while Peter kisses Neal's neck.
"You have to give me something small. Something you can plea down to a short sentence and be out in no time. Do you understand?"
"No." Neal pulls free of El's hands and turns to face him. "Elizabeth said no arrests." His eyes are hard, completely serious.
"Not today. I'm off duty, out of my jurisdiction, and I don't even speak the same language as local law enforcement. The last thing I want right now is to send you to jail. But Neal—" Peter cups Neal's face in his hands and kisses him hard. Neal moans gratifyingly and Peter says, "I could put you away for twenty or thirty years—if I had enough evidence. I don't. But I could if I got lucky or you did something stupid."
"I won't." Neal shivers, and Peter realizes El has wrapped her arms around him from behind.
"I have to keep chasing you, though. Every priceless knickknack you steal, every painting you forge—what am I going to do?"
Neal smiles and Peter strokes his cheeks. "You'll never catch me."
Peter shifts his weight, nudges a knee between Neal's and pushes in. He can feel exactly how aroused Neal is, and Neal knows, too. "I'd say you're pretty well caught."
Neal's eyes fall shut. "You won't have enough to convict."
Peter lets his teeth graze Neal's neck as El pets his chest. "I caught you with that sculpture in your hand. And the painting."
"I never removed them from their owners' premises."
Peter blinks. Christ. That defense would blow their whole case apart. "But you intended—"
Neal strokes Peter's back. "Maybe I only intended to lure you to where I could see you."
"I told you he was flirting with you." El's laugh is warm, involved, and when she stands on tiptoe, Peter kisses her over Neal's shoulder. Neal's a tight-strung wire against him, between them, and Peter finds himself caressing Neal's neck while kissing El. The sensation amazes him.
Then Neal grinds forward against him. Peter breaks off the kiss with a gasp. "El," he says.
"Mm-hm." She slips around to Peter's side and pulls Neal down for a kiss. "Whatever you and Peter do, understand that I'm part of it. Always."
"Absolutely," Neal says, touching her face, her hair, her back. "Tell me what I can give you."
Peter's surprised at Neal's urgency, but maybe he figures pleasing El is the best way to get what they all want. He probably isn't wrong.
She smiles. "Oh, a lot, believe me. I've been hearing all about you for a long time, and I'm looking forward to knowing you in person. But you can start with Peter. The two of you have a lot of stuff to work out."
She pecks his lips, arms around his neck. "Do you love him?"
Neal betrays a glance at Peter, then faces her. "It took me completely by surprise, but yes, and now it won't go away." He pauses. "And I don't want it to."
Peter tries to catch El's eye, but she won't look at him. He isn't sure what she's doing, isn't sure how worried to be. He never imagined Neal would— Then she says, "Kiss me like you want to kiss him." Neal takes her in his arms and takes her mouth, kissing her long and deep, like nothing else exists in the world.
"Jesus," Peter says, and when they pull apart Peter has to spin Neal where he stands and take that same kiss for himself.
Dimly he becomes aware of El's voice saying, "Okay, scratch talking. Bed now," as Neal's hands slide up under his shirt, tugging fabric out of the way, and oh, skin.
"Clothes off," Neal says, and moments later they're a tumble of mostly naked bodies kissing and stroking and wriggling free of the last sock, the last scrim of underwear. Peter feasts his eyes—his wife: gorgeous, flushed, naked, touch-hungry, and Neal: lithe and erect, his cock a little wet already, impatient, beautiful. They're kissing, the two of them. Their hands are skimming over each other's bodies, learning dips and curves and lengths. Peter doesn't hear himself moan, but he sees El start and meet his eyes with a guilty look, as if she thinks she's taken something away from him by going for Neal first.
He shakes his head and Neal says, "Peter," picking up on the silent conversation. But Peter presses a hand to Neal's shoulder and weaves in through their knees until he can lean over them, feeling them. Then he stops hovering and gives them some of his weight. His cock rubs against them both and they each wrap an arm around him, pulling him down.
He kisses Neal first because his face is just a little closer. He kisses El next because they all feel the jolt of arousal shoot through her from them kissing in her arms. And then, the way she and Neal look together, kissing and tasting each other—it's all Peter can do to remember how to breathe.
Sometime later, with Peter thrusting into El as they take turns licking and sucking at Neal's cock, he feels El start to shudder in a violent, bed-shaking orgasm. Peter stills himself and grasps Neal's hips, keeps him where El needs him, with his cock nearly in El's throat. Peter kisses Neal's belly, his navel, his hip, and holds onto El's right hand, holding everything perfectly still as she shakes and moans. Finally, within her body, she starts to relax the death-grip she has on Peter's erection and she stretches her legs. Neal eases himself free from her mouth and gives her space to breathe.
El rolls her hips then, the ghost of a wicked gleam lighting her eyes, and Peter moans. Neal asks, "Are you close?" and kisses him, hard and messy.
Peter thrusts hard into El without intending to, and she grunts, pushing at his chest. "Stop, too much. I need—"
"Oh crap, sorry, honey, I—" He pulls out, brushing an apologetic kiss over her mouth. He sees that she's fine, and then Neal's on him, pushing Peter down onto his back and kissing him with what feels like years of accumulated longing. Neal's stronger than he looks, and Peter loves the way he feels, loves the lean line of his body and the urgent grinding against each other's hips. But Peter just left tight, wet heat, and he needs that pressure back.
It takes a heartbeat for Peter to align their cocks and get his hands in a slick circle around them. Neal curses into his mouth, and Peter laughs, ridiculously pleased at reducing him to profanity. Neal keens as Peter strokes harder, faster. "Next time," Neal says, "you have to be inside me. You have to."
"Yes—oh, fuck yes," is what Peter gasps out before he's aware of nothing but heat and touch and pleasure and everything goes blank. Then, slowly, his brain comes back online, and he knows, first, that he feels fantastic. He has Neal in his arms and El at his side. Neal has a bite mark on his shoulder that could only have come from Peter. He realizes, second, that he's going to have to find a way to keep this. There's never time for the big trips El wants to take, but little ones like this. He can't— Peter holds Neal tighter in his arms.
Neal lifts his head and smiles at him, and then kisses him softly on the lips. Then he leans sideways and kisses El. El hums, contented, and pulls Neal down to lie between them. Peter rolls, following. His cock snugs into the hollow of Neal's ass and he can't wait to find out what that feels like—later today, if he's lucky. He leans over Neal to kiss El, loving her more this second than maybe ever before, and he's a wet, sticky mess, but they all are, and for now they can stay here, drowsy and sated.
He's all too aware that soon enough, Neal will have to run and Peter will have to chase him, and, eventually, he'll have to actually catch him. But in the meantime. In the meantime, they can have—something. An afternoon, a weekend. Maybe more, if they're careful. They're all smart; surely they can manage careful.
"I can hear you thinking," Neal says.
Peter smiles against his neck. "Good."
El smiles at them both. "By which I think he means, 'How long can you stay?' "
Neal starts to tense, and Peter lays a kiss next to his ear. "Almost. What I mean is, 'Stay as long as you like.' "
"Shh," El says. "We have now. We can worry about the rest later."
Neal kisses his assent, even as Peter can practically here him thinking—planning, he hopes. "We'll figure something out," he whispers into Neal's hair. Neal hooks an ankle around Peter's leg, as good a yes as any.