Grape juice would have been better.
Where on earth did Peter buy swill like this? For the love of all that was holy, it didn’t even need a corkscrew; the top twisted off easily in Peter’s sure hand.
He bit down on the protest he felt bubbling to his lips at Peter fetching one of his wineglasses – beautiful, classic, simple – and setting it out to hold this vile brew. It was easier than he’d anticipated, because the sight of Peter moving with such familiarity and certainty in his space was very much a welcome one. It struck him, not for the first time, how easily they’d found a common rhythm, despite being neither identical nor opposites. Maybe it should have been harder for him to fall into line with the pace Peter’s strong legs set, or to judge the space left to him by Peter’s broad shoulders, but he couldn’t deny that he felt the same sense of rightness when he was by Peter’s side that rolled over him when he got the depth of blue in a Raphael sky to match the master’s.
If he’d known this was what was waiting for him, he might not have led Peter on such a merry chase.
But it was hard to predict Peter, stubborn and charming, confident and intelligent. Bringing over a six-pack and a bottle of what someone had the nerve to label as wine was hardly SOP for catching one of the few crooks to slip without warning or fuss through the FBI’s many grasping fingers. Peter might protest that a few beers didn’t affect his cognitive processes, but such an argument would hardly impress Hughes. Neal knew better anyway; Peter got a little tipsy and just a bit more tactile, fingers skittering across a tabletop or along a sofa arm like they wanted something soft to bury themselves in or something firm to grasp.
Neal knew himself as well as he knew Peter. Alcohol didn’t make him loud or handsy or melancholy. All that really got him drunk was quality, a sense of the fineness of what he saw or felt or tasted; Peter’s two-buck muck wouldn’t get anywhere near his head, no matter how much of it he downed like it was medicine. It had to be good to make him succumb – a Fra Angelico, a shirt of raw silk, a cup of Italian roast.
Peter, with his uneven tan from working in the garden, with his hair still cut the way he’d had it done as a boy. Peter, with his off-the-rack suits and penchant for disastrous ties. Peter, who’d looked at his case file and seen not just a puzzle but a person, who’d shook his hand the first time they met as themselves.
Peter was clearly unaware of the net he’d cast that was closing in around Neal, barely able to recognize, let alone articulate, his awareness that Neal had put on the dark green shirt that Peter seemed to like the best. It might have been funny if it hadn’t been so frustrating.
Peter came up behind him, warm and solid, and casually reached across him to fetch himself another beer. Neal faltered just a bit at the contact and closed his eyes.
He waited for a beat, then two, but Peter didn’t step back, and Neal felt the rush of intoxication sweep through him.
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