So it's the birthday of the awesome dotfic and a national holiday - COINCIDENCE? Sugar, I hope this story makes you smile! It's White Collar gen that takes place at no specific time because I can forget this show's canon even as I'm watching it. Anyway, the real point of the show is to demonstrate the awesomeness of Neal and Peter and El and Mozzie and Diana and Jones, isn't it? Especially Peter. And especially especially El.
Speedy and supersmart beta by ariadnes_string, to whom I owe many thanks.
"Someone's been a very naughty boy," Peter said, doing that G-man thing he did where his face was angled away but his eyes unerringly hit their target. Peter had missed a spot shaving that morning; Neal could see a small triangular patch of valiant hairs at the corner of his jaw. And that was odd, because Peter was precise without ever being fussy. A man you could set your watch by. As honest as the day was long. Peter was a man who made other people think in clichés.
It hit him suddenly that he hadn't responded to Peter's opening gambit. "Who?" he asked, just to be obliging. No need to admit that Peter's sidelong glance had had its intended effect, which apparently never diminished; Neal's stomach wasn’t quite tying itself in knots just yet, but was clearly getting limber so that it could do so at Peter's earliest convenience.
Peter swiveled, his latent dramatic instincts coming out in the sharp movement of his hips, and held up a thick leather band. It looked unsettlingly familiar, but Neal's brain chose that moment to go blank on him, and all he could rely on was what his eyes were telling him. He saw leather, the color halfway between mahogany and walnut, broken by a heavy silver buckle. It formed a natural loop, curved like the brim of a broken-in baseball cap. Still trying to think, eyes darting from Peter's set face to the wide circlet in his hands, Neal couldn't formulate a single theory that made sense of both the prop and Peter's grim expression. He raked through his memory for any enemy he'd made who might have a leather fetish - disturbing, but necessary. When that came up blank, he tried again, this time using Mozzie's array of foes. Nothing.
"Just tell me, Peter," he finally asked, wanting to end the suspense.
Peter waved the leather band in front of him once more. "No?" he asked and Neal shook his head in what he'd always thought was a disarming manner. It never worked on Peter.
"You're looking awfully anxious," Peter said, voice deceptively mild. "In fact," he added, perching on the edge of his desk and leaning forward until Neal could smell the cool blue scent of his aftershave, "you're sweating, Neal." Again, he turned without letting his eyes wander from Neal's face, twisting at the waist just enough to drop the leather circlet on the clutter of his desk. "Come on, spill. Who are you thinking of?"
"No one," Neal said, trying to keep his voice light.
He stepped closer in an attempt to appear helpful, and that one step gave him a new view of Peter's desk. More specifically, of Peter's phone, which was illuminated by one unblinking red light. The phone was on speaker, and there was someone on the other end, listening to every word and putting the pieces together. He pasted a wide smile on his face while he cursed himself for playing fast and loose with the anklet's restrictions. He was capable of far less than Peter believed, and those limitations, though they’d caught him by surprise, were absolutely solid; whatever Peter suspected, he'd have to work hard to disprove it, eliminate all doubt so as to satisfy the mysterious listener as well.
"Tell me what's going on," he asked, holding up his hands - palms facing Peter - and spreading them wide.
Peter eyed him narrowly and sat back, resting his weight on his hands. "You were right, honey," he called, and Neal heard Elizabeth's gleeful giggles pouring out of the phone. "He does go pink when he's panicking."
"What?" Neal asked, running his hands through his hair. "This was all a test?"
"I'm sorry, Neal," Elizabeth said, at least sounding repentant, though Peter was still smirking. "I just asked him to tell you that Satchmo's having puppies -" that was why the leather strip looked so familiar, because he'd seen it every time he'd seen the dog "- and wanted to know if you thought June would want one. Blame Mr. Quantico there for turning it into an interrogation exercise."
Neal dragged his eyes from the light on the phone to Peter only to be confronted with Peter's cell, snapping a picture of his no doubt profoundly disbelieving and pink face.
"Yeah, I'm the guilty one," Peter said, chuckling to himself. "Thanks, honey."
"Come home safe," she responded, smacking a kiss into the receiver.
Peter hit a button, ending the call, and turned back to Neal. Still smiling, he said, "It's all fun and games until someone makes a bad decision."
"Peter, what -"
"I'm just saying, you wouldn't have looked so guilty if you didn't have something on your conscience. Now, I don't like wasted chances. And I don't know yet what you've been doing when you slip your anklet. But I'll figure it out and then we might have to have this talk for real."
"You won't have to," Neal said earnestly; there was nothing to find, nothing to hide - all the fooling around with the anklet was just restlessness, nothing more. "There's nothing there."
"That's the last thing I'd believe about Neal Caffrey," Peter said, smiling again, but this time his smile cut the tension in the room instead of ramping it up. "Get everybody in here, would you? We've got a new case."
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.