Pairings: Gen for now, Neal/Kate, Peter/Elizabeth canonically, possibly starting on pre-slash for Peter/Neal and pre-OT3 for Neal/Peter/Elizabeth
Rating: PG-13 for now.
A/N: post-Free Fall, and therefore contains serious spoilers to the last scene. My first fic in this fandom, so mostly trying out the new playground. It's not my current working theory for the final scene, but it's a theory.
“What about Neal?” Kate asks, not moving from the doorway, hesitant, as if she was going to bolt any second.
Peter sighs, raising his hand to wave her in. It’s Kate Moreau’s world, which means the same rules apply as in the world of Neal Caffrey, and of course the signet ring catches light in a flashy and theatrical manner. Her gaze follows his hand and she sighs, shoulders deflating, and she steps in, closing the door carefully. “What about him?” she repeats quietly.
“He’s looking for you.”
“No. What is surprising, however, is how successful he is. Almost as if someone was leaving him a trail of clues. That wasn’t a part of our deal, Kate.”
She smiles, charming and innocent, as she perches herself up on the table. She’s uncomfortable but hiding it; Kate’s a natural at this game, much as Neal is, but she’s still inexperienced, still young. Talented, yes, and in a few years she could be leading Peter’s successors at the department on a merry chase, but she’s not an expert on hiding her moods just yet.
“If I just left, just disappeared, how much time till he runs off in a mad search for me? I’m leaving breadcrumbs, he’ll spend a while picking them up. It’ll keep him here in the city.”
She’s right, but it’s the nature of the breadcrumbs that worries Peter. Her gaze follows his, resting on the ring. “I would have thought it was buried deep in some evidence locker,” she offers, closer to a question than to a statement.
“Souvenir from the only time I actually caught you red-handed? It has sentimental value,” he says dryly. “Of course, if I knew it wasn’t one of a kind… lost heir scam again?”
“No. It’s… complicated,” she says, cracking a small smile at the cliché. Kate, like Neal, has a great appreciation for clichés.
“What isn’t? Kate, are you in trouble?”
“No. Yes. No,” she shrugs, and Peter’s so glad that’s clear now. “There’s something I need, and it’s kept in one of Neal’s hiding places, I don’t know where. He’s been playing things close to the vest.”
“He’s not the only one,” Peter points out and Kate nods, conceding. “Kate? How much trouble?”
She’s young, he thinks, too young for this life, too young to sigh this hard. Then again, his desk holds a file on her and it’s quite impressive. She’s kept clear of anything dangerous and cruel; it’s been almost a point of pride between her and Neal, they always conned the rich and the powerful, stayed away from the guns and drugs and violence. It’s a part of why Peter kind of likes them.
“No trouble at all if I get him what he wants,” she says lightly and studies his face for a long moment, as his mind starts working, poking at the problem and despairing the damn conmen and conwomen who can’t keep away from trouble. “I can’t believe you’ve kept the ring,” she says finally, laughing. “You’ve always been sentimental, Peter. Must be why Neal likes you so much.”
He shrugs the comment off, and along with it, he shakes off the flash of pleasure at the words. It’s not the good time or place to be having those thoughts, and to be honest, no time would be good and every place is pretty damn awful for this, much less Kate’s hotel room.
“Who is he?” he asks finally, not expecting her to answer at all. She doesn’t disappoint.
“Better if you didn’t know,” she says and it makes him think of what Neal has said, about the Interpol. He took it for bullshit, there’s no love lost between the FBI and the Interpol, especially once they crossed their paths on any given case, but maybe for once they’re not just screwing with them for the fun of it. “Peter, don’t think about it too much.”
Much easier said than done. “I could try, but we’re back to Neal being already too involved in this. He thinks you’re in trouble, Kate, and for all I know, he’s right. He won’t rest until he finds you.”
“I know,” she says fondly. “I shouldn’t have gotten him involved, but I need the… I need this one thing.”
“You can’t even tell me what it is? It’s always games with you,” he mutters, more to himself, but she catches it easily.
“You always loved the games, Peter,” she says, smiling as fondly as she does when she speaks of Neal. Peter didn’t think he’d see that smile directed at him, but Kate happens to be rather strange sometimes. “The games, the chase. You kept the ring and the suit, and I bet you kept the Christmas cards, too.”
He nods, guilty as charged. “They’re evidence,” he lies by not lying. “Go and see him. Explain it all.”
She gives him a look that he doesn’t appreciate, a look that is all too knowing for his liking. “I thought our deal was that I don’t see him? Let him be and let you keep him out of trouble?”
“Well, obviously that’s going very well.” The problem here is that he knows Kate and he knows Neal and he knows how they act when they get together; they’re reckless kids and the world is a one big amusement park. You can’t stop that but good luck trying, pick up pissing against the wind while you’re at it. “I could help you, if you let me try,” he adds before he can stop himself, because somehow he likes to dig himself a new grave every once in a while.
“I’d rather not… I’d rather not involve you. I’d rather not involve Neal either, but he apparently didn’t trust me enough with the access to his cache and, well, here we are.”
“And here we are,” he agrees, tugging absently at the ring on his finger, turning it around. It’s big and clunky, and he hates jewelry, he couldn’t even wear an expensive watch for more than a day. “Who was in that photo, Kate?”
She sighs. “I’ll talk to Neal. Tell him what he can safely know. But I don’t know how much surveillance he has. He probably knows you’re here and…”
She’s nervous again, even though she seemed relaxed for most of their conversation. He hates dealing with distressed women, did he mention that already?
“Do you know my wife?” he finds himself asking and Kate sends him a curious look, her head tilted to the side. He rolls his eyes, at her and at himself, before she can smirk fully. “You know what I mean.”
“I’ve seen pictures,” she nods and visibly holds back a smartass comment, which is appreciated and definitely more than Peter would expect from, say, Neal.
“She’s having lunch tomorrow at Baluchi’s,” he starts and Kate’s already nodding. He hates dragging Elizabeth into that, but it’s safer than him escorting Kate anywhere, if she’s indeed being watched. And besides, considering El’s latest actions, she’ll have nothing against the subterfuge, she’s apparently developed a soft spot for Neal.
Last time she developed a soft spot for someone, they ended up with Satchmo. At least this time no one is likely to pee on Peter’s carpet.
“You know,” Kate says thoughtfully, drawing out her words as she looks up at him, once he moves to leave, after carefully placing the ring on the table. “Neal is lucky you were the one to get his case.”
“You call being sent to prison for four years lucky?” He has had second thoughts about that, and third and fourth thoughts as well. But that’s how it is; you do the time you earned, that’s how the world is supposed to work.
“Depends on what awaits you when you leave, right?” she asks cryptically and holds the doors for him as he leaves.
She was quite mistaken; he doesn’t like the games at all.
During those three years Elizabeth Burke has felt as if she was competing with Neal Caffrey for her husband’s attention she never once thought that one day Neal would be appearing on her doorstep. But it keeps happening.
“Peter’s not with you?” she asks, glancing over his shoulder. Peter called few hours ago, told her about clearing Neal and that he still has some work to do, and to not wait with dinner. She’s well accustomed to not waiting with dinner.
“Running late,” Neal says and bounces on the balls of his feet, charming smile in place as he waits for an invitation he knows she’ll extend. Damn him and the puppy eyes she apparently can’t resist.
“Please, come in,” she says pleasantly and he winks knowingly. Satchmo runs down the stairs, tail wagging at the sight of Neal, who bends down to scratch him behind the ears, muttering nonsensical endearments. “I have cake leftovers from the launch party,” she offers and Neal brightens up and moves to get the plates, unprompted.
“I was actually hoping on some of those FBI distracting cookies, but cake’s good too.” He’s smiling, but she knows awkward small talk when she hears it.
“I draw a line at doing one semi-illegal things a day, and harboring a fugitive took care of that,” she warns him cheerfully.
“It was very impressive, actually,” Neal says, ignoring the implied question, as she thought he would. “It amazes me how good your poker face can be, considering you’re married to someone who doesn’t have any. I mean, really, Peter’s kind of an awful liar.”
Now that’s a question disguised as a statement. Elizabeth has been through a few rounds of this trust game, but usually she sees it from Peter’s side. It’s one step forward, two steps back, all the time, as Peter tries to fit his surprising need to trust Neal with his well-developed distrust of the world as a whole; the latter makes him a great agent, she supposes.
“Neal…” she starts and stops, shaking her head as she picks up the plate. “More cake?”
Satchmo perks up, and she’s about to remind him the chocolate cake is not for dogs, when he scrambles to stand up and race to the doors, announcing Peter’s arrival. It’s just a thing that she happened to glance at Neal, otherwise she would have missed the sudden tension flashing across his face, one she hadn’t seen before.
Whatever happened today, it must have been pretty damn serious. She’s quite tired and has no desire to deal with anything serious today, but if she leaves them to it, they’re probably going to make a great mess out of it.
She’s not sure when this became her role; mediating between those two, and she’s not sure when she started to actually like Neal so much. Maybe the first day he showed up on her doorstep, all blue eyes and a charming smile, asking if Peter was ready to come out to play. Or maybe six months into Peter’s investigation, when he had chased Neal all the way to Paris. Elizabeth got a postcard with the Eiffel tower in winter and a short message: ‘Sorry for keeping him away on your anniversary. Won’t happen again. xoxo, Neal.’
She should have been scared that one of her husband’s suspects had her home address, but somehow, the xoxo at the end made her laugh. Only Neal Caffrey.
Neal Caffrey, who, according to Peter, would probably shoot himself in the foot if he had to handle a gun and who really didn’t like fist fights, but who was now standing in her kitchen, his whole body tense like a piano wire, fists clenched as if he was readying himself for a confrontation.
Well, of course the good times weren’t going to last long, but honestly, it’s been a rollercoaster of a day already.
Peter smiles at her as he enters, instinctive and warm, and she can’t help smiling back, despite the nervous feeling in her stomach. Ten years and it’s still like that, he just makes her feel happy. Then his gaze shifts to Neal, and the smile remains in place, shifting into a slightly bemused one.
“Next time you’re on the run, I’ll just have to check my house first,” he mutters, clearly aiming for dry and arriving somewhere at fond.
“Peter,” Neal’s voice is strained, and Elizabeth sends Peter a concerned look, stepping aside to busy herself with the coffee maker.
Peter’s voice is low when he speaks next, quiet, as if he was worried that the detail in front of their house, even though long gone, could still pick up on his words. “I spoke to Kate.”
Elizabeth’s fingers slip on the coffee mug and it chinks loudly against the counter. From the corner of her eye she catches Neal’s completely stunned expression, for once clear of any studied look. It seems as if all the anger he carried was knocked out of him by those four words.
Peter raises his hand, speaking a little faster than usual. She knows this one, it’s the tactic he uses when he suspects she’s going to be angry at whatever he’s going to say. It is just that little funny to see it aimed at Neal, except that looking at him now, it’s not that funny at all.
“Yes, I knew the way to find her, and no, I wasn’t going to tell you. But you were right, she might be in trouble.”
It’s the ‘might be’ that usually means ‘certainly is’, and Neal seems to know that as well as Elizabeth does.
“Where is she?”
Peter shakes his head. “You’re not going anywhere, not tonight. If she’s right about someone watching her, you’re just going to cause trouble. You’re staying here.”
Neal stays quiet for a long moment, longer than Elizabeth thought him capable of. His gaze, aimed at Peter, is searching and just a little bit suspicious. Finally, slowly, he relaxes, turning to wink at Elizabeth.
“Looks like we’re having a sleepover,” he announces cheerfully, drawing his words out, probably to annoy Peter with the theatricality. Peter doesn’t look irritated this time though, he just looks concerned.
“I’ll make hot chocolate,” she decides. “Marshmallows okay with everyone?”
It is sometimes satisfying to see Peter’s exasperated look, she’ll give Neal that.