Rating: art is PG-13, fic is between R and NC-17 depending on your porn thermostat :D
Warnings: Light D/s and bondage kink
Fic wordcount: 6342
Author's notes: I knew as soon as I finished the show that I'd be writing something to do with Peter's control-and-possession issues, and that I'd be writing an OT3 fic, but I didn't think they'd be the same one; I certainly didn't think they'd be accompanied by such amazing art. Thanks to everyone who held my hand while I panicked about writing porn (first ever NC-17 fic, aaaaaggghhh) and thanks also to those people who helped out an Aussie and a Brit re: the American names for things like Scotch tape and glove compartments :D
Artist's notes: My reaction to mainlining White Collar for 2 days straight can be summarised as, "OMG NEAL OMG PETER OMG EL." To be honest, as soon as I watched the pilot I knew I was doomed. :D I think anyone getting into a new fandom should start off with a threesome collab. I mean, really - get with the times, guys! Thank you to mijan for art beta help. ♥
If he bothered to analyse it, Peter would say that it's less about controlling action and more about security of knowledge. A crime has motive and method, but a crime has already been committed by the time it falls across his desk and demands his attention, and Peter Burke considers himself an expert in what happens next. It's what happens next that determines whether someone will ultimately be held accountable.
And Peter has made his recent career on the question of what Neal Caffrey will do, where he will go, the improvised origami of how the future folds and unfolds when your mind is Neal's brilliant and entitled diamond of a mind.
"Chicago," says Neal.
Peter smiles. "Easy."
"But I wasn't --"
"You weren't going to run. You hadn’t achieved anything yet." Peter looks at him sidelong. "And the champagne, what was that meant to be, a bribe?"
Neal shrugs. "Entertainment?"
"You didn’t have enough to worry about, so you thought you'd spend the afternoon stealing a hotel uniform --"
"Peter, please. It took half an hour at the most."
"Less reminiscing, more eating," Elizabeth tells them, and holds out something that looks like it might at one time have been a passing acquaintance of a shrimp. There's parsley on top of it.
"No," Peter says. "El, what happened to the sandwiches?"
"I'll have it." Neal leans forward and opens his mouth, and Elizabeth feeds him the maybe-shrimp with a delicate flourish.
"The sandwiches were a lie, honey," she says then, and kisses the top of Peter's head. "You get to help me assess caterers instead."
"This is really terrible," says Neal, with his mouth full.
"Interesting." El flips open her folder and makes a note.
Peter is too hungry and too pragmatic, and too conscious of the curious eyes of the rest of the office, to sit there and scowl in the hope that Elizabeth's basket of carefully-stacked canapes will somehow turn into the tuna salad sandwich he actually wants for lunch. He takes some mini spring rolls and endures El's fussing at him with paper napkins.
"Well, I appreciated the champagne, Neal." Elizabeth gives Neal a warm smile. "Very thoughtful of you."
"You weren't -- wait --" Peter coughs on his mouthful of food. "I was in Chicago chasing down your reckless ass, and you sent a bottle of champagne to my wife?"
Neal's eyes are wide; Peter doesn't trust that look at all. "I sent one to your hotel room. It seemed only fair."
"I didn't see that bottle, El."
"Well of course not, honey, I invited the girls over and we drank it before you got home." Elizabeth turns back to Neal and holds out a meatball on a stick. Her eyes are just as wide as his. "Try this, it's spiced lamb."
"My favourite." Neal gifts her with the kind of disarming smile that gets descriptions from bartenders, phone numbers from anything with a pulse, and blushes from much more worldly people than Elizabeth. "Peter, don't take this personally, but I may have to steal your wife."
"Is that right."
El laughs. "Don't worry, sweetie, I'm sure he'd replace me with an excellent copy. You'd hardly know the difference."
"Why bother stealing her, when you already flirt with her every chance you get?"
"Peter." Elizabeth comes and leans against him, one arm around his shoulders. Peter can smell her perfume. "It's Neal."
Neal raises his hands, one of which is still holding the meatball. "Hey, tell me to stop and I'll stop."
"Oh, like I'll believe that."
Neal's expression shifts, subtly, from teasing to something more complex; something that Peter, who knows him back to front and joy to anger, can’t identify. "You've got to trust me with some things, you know."
Peter pokes a finger in his direction. "You be quiet and eat your lamb."
Neal bites the meatball off the stick and gives Peter a familiar look, this time -- see? -- the look of having done his homework or identified a painting or miraculously kept his mouth shut in front of Hughes. That casual arrogance of perfect obedience: Show me which rule I've broken. Show me which line I've overstepped.
Peter blinks and turns away to rummage in the basket of food, because that look has always made his hands and his mind itch with the desire to keep pushing. To keep drawing lines around Neal and then shove him towards them to see if he'll pull himself up short.
"How was it? I need to -- Neal? Come on, I just need some feedback for -- what? What is it? Oh, I see, very funny."
Peter only looks up from a plate of surprisingly excellent prosciutto-wrapped melon slices when the exasperated note in El's voice informs him that Neal has been trying to communicate, in increasingly over-the-top sign language, that Peter told him to be quiet.
"Brat," Peter accuses.
Neal grins and throws a napkin at him.
Peter's phone rings just as Elizabeth removes her bra and he pulls her close against him, her hair sweet-smelling and ticklish under his nose and her whole body delightfully warm.
"Of course," he says, resigned.
"Go on," she says, and prods his stomach.
Peter would like nothing more than to let it vibrate itself off the nightstand and bury his face in the hollow between her breasts, but El knows just as well as he does that one of the unfortunate things about this job is the fact that when the phone rings at eleven o'clock at night, you pick it up. He makes a grab for it and manages to answer with a minimum of irritated key-bashing.
"What?" he growls. You pick it up; you are not, as a general rule, expected to be civil.
"Neal." He puts a hand over his eyes, but not before he sees El's eloquent eyeroll, so he's smiling despite himself when he says, "If this isn’t a matter of life or death then you can hang up the damn phone and tell me in the morning."
A pause. "Bad time?" It's Neal's most helpful and most dangerously innocent voice.
"What -- no!" he says on reflex, and then, cursing himself, "Yes. Yes. This is a bad time. Go away. I mean, hang up."
Neal's laughing at him, and so is his wife. Peter groans and Neal's laughter gains an extra note, somewhere between incredulity and admiration. "Peter."
"That wasn't --" Peter starts, but then El rolls sideways and swings her leg over until she's sitting on top of him; he gives another groan, unable to stop it from escaping, and this one is. "Still there?" he snaps. He should hang up, really, but he told Neal to do it, and now he feels as though he's in a murky and stomach-squeezing game of chicken.
"This probably doesn't count as phone sex," comes Neal's thoughtful voice. "Maybe there is a word for it. It'd be good to know."
Peter watches his free hand glide up Elizabeth's bare thigh, firm palm giving way to the feather-light touches that always raise goosebumps on her skin and hitches in her throat. "Phone sex implies that you are in some way a participant."
"Is that so." Neal's voice, Peter thinks, is thinner than usual now; breathless at the edges. But still mocking. "Don't you want to ask me what I'm wearing?"
Peter bites his own lower lip, catching the gasp before it can escape, as Elizabeth shifts her weight. "I think I do that often enough as it is."
"Oh, give me that." Elizabeth takes the phone from him and puts it to her own ear. "Hello, Neal," she says, as calmly as if she were stepping into the White Collar office to force-feed them some more catering samples, instead of sitting largely-naked astride her husband. She listens for a while, her hair falling across her face; Peter, seized by a small and amused savagery, takes hold of her hips and grinds them down against his own. El looks straight at him, her eyes dark, one hand coming up to her muffle her mouth for a brief moment. Her grip on the phone never wavers.
"El," says Peter, and then holds his breath as his wife moves her weight onto her knees and reaches down with her left hand, just long enough to find the right angle; she settles down onto him with a widening of her eyes, and it's all Peter can do to keep his eyes open for long enough to watch her free hand fly back to her mouth. She bites down on her own index finger, her body shudders a little, and then she takes a deep breath.
"Yes," she says into the phone. "Aw, that's sweet of you, Neal, but I think I've got it covered for now. Mm." She laughs. "Maybe another time. I'm hanging up now. Bye."
"What was that?"
Elizabeth leans over to dump the phone on the table, and the new angle created by the motion interrupts Peter's breath. "Oh, he offered to come over and give me a hand."
"And you said, maybe another time?"
"Peter." She leans down and kisses Peter's neck, nipping the skin -- more new angles; Peter tangles one hand in her hair and bites back a curse -- then she folds her arms on his chest and rests her chin on them and looks at him bemusedly from a close distance. "Neal is not exactly the kind of person that anyone would kick out of bed, and you know it." She drums her fingers against his skin. Her hair is a mess, and her eyeshadow starting to smudge, and she's perfect.
"Should I be jealous?" His own voice is odd; rough, stretched, only just joking.
"Oh, sweetie." Her smile goes wicked. "Seven years of Neal Caffrey's ghost hanging around our house, six months of the two of you living in each other's pockets, and you only now think to bring up the subject of jealousy?"
Peter stays still, even though every nerve in his body is screaming for movement. For rhythm and release. He's thinking. "Bad move?"
"Interesting move," says El, her mouth quirking, "considering the circumstances." She gives a little shift, her hips moving experimentally from one side to another and her body still pressed all the way along his, and really, this is not playing fair, but their marriage has always been far too interesting to be based on an idea like playing fair.
Peter gathers his strength for a sudden move and then makes it, rolling them both over, perilously close to the edge of the bed, until Elizabeth's hair is decorating the pillow Medusa-wise and silken and Peter is above her. El gives a delighted sound of surprise, merging into a gasp as she wraps her legs around his and pushes up against him.
Peter manages to say, "I'll make it up to you?"
"I'm sure you will," she says, and her mouth is inches away, and Peter gives up on apologies and analysis and coherent thought; he just kisses her and kisses her and kisses her again.
"I'm going to be seeing columns of numbers in my sleep," Neal complains. He throws the paper onto the table, where it joins a lot more paper, and stands up to stretch out his back.
Peter, standing near the window and fighting off a headache born partly of sheer frustration and partly of too much coffee, glances over at him. "I've had a thought. Do you remember Seattle?"
"I was never convicted of --"
"Neal." Peter gestures around the office, darkened apart from the light in this conference room. Cruz and Jones threw in the towel half an hour ago, and Peter is close to doing the same. "Who are you trying to convince, exactly? I was there. I know you damn well did it. And it's hardly in my best interests to send you back to prison, at this point."
Neal grins. "Well. If you think Russell is trying what I may have allegedly done in Seattle, I thought about that, but I honestly don't think he's the type to plan that far ahead. None of the information we have suggests he's capable of much more than reacting to new developments."
"Then why the hell can't we -- hmm. Show me the insurance figures from the November report again."
Neal digs the stapled sheets out of the mess on the table and slides them down to Peter's end. "Jones highlighted the discrepancies in yellow. The blue is the stuff I think he missed."
Peter tries to concentrate, but he too is beginning to see colourful numbers when he closes his eyes, and the report swims in his vision. "Now why couldn't you have been this cooperative in Seattle?"
"What, you think I take orders from every pushy FBI agent to come snapping at my heels? You had to catch me, first."
Neal darts a pointed look down at the anklet and smiles with a tired mouth, and Peter feels a blink of desire like sunlight seen through tinted glass, a sharp luminosity, painless but with the promise of danger. He thinks about Neal's unsteady voice over the phone, and Neal keeping his mouth shut as a joke to prove -- what? Always, with the two of them, there's that element of something to prove.
Peter has never tried to fool himself that his expertise has ever been much use when it comes to relationships; he loves Elizabeth for the fact that she has always been something of a mystery, challenging him, letting him discover her slowly.
It was Neal who showed him the problem with trying to solve his wife like an equation, and it's likely that the same approach isn't going to get him anywhere now. Because he's starting to feel this as a certainty, the same way he felt the rightness of the idea when he finally knew what to do for his wedding anniversary. He trusts that feeling. Other agents might call it a gut instinct, but for Peter it's always been in his chest, perhaps somewhere in the bone, near the source of his heartbeat.
Peter tilts his neck from one side to the other, stretching out the knots, balanced on the edge of -- something. He doesn't want to fuck this up, and truth be told he's still a man whose idea of creative romance is abusing the Patriot Act -- what if he's wrong?
But this is Neal. Peter struggled through three years of being just wrong enough before everything fell into place, and the gap between his knowledge and Neal's fiendish talent for disappearance shrunk to arm's-length; enough that he could reach out and close his fingers on something other than Neal's ghost.
This is Neal, arrogantly obedient Neal, who left Peter a note that said 1.6 miles, after researching a tracking anklet that he couldn't remove, who ran to Peter's house instead of from it and then taught himself how to move between the lines of visibility.
Peter might be wrong now. But he knows how to set his hands against Neal's boundaries and see how far they'll move.
"Neal," he says.
"Take off your tie."
Neal glances down, eyes sharp, checking for food stains or -- Peter assumes -- to make sure that it hasn't metamorphosised into something which coordinates to an inferior degree with the rest of the suit. Satisfied, he looks up again. "Peter. I realise you have problems with the concept, but this is a good tie --"
"I know it's a good tie, Neal. I want you to take it off." I want. Slipping into the personal is a clue, if Neal chooses to pick up on it, and Neal likes clues.
Neal's mouth opens; his fingertips rest against the tie, on his chest, confused; his brow flickers. He doesn't say anything. He knows it was a clue.
Peter holds himself steady. Doesn't blink, and doesn't look away from Neal's pale puzzling eyes. The expression is the right one -- I know you want something from me -- and the hesitation is right too, because it means that Neal is checking for traps, working out the meaning behind the words.
Peter says, "I'll only say it twice, Neal," and it's the escape route. Neal likes those, too.
Neal is still staring at him, and as Peter watches, his expression clears into a smooth excitement. Neal hooks his finger in the knot of his tie, tugs left right left to loosen it, pulls the silk out into a large loop. And then over his head. And then he sets it down on the table and looks back at Peter with anticipation sparkling in every angle of his body, his hands restless by his sides, the challenging tilt of his chin, his eyebrows lifting to ask and what now?
Indeed. And what now? There's only so much Peter will do here, now, in the name of testing his own hypothesis.
So he says, "Sit down."
Fast as light: "Chair or floor?" Neal asks, and something surges out under Peter's skin, all the way from his ribs until it reaches his fingertips and tingles in the nail beds, powerful and impatient.
Neal sits, as casually and flirtatiously as he ever does anything; crosses his legs and makes himself comfortable and keeps looking, looking, always looking at Peter with that breathless question written plain across his face. So many things are possible in the potential space of what-happens-next, a multitude of orders blossoming frantically into a tree of choices. Peter considers them: Come here. Hold out your wrists. Kneel down. Tell me the truth, the whole truth.
Instead he leans against the window and breaks their eye contact for the first time, looking out into what he can see of the city beyond his own reflection. He looks tired. New York looks alive, spinning with lights, calling to that hot tingling that Peter can't quite banish from his fingers. It's tempting. But he knows what he needs to know, now, and he is tired, beneath the heat. He makes sure to look back at Neal when delivering the next command.
"Put the tie back on."
Neal frowns. He looks as though he might say something, but Peter raises an eyebrow and eventually Neal does as he's told, slips it back over his head and fusses over the knot until it's almost as neat as it was before. Peter exhales, gives himself a mental shake, and picks up his coat from the back of a chair.
"Good," he says, and rests his hand for a moment on Neal's shoulder as he strolls to the door. Nothing he hasn't done a hundred times before. "You should go home. Get some sleep," he tells Neal, as gently as he can. "Come on, I'll drive you."
Neal looks up at him with a final searching glance that becomes a smile, and stands. "One of these days I'm going to demand hazard pay."
"My driving is not that bad."
"It really is."
"Walk home, then."
Neal laughs, and shrugs on his jacket, and the tingling is completely gone -- but not forgotten -- by the time Peter turns the key in the ignition.
"You're home early! I'm very impressed."
"And I've brought you something."
Elizabeth's face flows from surprise to suspicion to a faint, thoughtful frown, where it lingers for long enough that Peter starts to wonder if he's in serious trouble. But she's looking at Neal, and he's looking back, and eventually she flicks her hair over her shoulder and, it seems, her reservations with it. She smiles.
"Well, honey, you've certainly put more effort into the wrapping than you normally do."
Neal grins, sticks his hands in his pockets, and leans down to kiss her cheek. "Happy birthday, Elizabeth. You look lovely."
On occasion, Peter will admit to a certain amount of what has been variously called deviousness, manipulation, and outright bastardry, depending on the source of the description. But even he wouldn't have thought to organise what seems to have happened here as pure confluence of luck -- namely that El, with the directness that Peter has always appreciated, has made clear her own plans for the evening in the form of a deep red slip. It's devoid of any fancy bits made of lace, and it reaches her knees, but it's certainly not normal dinner wear.
"Thank you, Neal." Elizabeth considers her attire, gives a shrug that sets her breasts moving under the satin in a mouth-drying way, and visibly decides not to let it bother her. Peter glances at Neal, who is wearing a subdued version of electrified appreciation, the kind of look that would usually lead Peter to break out in smugness or anger. But neither is really appropriate here.
"Peter, can I..." A small jerk of her head. "Neal, you go make yourself at home."
Neal slips past them and Elizabeth lingers with her hand on the handle of the front door, watching the tap-tap-tap of her own fingers before she turns to pin her husband with a familiar look of steady, devastating telepathy. They've always been able to read each other, and Peter is grateful, because he still hasn't thought of a way to put the explanation for this into words.
"Is this --" She bites down on her lip, releases it, takes a deep breath in. "I know you didn't forget my birthday, so -- this is what it looks like, isn't it? I'd ask what you think you're doing, but you look exactly the way you did the day you first caught him."
Peter's glad for that, because it means he's managing not to look uncertain. He touches her upper arm, reassuring her with contact. "I learned a long time ago to keep the receipts for your gifts, El. Just say the word and we'll feed him dinner and send him back."
"Feed him dinner, the man says." Elizabeth shakes her head, smiling, and lays her hand against his cheek. "You're lucky I always make enough for leftovers."
"Peter." She leans up and kisses him, gently. "Are you sure everyone is on the same page here? Not kicking someone out of bed is not exactly the same thing as dragging someone into it."
"No dragging." He takes her face between his hands and kisses her in turn, a wordless answer. "Do you honestly think I could force Neal into anything he wasn't willing to do?"
"If anyone could, sweetie...but I take your point." She steps away, turns, and glances over her shoulder at him. "As birthday presents go, I'll have to give you marks for originality."
As they enter the living room Peter wants to clear that out of the way, these scraps of lingering doubt. His mouth is dry, suddenly.
He says, "Neal."
Neal looks at him, eyebrows raised, smiling. "Take off my tie?"
It's a small surge but no less exciting for that: they are on the same page, and this is going to happen, and Peter can see the bright branching paths laid out for him like surgical instruments; the choice is his. But there will be a best choice for the end he wishes to reach and the care of those beneath his hands, so the choice must be a good one.
Still: the choice is his.
"Close. Undo it. But leave it on."
He watches only long enough to see Neal start pulling at the knot; then he watches Elizabeth, her intelligent eyes widening in realisation of how and why Peter has managed to bring them all to this spot. She walks up to Neal and, all solemnity but for the amused twitch of her mouth, reaches up and transfers his hat from his head to her own.
"Suits her, don't you think?" Neal's tie is hanging loose around his neck.
"You could say that," says Peter.
"Mm, I think I need to get one of these." Elizabeth tilts the brim back so she can look thoughtfully at Neal. "Well," she says finally, "this does look easier than Peter's usual efforts with Scotch tape," and she takes firm hold of the tie's loose ends and pulls Neal down into a kiss.
There's a ringing in Peter's ears, the opposite of pain, a soaring possessiveness, struck up by this image created by the two people he cares most about in the world. Neal's eyes closed and his body moving neatly against Elizabeth; her hands busy now unbuttoning his waistcoat, the top of his shirt.
As he watches them, Peter isn't aware of formulating a plan, but he finds himself undoing his own tie and pulling it off, letting it whisper though his fingers. He gets behind Neal and takes hold of the man's upper arms, slides his grip firmly down past the elbows, down to his forearms, so that Neal is forced to release his twin grasps on Elizabeth's neck and waist. Peter presses his thumbs into Neal's palms, strokes his fingers across the back of his hands, and holds them tight behind his back.
"This feels somehow familiar," says Neal, with dry laughter in his voice, and manouevres one of his wrists over the other, keeping them steady. Peter feels his mouth crook into a smile as he slips the tie underneath, folds one end of the fabric under a loop of the other end and then pulls tight; not too tight, but tight enough. And then another knot.
"Knowing you, you could probably get out of this without too much trouble," he tells Neal. "Don't."
Neal twists, testing, and then lets his hands fall still. The heat is back in Peter's fingers, rubbed there by the combination of silk and submission -- that sense of power under the skin. But it's not just the two of them now. Peter looks at his wife in an unspoken offer; the gift is hers, after all.
"Oh, no, honey, this is your show. I know how much you enjoy running things." She gives him an earnest nod, adjusts the angle of the hat on her head, and sits down on the couch with the air of a polite spectator.
Neal looks around at her. "I think the only person who didn't know was Peter."
"Maybe I'm a bit slow sometimes, but I get there eventually." Peter steps around so that he's facing Neal again. "Took me three years, but I got you, didn't I?"
"Yeah," Neal says softly. "You did."
"Sit down," Peter says, and then, pre-empting: "On the table. Facing me."
The coffee table creaks as Neal sits, an everyday sound that serves to lighten the air and slow Peter's pulse from where it's pounding against his thoughts.
"You guys need better furniture," Neal says, his tone reproving. "All these fiddly legs, there's no structural integrity to it at all. Remind me to buy you something better. Victorian style. Nice and solid."
"Thank you, Consultant Caffrey, we'll take that under consideration." Elizabeth slides a fond hand into Neal's hair, a caress that tightens and tugs his head back until Neal is looking straight at Peter, fearless, and Peter's sunlit desire for the both of them deepens and spreads into a near-unbearable burn.
The point is not that Neal is the most objectively attractive human being that Peter has ever set eyes upon, even though Peter had barely met the man before he had to front up to the fact that his personal Kinsey position was maybe a touch more central than he'd previously assumed. Even though there are moments when Neal smiles or pulls on a pair of gloves or sidesteps someone in the street and Peter feels -- heavy, astounded, ruefully amused, that Neal exists and is the way he is. And right now, with his lips reddened and his expensive clothes rumpled and parted and lying flush against bare skin, Peter wants him in what is probably a very mundane way. Well, not mundane; the want is a searing tug, a local gravity of breathlessness and the desire to touch. But unoriginal.
No. The point is that the very idea of someone else being the one to catch Neal was one of the things that drove Peter forward through three years of red herrings and paltry evidence and Neal's slipstream laughter hanging like a signature in the empty air. And now the thought of Neal as someone else's responsibility, someone else watching his brilliance and drinking June's coffee and holding tight to the invisible reins that are keeping him out of prison -- this drives Peter, too, but in different directions. It drives the fear of loss, and the desire to share Neal only with the person with whom he shares everything. The half-thinking action of his own hands binding Neal's together with silk.
Elizabeth was right: it's ridiculous, almost unbelievable, that the word jealousy took this long to cohere in his head.
The world is within the sound, the sight, that sliver of teeth and tongue that explodes minutely on the p and leaves Neal's mouth not-quite-open, not-quite-closed. Peter lifts his hand without quite meaning to and touches the gap with his thumb: below Neal's eyes untroubled and lovely and that pale drowning blue. Below El's fingers feathered by their own violence, their steady grip on thick waves of hair. Neal's face framed and contained by the stillness of their hands.
Peter remembers to breathe.
And Neal says, "Please," with that same microcosm parting of lips on the first letter, and Peter's thumb is warmed by the sibilant, and Peter leans down and kisses Neal Caffrey, Neal Caffrey, for no reason other than he wants to and he's caught him and here he is.
The number of people Peter has kissed is -- well, probably below any kind of average, seeing as how he's always been one for the long haul rather than casual encounters, and he's been married for a decade. But he wouldn't swap any quantity for the quality of kissing El, or for this, the way Neal makes small hungry noises against his mouth, the way his tongue carries a hint of the breath mints he's taken to stashing in the glove compartment of Peter's car.
As much as he'd like to keep this up until they run out of air, the angle is less than perfect when it comes to the comfort of Peter's back; "Stand up," he says, right against Neal's mouth, and shifts backwards just enough that Neal can obey. His left hand is still along Neal's jaw, and with his right he pulls Neal close. His body is warm and solid and moves easily under the pressure of Peter's palm.
Elizabeth is standing as well, her grip in Neal's hair as sure as ever, so Peter can't tell if Neal is pushing forward against him or if that's her creating the angles, and he goes almost dizzy with the idea of it: El holding Neal in place so that Peter can bite at his mouth and kiss that beautiful cleverness to the surface.
And it's there, when Neal pulls away, his smile infused with a familiar irreverence. "Do you have a plan here, Peter?"
"I seem to remember someone telling me that if you go in without a plan, then nothing unplanned can happen."
"I never thought you'd actually take the philosophy to heart. I'm touched."
It's a fair question, the old question: what happens next? Here is the future, a cloud of possibilities collapsing with a sigh to leave just a single path strung up like a sheet between pegs, Peter anchoring all three of them whenever he speaks. It turns out that coordinating three people is difficult to accomplish with dignity, but, like any team mission, easier when one person is giving the orders.
Upstairs: because maybe Neal has a point about the furniture in the living room, but they do own a bed. Neal walks up the steps backwards, and when he stumbles the tracking anklet gives an abrupt bang against the wall.
You can undo the tie now: leading to Neal wriggling his hands free with a speed that's almost embarrassing, and then waving his fingers gracefully in front of Peter's face as the tie falls to the floor.
"Pins and needles," Neal says, smiling, and then attacks the buttons of Peter's shirt without prompting; Peter allows it, leans down over Neal's shoulder and kisses Elizabeth, who's still working on Neal's clothes, though now from behind him.
"Thank you," she whispers, and Peter kisses her cheekbone and her temple and then her mouth again and when he pulls back it's only to focus on Neal's expression, which is fierce and amazed.
"Neal," El says then, tugging at his shirt and waistcoat, and Neal moves his arms obligingly so that she can remove them. Peter shrugs his own, now unbuttoned, off as well.
Then Neal sways close again and strokes Peter through his trousers; he's been hard for what seems like years, by now, and the friction is terrible and wonderful all at once. Peter groans and Neal whispers, "That's it, come on, please," into his neck. Elizabeth's hands are undoing Neal's belt, Elizabeth's mouth opening under Peter's as he kisses her again, Neal all warm bare skin where he's wedged between them and it's incredible, Peter thinks, he needs words that haven't been invented yet in order to capture just how incredible it is.
Don't close your eyes: and Neal doesn't, he watches as Peter kneels on the bed behind his wife, pulls her hair gently to one side of her neck and sets his mouth over the skin this lays bare. Elizabeth leans back against him, clenches her hands in the sheet and exhales as he sucks blood to the surface.
"Not much chance of that," Neal says, his voice thin, his wide wide open eyes almost green under these lights.
Use your hands on her: which is the right thing to say, it turns out, because Neal is a tactile creature. He touches skin as though he's wearing white gloves, handling something rare, with frank curiosity and a delicate respect. Peter can only drag his gaze from Neal's hands when Elizabeth's breath begins to stutter and she writhes, the red slip bunched up under her breasts, decadent and gorgeous and breathless as Neal slips his fingers inside her.
"Yes," she hisses, teeth catching on the word. Peter leans down and palms her breast through the fabric, squeezes, then her hand catches at the back of his neck and pulls him down into a kiss that's untidy and unravelling and breaks, finally, as her fingertips dig painfully into his hairline and he's aware of her legs shaking, then shivering, then falling still. Peter kisses her forehead as her breath comes in guttural sounds, and he looks up to see Neal sucking his fingers clean, his eyes cloudy with lust.
Tell me what you want: because Peter is new to this, running on instinct, and he won't just fumble around in the dark when he wants to show Neal how completely fucking amazing it is that they’ve found their way here --
"I want you to fuck me," Neal says, "but you have to ask for it," and Peter leans down to press his forehead against Neal's shoulder, his teeth clenched, waiting for the heat to subside enough that he can say anything at all.
He tries, he wants, he does, but the words jumble themselves inside his mouth and he won't relinquish control, so instead of letting out something incoherent he says, "Not -- not just yet," and the order changes, swiftly, into --
Show me what you want: yes, better, Neal's bibliophile hands seemingly everywhere at once, deft in the crook of Elizabeth's bent knee and the hollow of Peter's throat, his fingers sliding salt along Peter's tongue and then closed wet and tight around their cocks.
"Jesus," Peter chokes out, "Jesus, Neal," and Neal must be far gone himself because instead of making a joke about it he tilts his head back into the pillows, accepts Elizabeth's mouth on the bare skin over his collarbone, and cries out with barely any sound at all.
What happens next?
The security of Peter's knowledge is not absolute. Things that will have to be considered are clamouring dimly -- the dinner still to be eaten downstairs, the location data ever-trickling from Neal's anklet, whether this will happen again and under what conditions. He's not going to assume anything. He doesn't have a plan, right now, but he doesn't need one yet.
Peter raises himself onto one elbow and brushes El's hair back from her near-dozing face, her cheek resting on Neal's chest and her body curled like a comma around his warmth. Neal is lying on his back, between them, gazing at the ceiling and tangling his feet slowly in a bunched sheet. His skin is bright with sweat and from this angle his eyes are no longer pale and no longer hint at green but are instead a frighteningly true sky-blue, a weathering colour, vast and very far away.
"Come back," Peter says without thinking, and then pulls the command into his voice and tries again: "Neal, come here. Right here."
And Neal does, to his great relief: his gaze shifts, sharpens, and consumes the distance. His hand lifts; he pulls one fingernail in a light thoughtful arc down the side of Peter's face, reaching his mouth and lingering there for long enough that Peter can lift his own hand and encircle Neal's wrist, feel the flutter of blood and match it to the way Elizabeth's hair is stirred by Neal's slowing breath.
"Peter," Neal says, nothing else, but it sounds like a promise. Peter tightens his grip.
"Got you," he says, and Neal closes his eyes and smiles.