Author's Note: This story takes place after my story The Van, but both are stand alone stories.
Neal was excited. Getting permission to throw a high stakes poker game was likely only ever going to happen this one time, and he was set on enjoying every moment of it! And the chance to save a kid?! It was enough to keep Kate off his mind, not to mention the losing battle of finding a comfortable sitting position during the team meeting he was currently in, and that was something he was thankful for.
Though, as Peter droned on about how there were 'rules' that were to be followed during the poker game, Neal's mind did find its way to Kate briefly, and after directing his thoughts to a safer area of reflection, he let a sly grin cross his lips at the fact that he'd just used Sara Ellis' credentials – unbeknownst to her – to illegally obtain the tape from the plane crash. Sara had no idea. Peter had no idea. It was going down perfectly, despite the road bumps in getting the tape out from under Sara before she knew she had it! That had been tricky and had included Moz breaking into her place to retrieve it, but ultimately it had worked out well. Now he just had to keep from tipping Peter off about looking into Kate's death, as Peter had quite unfairly forbidden him from doing so.
Feeling eyes on him, Neal glanced up just in time to see Peter's narrowed gaze boring into him. Clearly I gotta do a better job at not tipping Peter off, Neal thought to himself, giving Peter a confused gaze as he tilted his head to one side in a perfect mimic of the Burke's dog Satchmo. It wasn't easy pulling off innocent confusion when your heart was racing and your butt was still sore from the previous spanking from only a couple days earlier, but Peter went right back to his boring spiel. Neal took a deep breath and mentally demanded his pulse to return to normal. That was close, he told himself, too close.
"Neal," Peter called out, giving Neal the two fingered wave over as everyone began collecting their things to leave at the end of the meeting.
Neal barely contained the gulp and instead once again took on an innocently confused look as he beckoned Peter's call, following the older man to his office.
Peter studied Neal. Neal gave Peter innocent kitten eyes. And then Peter spoke, "Anything you want to tell me?"
Neal knit his brow and slackened his jaw lamely, nailing the look of total confusion. Blinking slowly a few times while looking around the room – as though an answer may be hiding in a corner somewhere - he then locked eyes with Peter and asked even more slowly, "I don't think so?"
"You looked like you were up to something during the meeting," Peter coaxed him in mild amusement.
"I did?" he asked brightly, hands clasped behind his back.
"You did," Peter said, now unable to hide his grin.
Neal finally allowed himself to grin at this point, knowing he was in the clear. "Oh. Well. … While you were talking I may have been thinking about how great it's gonna feel to save a kid," Neal told him in mock embarrassment, looking up at Peter from under his lashes for full effect.
Peter looked at him proudly for a long moment, which in turn made Neal blush for real.
"And how often do I give you the OK to throw a card game," Peter joked good-naturedly.
Neal bounced on his heels and agreed happily, "That too!"
Peter nodded and said, "This'll be dangerous, did you catch everything I…"
"Yea, I got it," Neal answered emphatically, his face eager and playful. "I heard everything you said, Peter."
Peter again became serious and he asked, "You sure? We can go over it again. I don't want you getting hurt."
Neal deflated a bit, touched that he was so cared for, "I won't get hurt."
Peter nodded, "See that you don't" he said as he patted Neal on the shoulder.
Well that was easy, Neal thought to himself before noting the sudden change in Peter's demeanor.
Following Peter's eyeline Neal saw Sara Ellis coming up the stairs.
"What's she doing here?" he asked grumpily.
"I don't know," Peter said. "Sara, what are you doing here?" he asked as she entered the office.
"I came to see Neal," she told him.
"Hear that? She came to see you," Peter joked.
"It's not a social visit," she said in irritation.
"What's this about?" Peter asked, clearly unhappy with whatever 'this' was.
"He broke into my house again," she said, giving Neal a scathing glare.
"Can you prove it?" Peter asked.
"With a polygraph," she answered.
"We're not issuing a polygraph," Peter told her.
"That's ok, I brought my own," she said with a grin.
Peter narrowed his eyes at her and then looked to Neal. "She brought her own," he repeated.
"I can see that," Neal smirked.
"Sara, if you had any proof," Peter was telling her as Neal swiped a thumbtack from Peter's desk.
"I'll take it," Neal said as all eyes flew to him. "I didn't break into her house," he said with an easy shrug.
Peter nodded and then inclined his head, "This way then."
Peter led them to an empty office that was four doors on the left from his own. "I'll be waiting," he told them. "Play nice."
Neal smirked at him while Sara grit her teeth in irritation.
"So, someone broke into your house?" Neal asked as she went about getting the machine set up.
"Can it, Caffrey," Sara ground out. "Sit here," she said, manhandling him to a chair in front of the desk.
She then got the machine set up and got Neal hooked to it, and then sat on the desk. After a few base line questions she started the interrogation.
"An unopened package from the FAA was stolen from my home – did you take it?"
"No I did not," Neal answered with a smirk.
"Do you know who did?"
"No I do not," he said, clearly satisfied with himself.
She then leaned in very close and asked, "A Raphael was stolen in 2005. Did you take it?"
"No I did not – and I think we're done here," he told her as she seethed at him.
After Sara left, Peter called Neal back into his office to lecture him. "You're playing with fire. She's a tornado, and you're…"
"C'mon, don't call me a trailer park," Neal said indignantly.
"If the shoe fits," Peter said, unamused.
Hughes walked by and signaled that he needed to talk to Peter. Peter nodded and got up, "This conversation about Sara isn't over, young man."
Neal sighed and answered, "I didn't think it would be" as he followed Peter out of the office.
The rest of the work day was uneventful, though Peter had insisted on going over the details of the poker game meeting with Neal three times. …just to make sure Neal would be safe. Appreciating the gesture, Neal tried very hard not to roll his eyes, which pleased Peter, and soon it was time to go home and prepare for the poker game later that night.