Author's Note: Well, I got sucked into White Collar a few weeks ago. Like most people, I took some issues with 'Home Invasion' and the fight that Peter and Neal had. It just felt off. And then I came up with this, to soothe my own conscience.
Disclaimer: I don't own White Collar. I'm doing this purely for my own satisfaction.
"What is it, Caffrey?" Peter snapped, turning back to the con man. Neal had lost the look of defeat and frustration he'd been sporting only a moment ago.
"She's watching us," Neal said softly, eyes darting off towards Peter's left, the only sign the younger man gave to show Pierce's location. "It's a test."
Peter sighed. They had played this game before, and it never got any easier. He could see the gleam in Neal's eyes, the expression begging to be allowed to play this out. It was the closest thing to a con he was allowed to do any more.
"Be careful," Peter warned him. "First sign of trouble, get out. She's dangerous, Neal."
"Come on, Peter, don't you trust me?" Neal asked, flashing his teeth at him. Peter hated when he did that.
"Unfortunately," he replied, and Neal's grin grew. "You have a plan?"
"Of course I have a plan. She needs to think we don't trust one another," Neal replied. "Think you can act angry at me?"
Peter fixed him with a look. "Oh, I think I can manage. You've given me plenty of fodder for that tonight." Peter was just glad he'd become immune to Neal's innocent, "Who me?" look. He didn't really think Neal was planning anything with Alex, but it irritated him that Neal hadn't just told the truth about the woman. He let those feelings flood through him before grabbing Neal by the arm, tugging him back towards the car.
Sitting in the office an hour later, he had to admit that it had been a good show. Probably one of their better ones, as even Hughes was convinced Neal had run. Peter had considered the possibility for only a moment when his paranoid, FBI instincts kicked in until he reminded himself this was just part of the plan. Neal's parting words to Peter were enough for him to check and double check the anklet, enough for him to catch the Morse code and figure out the meaning, to give Neal the back up he would surely need.
He pulled Neal aside as Cruz and Jones dealt with Pierce, into the kitchen where they could have the semblance of privacy.
"You okay?" Peter asked, checking him over. Neal's eyes were still dark, though Peter could read the relief in Neal's posture of having the cavalry arrive just in time.
"You really shouldn't have run Alex's prints," Neal replied, and Peter rolled his eyes.
"And you should have just told me who she was, Neal. Then I wouldn't have had to."
"You said you trusted me." And there it was, the hurt and betrayal, like a kicked puppy.
"Trust goes both ways, Neal. And I don't want to see you get in trouble. No one else is going to give you the benefit of the doubt if they know you're looking for that music box and talking to one of your fences. You're smarter than this." Neal looked away, eyes downcast.
"I suppose Jones is waiting in the living room to put the anklet back on," Neal said, instead of responding to Peter's comment. Peter sighed.
"You know the rules, Neal. The anklet was your idea to begin with." Neal nodded before pushing past Peter into his living room. Peter put a hand on his shoulder before he could get too far. "Good job tonight, partner."
It took a moment of Neal staring at him, searching him, before the tension eased and Neal smiled again, genuine this time. "Can I still be Moriarty to your Holmes?"
"You'd be better off as Watson," Peter said, rolling his eyes in exasperation before pushing Neal through the door. Neal's grin grew even bigger, and Peter knew they'd be okay.
After all, they trusted each other.