Same disclaimer applies

Let's see: #21 and #25 contain spoilers for the finale; #21 is rather dark, but #25 isn't. #22 is an idea I had, thinking about how both Kate and Neal had someone jealous of them (and it's VERY different from anything else I've written), set pre-series. #23 is set pre-series and is Kate/Neal (just so there's no confusion). And I think, though #22 and #23 stretch the limit a little, this whole thing still stays within its rating; I've never written anything like them before, so I really don't know. :)


21. Life

"No!" he shouts, struggling against the iron grip Peter has him wrapped in. He strains and struggles, trying to break free, to make Peter let him go, so he can try, do something, dammit, something other than simply watch her burn. He fights and claws and begs, but Peter's too strong for him, too vigilant, too used to his dodges and schemes, for him to get loose. And, as thoughts finally begin to connect in his head, something horrifying and nauseating overwhelms him and he snaps.

Without thinking, filled with desperation, he lashes out, catching Peter's jaw hard with his fist. He sees blankness fill that warm, brown gaze for a second and renews his struggles, finally managing to escape. His bag slaps his back and his knees threaten to buckle, but he's running, faster than he ever has before, fully intent on throwing himself into the flames -- to find her or to join her, he doesn't know and, frankly, doesn't care. He was supposed to be there in the first place, supposed to be next to her on that plane.

For the second time, he's thrown to the ground as Peter tackles him. Frustrated and aching, body and soul, Neal cries out, anguish and heartache breaking free in a wordless, agonized sound as he claws at the ground, trying to drag himself out from under Peter's restraining weight. But the flames are burning a little lower now, and he begins to realize that he's never going to see her again, that he's losing his chance to join her this one last time. With as much determination as he'd ever shown in chasing him down, Peter is stubbornly tethering him to life now, refusing -- as he always has -- to let Neal follow Kate.

And, for the first time, he thinks he hates Peter for it.


22. Jealousy

It was all too simple to start this, to launch into this passive-aggressive attack on Neal. Keller hadn't even been all that hard to find and Alex can't help but wonder if he'd been hoping to be found. A quick glance at those cold, cunning eyes and she knows he did want to be found. But not by her. It's never her.

Eyes closed, though, and it's not too difficult to believe it's not him next to her. Eyes closed, she sees warm blue eyes instead of cold gray. Eyes closed, she sees a smile of warm invitation, filled with desire and caring, not Keller's condescending sneer. There's no finesse in Keller's touch, not like there would be in Neal's, but there's gentleness and restraint and somehow she realizes that, just as there's someone else behind her eyelids, there's someone else behind his. She shoves away the searing nausea of the awareness, throwing herself into the touch and the feel and the dream of someone else.

That night, they sleep with neither the ones they love, nor each other, but the unyielding, uncaring specter of their jealousy.


23. Hands

She loves to watch his hands as he creates. It doesn't matter what he's doing -- painting, sculpting, playing piano -- she just loves to watch the graceful gestures he makes, the way every single motion has a purpose. No matter what persona he cloaks himself with during a con, she muses, his hands always remind her that he is, first and foremost, an artist of exceptional talent.

She blinks and finds his eyes focused on her face, though there is no pause as he smoothes out an imperfection in the clay he's working. Suddenly, she remembers the other reasons she likes his hands -- their gentleness as he touched the side of her face with one trembling finger after their first kiss; their strength as he swung her around in an excess of elation after their first successful con together; their warmth as they trail over her body, memorizing every inch of her through touch alone. She blinks again and he's there in front of her, his sculpture abandoned for a time as he runs his thumb over her bottom lip and his eyes burn with expressive fire.

It's all the invitation she needs, as she moves willingly into his arms.


24. Taste

She stands staring at the closet, running her fingers over suits and shirts and wondering how much of her new friend's interest is feigned. He'd seemed ecstatic at the offer she'd made him, but his smile has that same varnished shine Byron's so often did. She grins a little to herself at the memory, the expression turning fond as she pulls out a jacket and inspects the fabric. With unsurprising ease, memories of her husband and their time together flow over her, pulling her backward on the faint smell of his cologne that still clings to the clothes in front of her.

He always dressed so nicely, never a thing out of place or a wrinkle in the flawless cut of his suits. It'd been his appearance that caught her attention first, his polished smile next, but it was his warm brown eyes -- eyes that promised to love her and care for her -- that closed the deal. But, in all their years together, through the good times and the bad, his sense of style always stayed the same. And she had to admit, she'd never met a man who could wear a suit quite like her Byron.

She carefully hangs the jacket back with its fellows, then reaches high into the top of the closet to pull down one of the several boxes resting on the shelf. With tender hands, she wipes the dust off the leather case and flips the latches, smiling at the contents within. Though Mr. Caffrey had only briefly fiddled with the hat she'd brought to the thrift shop, something about the way he'd run his fingers over the silk band and the graceful way he'd flipped the hat onto his head tells he is exactly what her Byron had been: sleek, graceful, charming, and very, very good at balancing on the tightrope that is the law. She smiles as she spins a charcoal-gray hat on one finger, her worries evaporating.

It'll be good to have a man around the house again.


25. Devotion

He hears it in El's voice each time he calls to tell her he's working late, sees it in her smiling eyes when he zones into the middle of a conversation with her and realizes he's missed something, feels it in the gentleness of her hands, the warmth of her morning kiss, all the little things she does for him to remind him she's there. And he tries, in his own simple way, to return it to her.

It's in his expression as he spends a weekend wandering antique shows with her. It shows in the way he's hesitant, but still willing to play a guinea pig for her and her business. It's audible in their simple, casual banter about work and friends and life. It's tangible in the way his hands carefully cup her face after a long case, in the occasional brush as they work to fix dinner together, in the way he makes sure to kiss her before he leaves for work each day. And his eyes declare it to the world each time he looks at her, thinks about her, speaks of her.

But his devotion to her is never more obvious than in the split-second after she's shoved into another FBI agent's arms, her hands cinched behind her by handcuffs. In that second, a different side of Peter is revealed, one that acts before careful thought and is more prone to violence than reason. He gives no thought to the legal ramifications of his actions, nor does he stop to consider any ulterior motive Fowler may have; he only knows that his wife -- the woman he loves and has sworn to protect -- was being attacked, in word and in action. In that second, all of his devotion, all of his frustration with the way they've been treated by Fowler, all of his worry about how this whole conundrum will affect her and their happiness together coils behind his fist as it meets Fowler's smug face.

Afterward, he's pretty sure nothing's ever felt better than the searing ache in his hand, except maybe the knowledge that finally, finally, he's proven himself as devoted to her as she is to him.