So. The new season.
That is all.


answer me this because it's out of the question (let's do it anyway)


It's something about the way he says Peter, slowly, like he's tasting it.

Slowly, like he knows what it does to you.

Peter, like he means it.

As if, when you snap cold metal around his wrists for the very first time, that it's not him losing. It's been a long game, finally won, but the upward tug of lips when his blue eyes meet yours in the mirror takes the sweetness out of victory somehow.

Three weeks later, the new cases still won't hold your attention.

You put a criminal behind bars. The world is a safer place but the reminder tastes bitter when you swallow it down with cheap beer and the memory of your name and his hands brushing yours.

It's a memory that never quite fades and later, when you uncuff him for the first time too, fingertips touching, you think that it feels better, more natural.

He turns without really stepping back and when he says Peter, it's almost pressed against skin. You think it might have left marks anyway.

Another three weeks and there's not a single solved crime you can't remember the crisp details of.

"Hello," Neal greets you like a stranger, shaking hands politely, "Nice to meet you, Mister Carlton."

But all you can hear is Peter and your hand tightens around his before you pull away.

"Pleasure's mine," You say and he smiles.

If you get terribly, ridiculously drunk that night it's because the baseball game was an embarrassment and Eli is out of town. You've always hated sleeping in an empty house so it's no surprise that you wake up on Neal's coach.

Still, you can't remember most of last night and when you wake up first and look in the mirror you can't meet your own eyes, so you leave.

It feels dirty and cowardly and Neal wears a scarf to work for two days straight and won't meet your eyes either. It hurts but you're grateful too, scared little boy grateful.

You don't want answers.

"Yes or no?" Neal asks, arms crossed, talking about the plan.

It's not a good plan. You sigh, wishing you had slept last night.

"No is only yes to something else," You say without thinking and tense.

There is something in Neal's smile that reminds you of the first time, only there is no game here, no losers and certainly no winners. There is only the uncomfortable feeling in your stomach that is not entirely unpleasant.

But that path leads nowhere, paved with good intentions and the paperwork you signed because of your job, only your job.

The red light of your alarm clock mocks you, ticking closer to morning.

Why don't you believe yourself?

Eli is curled against you like a little girl, face smooth and untroubled and you have the urge to lean over and kiss her forehead. You think about it for a long time; eventually she rolls over and the moment is gone.

You look up at the ceiling but it doesn't have the answers either.

It's something about the way that he flirts with everyone he meets, and all you can do is grit your teeth and count to ten. It's something about the way he looks when he's sitting in your chair, grinning with his eyes bright and blue and waiting for your reaction.

Looking and seeing and all Peter, like you belong to him.

And he looks at you, intense like there's nothing else, and you look back, because there isn't. Peter, like this is his game with his puppet strings when he's the one with the collar on.

But those thoughts never get far, no farther then the tip of your tongue. Because those thoughts only lead to you and him and way he looks when he copies your signature.

(Mine.)

It's a game.

It's a game that you never stopped playing but the stakes are higher now, like this, close quarter and too close to home, and you think you're losing because it's four in the morning now and the ceiling still doesn't have the answers you so desperately need.

It's need and want and consequences, the one where Eli tenses when you touch, and always, always the laws of physics.

Every action has a reaction and every Peter is a little closer to breaking point.

You know his shoe size and his favorite candy bar and that when he was little he wanted to be an astronaut. You know that he plays Mozart in the morning sometimes with his eyes closed, perfectly, even though he can't read music, not nearly well enough.

You know what he looks like when he's about to crack and tell you everything before lying at the last moment. You know how much it hurts.

But… (you don't know what he tastes like.)

It has to do with those hands of his, the fingers as they slide against piano keys and across the back of your hand. And those lips, he bites them when he's thinking, but only if he knows you're watching.

And those eyes, the ones that get so very, terrifyingly dark sometimes.

It's all of that.

But what breaks you, what makes you reach out blindly, without thinking, is your name. Whispered, hopeful and trusting. Like a prayer, like a reason.

Those eyes are looking (and seeing and begging) for you.

Those lips are parting (and swollen and red) for you.

Those hands are handcuffed and he's not going anywhere, not now, maybe not ever because you have questions, endless question and (you don't care about the consequences).

Peter, like it's an answer.