A/N: Eh. Brain's a bit clogged. This is my attempt at writing things again. Apologies.

A/N 2 (revised): I'm a bit more in my head this morning. The use of "duplicity" doesn't seem that bad to me, although it still might be incorrect, and I've revised some of the story so it reads better (to me, anyway.) Haha I'm kind of ashamed I posted this while I was so out of it, but thank you guys so much for your sweet reviews.

The Exact Right Kind of Duplicity


"Why are you here?" Peter says, as he has said before, and will undoubtedly say again a great number of times before he dies. Because this is one of those things Peter won't verbally acquiesce to, and Neal won't be deterred from. It's a circle, infinite and round, the kid at the door with the huge smile and bright eyes, the slim neck of a bottle clutched in one of those too-talented hands, and the silent fact that no matter what either of them says or does, there's a criminal coming through the law's open door.

"Turkey smells delicious," Neal says, a twinkle in a sea of blue just for Peter, because the boy likes his grumbles, likes how it's the one thing Peter says that he doesn't mean, how its just for Neal, and it's the exact right kind of duplicity.

The conman sticks a toe through the door and the rest of his body follows. "Is that pomegranate gravy?"

"Neal." Peter squeezes the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger.

"Is that Neal?" Elizabeth's voice sings from the kitchen, and the kid's like Satchmo years ago, like an honest-to-God puppy perking up and following her voice and his nose and then they're in there with their blue eyes and big smiles and pretty faces, talking about whatever kind of wine Neal's graced them with this time, and yes, yes that is pomegranate gravy, what an acute sense of smell, and why yes, that is thyme, and Neal knew, just knew this would be the perfect dinner, right with tradition, but with the perfect twist of Elizabeth's gourmet hand-

"I don't remember Neal getting an invitation," Peter points out, jabbing a finger at them, and they stop their scintillating prattle to look at him with near-identical eyes and those oh-you smiles they're both so good at and Peter, not for the first time and not for the last, finds himself wishing impossible things were possible, or time moved in different ways, that El was older, or Neal was younger, because it would be beautiful and perfect, they're so alike and they're both Peter's. In one way or another, they will always be Peter's.

"Can I say grace?" Neal asks later, practically writhing in his seat with the very idea of the thing.

"We're secular," Peter grunts.

"Well, thanks, then," Neal says, not at all deterred, for he never is. Won't be until he's dead in the ground. "Can I say thanks?"

"You're welcome," Peter says. "There. Let's eat."

But Elizabeth smacks him in the arm, says to Neal, "Go ahead, sweetie. I'd love to hear what you're thankful for."

Neal takes a sip of wine, grins over the brim of his glass at Peter, and Elizabeth knows, she has to know because she sighs and rolls her beautiful eyes before it even comes out of the guy's mouth: "Well, I'm thankful for you guys, of course. And Mozzie and June and-"

"Jones and Diana and not being in prison and are you five?" Peter says, glaring, and the kid's gotta be tipsy because he outright giggles, much to Elizabeth's amusement. Peter just might feel a tickle of mirth, as well, but who the hell knows?

Peter knows, and it's there, wedged in deep in that place where he keeps his love, in all its conflict and turmoil of emotion, but so steady in its truth.

"And wine. And Satchmo," Neal says, once he gets a handle on himself. He clears his throat, delicately prods his turkey and its perfect drizzle of pomegranate gravy with his fork. "Now we can eat our secular, gourmet feast of deliciousness."

Yep. Definitely drunk. Hammered, even, Peter decides as he deals a gentle clout to the back of his C.I.'s head after dessert is eaten and the kid is stumbling around, insisting he can help with the fragile glass serving dishes.

Within the hour, Peter half-carries his sauced partner up to the guest room and drops him on the bed. He takes in the kid's cockeyed smile and slightly rumpled hair, before bending down and gathering Neal's legs from the floor, swinging them up onto the mattress with the rest of him. He says, "You okay? Last I checked, you don't normally drink that much."

And there's something there, in those eyes, in that frown on the young man's face that speaks of Thanksgivings with nothing to be thankful for, something that causes Peter to reach down and put a hand on the kid's head, because who needs duplicity when you have alcohol?

And Neal's eyes glaze over again, and his smile is the perfect mesh of inebriated and innocent when he returns, "'Course I'm okay, Peter. I have you, don't I?"