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Friday, September 3rd, 2010 01:11 am
Author: J. Rosemary Moss
Genre: White Collar; Pre-slash
Pairing: Peter-Neal
Rating: PG-13 
Disclaimer: Alas, I don't own White Collar or the characters
Summary: Neal teaches Peter how to seduce a mark . . . er, suspect.


~oOo~

Neal had to tread carefully; Peter looked like he was about to bolt.

Peter usually made himself at home in Neal's rooms. He'd barge in with a six pack and a bottle of wine. Then he'd kick back and try to convince Neal to watch a game with him.

Not tonight. Neal had all but dragged him here--and the agent still looked like he'd rather be sentenced to an eternity without baseball than remain a moment longer. Worse, he was pacing the floor and wringing his hands.

Neal rolled his eyes as he walked over to his fridge and pulled out a beer for his friend. "Peter, calm down. This will be simple. I'm just going to give you some pointers."

Peter grunted. "Easy for you to say, pretty boy."

"Pretty boy?"

"Don't pretend to take offense," Peter shot back. "You're so goddamned beautiful that you can have anyone you want. The rest of us aren't that lucky."

"Not quite anyone," Neal murmured.

Peter didn't catch that. "I should go," he said, picking up his jacket from the chair he'd thrown it on. "I really should check up on things at home--"

Neal abandoned the beer and rushed to the door. "No," he said, blocking it. "Elizabeth is away visiting her sister. She took Satchmo, so you don't need to look after the dog. And the house will be fine: the pipes won't freeze, the furnace won't explode and no one will break in."

"You hate having me stay over here," Peter reminded him.

"I'll survive," Neal promised. "Just don't sit on the furniture in sweaty clothes or hijack the remote."

Peter leaned against the door, trapping Neal between his arms. "I can't do anything about my snoring. You know how much that annoys you."

Neal looked up, relishing how close the agent's face was. Peter was playing right into his hand. Before he could react, Neal took his face in his hands and kissed him.

Peter went wild-eyed as he broke away. "What the hell was that?"

"Your first lesson," Neal answered, grinning. "That strict, threatening look of yours is unbearably hot. Our suspect will be all over you if you come on that strong. But you just want to lead him on--you don't want him to jump your bones. Especially not before he gives you the information we need."

Peter stepped back, shaking his head. "Trust me, this guy will not find that look hot."

"Why not? I do. I could be into you, Peter."

"You could be into anyone with a pulse!" Peter snapped. "Besides, you have some twisted love-hate attraction to me as an authority figure. Or maybe as a father figure. Who the hell knows what goes on in that head of yours?"

Neal raised his eyebrows, considering. "Huh. You know, Mozzie said almost the same thing once? I didn't believe him, but maybe he had a point."

"Yeah, well, this guy's different. He's not going to give me a second look."

Neal stared at him. Peter really didn't know how attractive he was. How could such a smart guy be so clueless?

"Peter," he said, as he stepped up to him and put a comforting arm around him, "this guy is going to find you irresistable. Just let me teach you how to get his attention and how to string him along."

Peter relaxed. Neal could still feel his tension easing.

"It should be you going undercover," Peter said with a small, rueful smile.

"I'm not the guy's type," Neal reminded him. "You are."

"Aren't you going to make a joke about his poor taste?"

"No," Neal said, guiding him to the sofa. "I'm the last one to criticize someone with a taste for the bossy type. And that reminds me."

"What?" Peter asked, sitting down with him.

Neal gave him a stern look. "I may flirt with anyone with a pulse--but I'm much more discriminating when it comes to being into someone."

Peter shook his head again, but Neal noticed that he was smiling. "Thanks."

"Are you ready for your lessons?"

The agent sighed. "This is going to end in disaster."

"Peter . . ."

"Ok, ok. Do your worst."

~oOo~

"So," Neal began. "We've, ah, already established that you haven't flirted in the twenty-first century."

"I started dating El in '98," Peter said defensively.

"Which is great," Neal said, forcing himself not to roll his eyes, "but you're not going for a long term relationship here. You just want to attract this guy's attention, wine and dine him a few times and put out just enough to learn his secrets."

Peter shot up from the sofa. "Neal, even assuming this guy looks at me twice, I'm not going to sleep with him--"

"I know," Neal said, putting a soothing note back in his voice. "You won't have to--look, let's go back to attracting his attention."

Peter relaxed enough to sit down again. Neal hid his relief. He still had to work Peter up to the knowledge that he'd at least have to kiss the guy a few times.

"Ok," Neal said, "We know what gala he'll be at this weekend. We've got you an invite. Now let's plan how you'll catch his eye."

"Why don't I just walk up to him and introduce myself?"

Neal considered that. "The direct approach--you know, that just might work for you."

Peter favored him with a wry smile. "Should I even ask what your approach would be?"

"Let's just say it'd be a little more complex."

"How complex?"

Neal shot him a mischievous glance. "I like to move in slow . . . my goal is to intrigue my mark from a distance. Find a way to make him chase me."

Peter cocked his head. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. I even like him to stalk me a little; to learn everything he can about me."

"Like your shoe size and what time you get up in the morning?"

"Exactly," Neal said, letting his eyes light up.

Peter took hold of his wrist, applying just enough pressure to add some weight to his playful expression. "And what happens when your mark catches you?"

"I convince him that he owns me."

Peter smiled. "He better have enough sense to keep you on a leash."

"Oh, my mark's smart enough to know that," Neal assured him, raising his leg so that his anklet showed.

Peter narrowed his eyes at the anklet and then shook his head a little. "I don't know. Two miles? He ought to keep you on a tighter leash."

Neal raised his eyebrow. "How close would you like to keep me?"

The agent grinned. "For now? Close enough to help me survive this undercover assignment."

"Don't worry," Neal said, looking down at his wrist, which Peter was still holding. "I think you'll do just fine in the flirting department. In fact, I think we can work with this possessive act of yours."

"Oh no," Peter said, shaking his head again as he released Neal. "That's strictly for your benefit."

Neal smiled. "Ok. So let's work on your direct approach." He paused to stand up.

"Work on it how?"

"By roleplaying, of course. Pretend I'm your suspect, Peter. Now come on; attract my attention."

~oOo~

Neal sat at a table at the 'bar.' Ok, he was sitting in his own kitchen, pretending to be at a bar. Hopefully Peter could shed his horror of role playing long enough to prentend too. Meanwhile, Neal surveyed the room as he waited for Peter to make his move. 

A good ten minutes passed before Peter began the game. Smart move, actually, to make your mark wait. Nonetheless, Neal pretended not to notice him as he finished his drink and set the glass down. 

Peter walked toward him, giving Neal a look that was one part interest, one part appraisal, and one part speculation. Neal inclined his head, just waiting.

Peter smiled as he walked up to the table and glanced at Neal's empty glass. "You look thirsty," he said. Then he indicated a chair. "May I?"

You look thirsty? That was his pick-up line? Neal wanted to laugh, but there was something about Peter that almost made the line work. So he contented himself with a shrug. "Have a seat."

"Michael Ronan," Peter said, offering his hand.

Neal was familiar with Michael; he was a long-standing alias of Peter's. An alias with Brooklyn-Irish background that was remarkably similar to Peter's. 

But Neal wanted to see if he could throw Peter, so he didn't use one of his own established alternate identities, and he didn't use one with a similar background. "Zev Moskowitz," he said instead, taking Peter's hand and shaking it.

Peter's eyebrows raised ever so slightly. "Zev," he repeated. "Isn't that an Israeli name?"

Neal shrugged again. "If you pronounce it Ze'ev. Otherwise, it's an American Jewish name."

Peter grinned and nodded at the empty glass. "What are you drinking?"

Neal leaned forward. "What would you like to buy me?"

Peter raised his hand to attract the attention of an imaginary waiter. Neal watched him as he ordered a very fine scotch. Impressive.

"So what do you do for a living, Zev?"

Such a standard line of questioning. Well, at least Peter looked sincerely interested while asking. 

"Don't be put off," Neal warned, "but I work on Wall Street, primarily selling short."

Peter didn't even blink. Which was a good thing, because they weren't sure which alias their mark would be using at the gala or what he would say his line of work was--except that it would probably have something to do with Wall Street.

"I don't hold short sellers solely responsible for the crash," Peter assured him. "Didn't James Chanos sniff out some of the problems at Enron? He was shorting."

"Yeah, we serve a useful function. Or we can, with proper regulations in place. Ok, your turn."

"Oh, I'm a Wall Street type too," he said, naming an infamous bank. "And yes, we're rolling in government hand-outs. So can we agree not to despise each other?"

Neal laughed. "You have a deal." 

Peter leaned back in his seat, still smiling. "So what do you like to do outside of work, Zev?"

Another standard line--Neal couldn't make this one easy. "That's a broad question," he chided.

Peter shrugged. "I'm ok with a broad answer . . . at least for now."

"For now?"

He nodded. "You can give me a bullet-post list of your hobbies, and we can unravel them as the night goes on."

"You sound pretty confident that we're going to make a night of this," Neal observed.

Peter shook his head as he leaned a little closer. "That's not what I meant. I'm an old fashion kind of guy, Zev. I was thinking we'd have a long talk here, over scotch, and a long walk afterward. And that's it."

It was Neal's turn to raise his eyebrows. "And then what? You walk me to my door and give me a chaste peck on the cheek?"

"If you play your cards right."

Neal couldn't help but grin. Who knew Peter could be so charming? "Ok, Michael," he said. "You have yourself a date."

~oOo~

They walked hand-in-hand through the streets of Manhattan. Neal was still hiding his astonishment. Yeah, the man walked with Elizabeth this way--as if the two were a pair of lovesick teenagers--but with Neal? But the agent had managed to swallow his misgivings. And if he was haunted by a fear of bumping into someone he knew, he didn't show it. 

Meanwhile, Neal realized he liked the feel of Peter's hand. It was strong and a little calloused, yet there was a surprising tenderness to it. It was just like the man himself.

Neal shivered a bit, just to test how far he could push his partner. Peter gave him a searching glance and then let go of his hand to put his arm around his shoulder. Neal leaned into him as they continued walking. Peter didn't object.

They talked and laughed as they strolled, never once running out of things to say. Peter was playing it cool; he didn't bring the conversation around to sensitive topics. Their real mark would have no reason to suspect him.

More than three hours passed by the time 'Michael' walked 'Zev' to his apartment door. Neal put his hands lightly on Peter's shoulders. "Michael, I'm not going to settle for a peck on the cheek."

Peter rested his hands on Neal's waist. "I told you that I'm an old-fashioned guy, Zev."

Neal grinned. "I'm not asking for more than a proper kiss . . . a kiss that will let me know you want to see me again. That's fair, isn't it?"

In response, Peter placed one hand on the back of Neal's head and drew him into an embrace. Neal caught his breath as their lips met.

As it happened, Neal wasn't used to kissing another man. Not that he had anything against the idea, but his adult romantic life had been dedicated to Kate. This experience was as new to him as it presumably was to Peter.

And yet Peter didn't feel like he was new to this. Especially not now, as his tongue forced Neal's mouth open, eager to explore. Neal melted against his partner.

Peter was the one to stop the kiss--which was a good thing, since Neal wasn't sure he could have mustered the willpower. But Peter managed to push him away, biting Neal's lip ever so gently as he did so.

"Goodnight, Zev."

"I want you to come inside."

"No," Peter answered his voice firm.

"You can't walk away now."

Peter kissed his forehead. "I want to take this slowly, Zev. This isn't something to waste on one night."

And with that, he turned and headed for the stairs.

"Peter, wait."

Peter turned back, aware that their act was over.

"It's--it's too late for you to drive home," Neal explained. "Come on; crash with me."

Peter hesitated. His face, Neal noticed, was still flushed. "Ok," he said at last.

It wasn't awkward. Neal had shared his bed with Peter before, on nights when they worked so late that it made no sense for Peter to drive back to Brooklyn. The sofa was too small for Peter or Neal to be comfortable on, and the bed was plenty big, so there was no reason not to share it.

And yet, Neal couldn't just drift off to sleep. And this time it wasn't because of Peter snoring. He rolled over and shook Peter awake.

"Huh? What is it, Neal? What's wrong?"

"I don't want you romancing our mark. We have to find another way to get him."

"Neal, we just spent all night practicing--"

"I don't care. We'll figure something else out."

Peter sighed. "You've spent the last few hours convincing me that I can handle this."

Neal rolled his eyes. "Of course you can handle it! You're a gorgeous, sexy and charming man, Peter Burke."

"Then why the sudden scruples?"

"Because I don't want you flirting like that with anyone but Elizabeth or me."

There was a long moment of silence. "Or you?"

"Or me," Neal confirmed. "In a fun, innocent, office-spouse kind of way. Unless Elizabeth says it can be more."

"Neal . . ."

"Ok, forget I mentioned that last part. Just promise me not to romance our mark."

"Suspect," Peter corrected.

"Whatever."

Peter sighed again and reached out to toussle Neal's hair. "Ok, kid."

"Really? You promise?"

"I promise."

Neal nodded, satisfied. "G'night, Peter," he said, nestling into his pillow.

"Good night, Neal," Peter answered, his voice sleepy.

He didn't move his hand, Neal noticed. It was still sort of tangled with Neal's hair. Neal smiled at that, content. He closed his eyes and drifted off.

~The End~

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