evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: Friends, Old And New
Author: [personal profile] evening_bat
Pairing: Chuck/Bryce!Neal
Rating: PG-13ish
Word Count: ~ 2000
Warnings: Not so much.
Summary: It turned out that Neal was a surprisingly enthusiastic supporter of interagency cooperation.
Notes: Response to this prompt over on [livejournal.com profile] comment_fic. You know, for a little bit of harmless fluff, this was awfully hard to write.


Friends, Old And New


When Peter got to Neal’s door, he didn’t wait to be let in, he just barged ahead after a perfunctory knock. He had not had a good day and Neal hadn’t improved matters by pulling a disappearing act in the middle of it. Getting called into a high-level meeting to give up his case files to the CIA was never going to make Peter a happy man and he really hadn’t liked getting back to the office only to be told that Neal had wandered off with some unfamiliar agent a couple of hours ago. Diana said that Neal had left willingly enough and Jones backed her take on the situation but Peter still wasn’t thrilled. The CIA sniffing around Neal just couldn’t lead to anything good; he didn’t think any of them were ready for a repeat of the OPR fiasco.

A quick check with the marshalls confirmed that Neal was well within his radius, tucked up safely at home, in fact. Going to check on him seemed the only responsible thing to do. God knew Neal’s own judgement couldn’t be trusted to keep him out of trouble. If the CIA were making a play for his CI, Peter wanted to know about it sooner rather than later.

Granted, Peter thought as he stumbled to a shocked halt as he turned the corner and got a look at the occupants of Neal’s couch, he hadn’t expected this particular recruitment method. Peter had known that Neal was at home, of course, but the anklet’s electronic signal gave no indication that he wasn’t alone. Or that he was thoroughly occupied.

It wasn’t that Peter wasn’t aware that Neal was a remarkably good-looking man. It was part and parcel of his MO, after all. But there was a vast difference between acknowledging his partner’s aesthetic appeal and being confronted with the sight of Neal, flushed and rumpled, in the midst of kissing another man breathless. They were sprawled on the couch, Neal straddling the lap of a tall, lanky man who had one hand buried in Neal’s hair while the other clutched at his back, sliding freely under Neal’s open shirt. Neal hitched himself closer, hands fanned across the other man’s face as he angled his head upwards for deeper access to his mouth.

It was a testament to just how enthusiastically involved Neal was with his guest that his reaction to Peter’s abrupt entrance wasn’t immediate. It took a long few seconds for them to break apart, for Neal to straighten up and slide a few inches’ distance between him and the man whose hands grasped reflexively at his hips. He licked his lips as he blinked in wide-eyed surprise at Peter, far hand still braced on the shoulder of the man underneath him.

Damn it, Peter grumbled to himself as he got his first good look at the face of the guy Neal had been pinning to the couch. It was the analyst that had been at the meetings this morning. What the hell did Neal think he was playing at?

“Hi, Peter,” Neal said, as self-possessed as ever. Peter wasn’t surprised; being caught in flagrante couldn’t be anything new for Neal, not that he had any more than a passing acquaintance with the concept of shame to begin with. “Something I can do for you?”

“Hello, Neal,” Peter returned dryly. “Agent Bartowski. Fancy meeting you here.”

“Agent Burke,” Bartowski managed, blushing furiously and visibly torn between shoving Neal off of his lap and clinging as tightly as he could to his human shield.

“You’ve met?” Neal inquired, looking curiously between them.

“Today’s meeting was at the request of the CIA,” Peter explained patiently. “Who requested all of our files on Esteban.”

Neal’s expression cleared. “His paintings,” he said, nodding in enlightenment.

“And the smuggling routes he used for them and probably for the drugs, weapons, counterfeit cash and whatever else he’s running,” Peter confirmed. “But somehow I doubt that’s why he’s here.”

Bartowski’s flush deepened as Neal looked down at him like he’d never seen him before.

“Peter! Are you suggesting that Agent Bartowski is abusing his authority?” Neal sounded more delighted than upset by the possibility.

Bartowski gaped at him. “What?

“I’m suggesting that if this is any kind of interrogation, one of you should be brought up on sexual harassment charges,” Peter returned acerbically.

“I’m not - this isn’t!” Bartowski spluttered and Neal finally lost the battle for his composure, collapsing onto Bartowski’s chest and snickering quietly into the side of his neck.

“Thanks for the help, Neal,” Bartowski said flatly, thumping him lightly on the shoulder. “Thanks so much.”

Neal smothered another laugh and murmured a reply into Bartowski’s ear. From Bartowski’s sharp intake of breath, Peter didn’t think Neal’s comment was any more helpful than his last. He did, however, deign to sit up again and twist around to face Peter.

“Relax, Peter,” Neal told him, smile as easy and clear as Peter had ever seen it. “This is just a friendly visit, there’s nothing untoward going on here. Well, aside from the obvious.”

And the not-so-obvious, what with how Neal was still comfortably arranged across Bartowski’s lap, the absently affectionate way Bartowski had anchored one hand on Neal’s hip.

“You do know he’s CIA, right?” Peter asked with a sigh. Neal should know better than to mess around with CIA agents. Even friendly ones.

Neal just shrugged. “So? You’re FBI. Chuck’s not holding that against you.”

Peter gave in to the urge to rub the bridge of his nose. “This is not what they mean when they tell us to play nice and encourage interagency cooperation,” he complained.

Bartowski had the good grace to look appropriately mortified by that but Neal just gave Peter his best innocent look. Peter scowled at him, knowing all too well that the faint quiver at the corners of Neal’s mouth spoke of barely restrained hilarity.

“Well, a guy’s got to play to his strengths,” Neal remarked lightly, “and some of those agents look pretty-”

“Oh my God, shut up,” Bartowski begged, freeing one hand to slap it over Neal’s mouth.

Neal looked startled but his eyes crinkled into a smile and he obediently fell silent.

“Look, Agent Burke, I’m not here on any kind of official business,” Bartowski said, dropping his hand from Neal’s face as he struggled to sit up. Neal shifted with him easily, effortlessly keeping his balance as the body under him moved. “Neal’s a friend. I haven’t seen him in a while and I wanted to catch up.”

“Uh huh,” Peter commented dubiously, pointedly looking at Neal, still perched on Bartowski’s lap.

Bartowski blushed crimson again. “Like I said, it’s been a while. I missed him,” he offered, embarrassed but earnest.

Well, well, well. Unless Bartowski was an even better liar than Neal, he meant that little declaration, which put a whole new spin on Neal’s mid-afternoon disappearance and the scene Peter had interrupted earlier. And Neal... Neal was looking at Bartowski with an expression Peter had never seen before. Neal didn’t smile like that for him, for El, not even for Kate.

Peter sighed internally. Much as he hated to admit it, anyone that lit Neal up like that couldn’t be all bad. Questionable allegiances aside.

“It’s all right, Peter,” Neal assured him, gratitude warming the small grin he turned Peter’s way. “Chuck and I go way back. He’s one of the good guys.”

“I wouldn’t do anything to get him in trouble,” Bartowski promised, “no matter who signs my pay check.”

Whatever Peter’s doubts on the subject, it was clear that Neal believed him so Peter conceded with a reluctant nod, to Bartowski’s visible relief. Neal just beamed at them both, and Peter had to admit that uncomplicated happiness suited him.

None of which mean that Peter wasn’t going to keep an eye on things, or stop looking into this friend of Neal’s from “way back.” Neal was the smartest person Peter had ever met but he lost his head whenever his heart got involved. Peter had had enough of people using Neal’s sensitivities to jerk him around. But in the meantime...

“Okay, since everything is fine here, I need to get home,” Peter said abruptly. “El’s expecting me.”

“You’d probably better get going, then,” Neal agreed helpfully, a nearly-unnoticeable twitch of his arm signalling Bartowski to nod hastily as well.

“Tomorrow, 7:30,” Peter continued, pointing at Neal. “Be ready to go. You’re coming to dinner.”

“Bring Bartowski,” he added impulsively, initial uncertainty fading at the way Neal brightened in pleased surprise. “El will love him.”

And she’d never forgive him if she missed out on seeing Neal with his “friend.”

“El?” Bartowski asked Neal under his breath, expression hovering somewhere between startled and worried.

“Elizabeth, Peter’s wife,” Neal answered, patting his cheek reassuringly. “She’s amazing and Peter’s right, she’s going to love you.”

She would, too, and Peter would lay money that it wouldn’t take as long for Bartowski’s earnest, gawky appeal to win her over than it had for Neal’s deliberate, slick charm to manage the same. Hell, Peter was starting to warm up to the guy despite himself and it was his job to be suspicious of professional liars.

“I don’t think - I mean, you don’t have to,” Bartowski started to object, looking over at Peter.

His words disappeared in a yelp when Neal used his free hand to lightly swat the back of his head.

“Shut up, you’re going,” Neal informed him.

If Peter had still been inclined to doubt the sincerity of the relationship they’d claimed, the silent argument that passed between them would have put his worries to rest. You did not conduct rapid, unspoken exchanges of half-completed gestures and significant looks with impulse hook-ups. Peter couldn’t follow the minutiae of their conversation but he had no trouble reading but why me? in Bartowski’s plaintive expression. And while Neal’s expressions were generally not to be trusted, he was currently favouring Bartowski with an unusually clear and uncompromising look that said if I have to, so do you. Bartowski’s resistance crumbled quickly, protest caving into hesitant acceptance under Neal’s smugly pleased grin.

“We’ll be ready,” Neal told Peter cheerfully, sliding one arm around Bartowski’s neck as he dropped a brief kiss on the corner of his mouth by way of reward.

Okay, now he had to bring them home to El. Otherwise, she’d never believe him when he tried to tell her how cute Neal had been with his boyfriend.

“Thanks for the invitation, Agent Burke,” Bartowski added, apparently sincerely for all that Neal had more or less forced him into going along with it.

“Not a problem. I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” Peter said as he gratefully made for the door, more than ready to leave them to it. Neal hadn’t pulled away after that kiss and Bartowski’s hands were creeping around Neal’s waist again. If Peter didn’t get out of Neal’s apartment right away, he was pretty sure he’d be getting another eyeful.

“Hey, Peter,” Neal called just before Peter shut the door behind him.

He opened the door wide enough to poke his head back through, lifting his eyebrows questioningly.

Neal gave him a wicked smirk. “Just make sure you give us a heads up if you’re going to be early, okay?”

Peter rolled his eyes hard enough that he nearly gave himself a headache and shut the door firmly on Bartowski’s scandalized, “Neal!

He lingered outside the door a few moments longer, listening to the muffled sound of Neal’s delighted laughter and Bartowski’s aggrieved scolding. Annoyance aside, it was nice to hear Neal laugh so unreservedly. He started hastily down the stairs when the indistinct murmur of their voices was cut off by a loud thump and a low groan. Apparently they’d decided to make good use of the remainder of the evening. He really was going to have to remember to call them tomorrow before risking entry.

Speaking of calling ahead... He fished his phone out of his pocket as he walked to the car.

“Hi, honey,” he greeted El when she answered her phone. “How would you feel about having a couple of guests for dinner tomorrow night? There’s someone that you have got to meet.”

Fin


End Notes: I’m sorry I didn’t manage to cram the awkward conversations in there? I tried but it’s Neal and he apparently doesn’t do awkward conversations. (And he was too busy laughing at Chuck’s discomfort and Peter’s exasperation.)

Also, I am certain that the other reason Peter wants to have Chuck over for dinner is so that he and El can get a thorough look at him and decide if he is good enough for their Neal. (Who really doesn’t need any more bad influences.) Bryce!Neal may actually hurt himself laughing when he figures that out.

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