Prompt from oxoniensis:
three times the link proved embarrassing, and one time they didn't care
(in the psy-AU universe, set after the events of Biconvex)
"-- and of course I told 'em to put more stools in, what with Roger's sciatica playing up so often of late --"
--I want to introduce her to Haversham, said Neal. --They could compete for the longest sentence uttered without taking a breath.
--Neal, she must be pushing seventy.
--Right. Excellent lung function for her age, don't you think?
Peter shot him a warning look and held out the photograph. "Ma'am, we need to know if this man has been in the gallery in the last month. Particularly the last week."
The woman nodded. "Familiar face, though I couldn't tell you a date for certain. Recently, yes. Maybe four days ago? Three? No, I was driving Sandra to her nephew's, Tuesday, so it can't have been then. Oh," she cooed, reaching out to touch Peter's ring. "Ain't that just precious. How long've you been married?"
"Almost eleven years."
"Really, now." Her green-eyed and approving gaze slid over to Neal. "Good for you. Got to catch 'em young when they're that pretty."
Unfortunately, Neal caught on faster than Peter did, and a huge grin sprang onto his face. "Oh, well," he said, waving a self-effacing hand. "You know how it goes. I was just an impressionable young thing, out to save the world, and he was so handsome and experienced --"
"Gnnglk," said Peter, and slapped him upside the head. "We’re. We're not -- married. I have a wife. Neal is --"
"Just having a bit of fun," Neal put in, grin undiminished.
The woman shrugged. Peter tried to pretend that she didn't look disappointed. "No harm done. But the pair of you are linked, aren't you? I just assumed…"
They exchanged a look. Peter had no idea what expression was on his own face, but Neal seemed to find it amusing.
"It's a professional arrangement," Peter said firmly.
--Why must you deny our love, Peter?
"We need to speak to the other volunteers," he added, ignoring Neal. "Thanks for talking to us."
"Not at all, boys." She waved them off and trundled back to her stool.
"I liked her," said Neal.
"Shut the hell up," said Peter.
"So that was --" said Peter, not really trusting the link right in that moment.
"Yeah," said Neal, whose lower lip was wet, and whose pupils were huge. Peter wanted --
"Fuck," said Peter, trying to convince his body that what it really wanted was not to shove Neal up against the wall and fuck his brains out, but to dash out of the door and spend the rest of the day -- writing reports. Yes.
"Um," said Neal, now sounding somewhere between strangled and seductive. "Maybe you should --"
"Oh, I think so." Peter clenched his fists and his willpower, and closed his eyes against the sight of Neal's half-open mouth. But all that did was call up the image he'd seen two minutes earlier: Renata Irving and the guy they'd all been assuming was her bodyguard, but whose duties apparently lay elsewhere as well; Renata's naked arms very white and her long legs wrapped around his hips.
"In retrospect," said Neal, speaking with great care, "adding sensate before you'd properly assessed the situation was maybe a mistake."
"Thank you, Neal, I'm aware of that." And now Peter was remembering that, the bewildering surge of desire that had invaded him while he was still too surprised by the visuals to speak or pull away. Invaded him, and -- thanks to a sudden break in his own control over the link -- invaded Neal.
"I think it's getting better," Neal said, and even with his eyes closed Peter was effortlessly aware of the other man taking a step closer.
"You stay right where you are," Peter ordered. "I categorically refuse to jump you in the office. Or have you jump me. I have a gun, you know."
A pause. It was testament to how unnerved Neal was by this whole situation that he hadn't even tried to make a joke about it yet.
"Okay," said Neal.
Peter uncurled his fingers one by one from the fists, and then forced his mind away from the whole idea of fingers, and concentrated on the floor beneath his feet.
Elizabeth looked from her half-eaten roll to the sad arrangement of asparagus on her plate. "You'd think the FBI could put on a better spread."
"They should have hired you," said Neal, clearly out to score points. El dimpled at him above a forkful of risotto.
"Quiet, they're starting the speeches," Peter said.
Neal sat up straigher in his chair, the picture of polite attention. --Well, this promises to be excruciating.
Peter tried to find it in himself to protest, and failed. --Suck it up. This is part of government work.
Elizabeth dabbed at her mouth with a napkin and then stared so fixedly at the podium on the other side of the room that Peter knew she was splitting. Not that he blamed her; she'd be able to clap at the appropriate moments, and still not be bored out of her mind.
--Let's play a game, said Neal.
Peter managed not to smile. --What did you have in mind?
They played Government Speech Bingo for a while, and then Neal insisted on a long session of Whose Outfit Is The Most Hideous, Don't Worry Peter You're Not On The List For Once, and they were arguing about the moral implications of Guess Who's Feeling What when Peter realised that someone on the other side of the table was saying his name. Peter glared and snapped, "What?" before he realised that the room had gone silent, and most of the faces in it were pointed in his direction.
A cough came through the microphone, creating a sharp burst of static. "Agent Burke? Would you care to come up and accept the award?"
Peter looked up. He couldn't really tell from this side of the fucking huge room, but someone in a suit was holding up something that shone dull gold under the poor lighting, and he had a horrible feeling that the someone-in-a-suit was in fact the Deputy Director.
--What just happened? he demanded of El, but his wife was laughing helplessly into her napkin and didn't reply.
He didn't really think about it at the time; the situation passed through his head all at once, as though he was seeing it through his lens from his own office chair, as though some other Agent Burke was staring at the uncomfortable end of a gun and wondering when everything had gone wrong. Kipling was looking at Peter's lens with narrowed eyes and Peter didn't think, just slammed his aperture closed as fast as he could. He didn't open it again until it was all over, and that was only because his own racing heart had made him suddenly paranoid about El. There was no reason why she shouldn't be safe, but he had to be sure, he had to check -- he touched briefly on her location, caught a glimpse of her ticking items off a list, and then allowed himself to exhale and lean against the side of the van. Jones led Kipling past in handcuffs and Peter closed his eyes.
"Hey! What the hell was that, Peter?"
He didn't want to open them again. But he did. Neal looked, for only the second or third time that Peter could remember, truly furious. "You -- I thought you'd been shot, you moron, how dare you --"
Peter tripped forward at the rough pressure of Neal's hands, Neal pulling him close and holding him there in full view of half the unit. Peter didn't want to deal with any of this, he just wanted to stop thinking about the gun and then sleep for hours, maybe days, but Neal was solid and angry and very tangible. Neal was alive, and so was he.
"I'm sorry," Peter said, "it was the only way -- Neal. I'm fine," and he honestly thought he was, but his voice cracked and came out thin with the knowledge of how close it had been.
--I can't believe you did that to me. See how you like it, came Neal's voice, fierce and too loud, because he was shoving his sensate ability hard and fast down the link and Peter couldn't help but accept it, like a thrown ball caught on instinct. The bodily contact meant that Neal's own emotions filled him in an instant: sweeping relief tainted with anger and the remnants of a horrible, breathless, wrenching panic. His legs nearly buckled; Neal held him up.
--God, Neal was saying, --You're such an idiot, I'm telling Elizabeth, we're going to lock you up somewhere --
Someone else was saying something too, but Peter couldn't hear them properly, because Neal's secondhand feelings were taking over everything. Neal didn't do things by halves. Peter sighed and let his own arms come up to hold Neal in place, just for a moment, anchoring them in space.
--Enough, he said, stuggling to hold onto his selfhood. --Neal, that's enough. I'm sorry. I won't do it again without warning you first.
"That'd better be a promise, Peter Burke," Neal said aloud, and didn't let go.