pooh_collector: (pooh again)
[personal profile] pooh_collector
Title: Tiles of Fire
Rating: G
Word Count: 1,700
Characters: Neal Caffrey, Peter Burke
Spoilers: Home Invasion
Author’s Note: This is for [livejournal.com profile] aragarna who requested this: In Home Invasion, when Peter was living with Neal for a while, they spend the evening together (dinner, watching a movie together, whatever you want) and I don't know, they share old stories, or confess a thing or two about themselves.

Also, I know this messes with the flow of the story (Peter taking one of the tiles to pull the print), but it’s where my brain went. So call it an AU.


The door shut behind Alex with a finality that Neal felt in his bones.

“Nice girl,” Peter commented, breaking the silence.

Neal turned from the door and looked at Peter. “She’s an old friend.” His opportunity to gain Alex’s help in finding the music box might have just walked out the door, but Peter didn’t need to know anything about Alex and why she had been at the apartment.

Peter moved over to the table, glancing down at the Scrabble board. FED

“You’ve got better looking friends than I have. What about Kate?” Despite appearances, Peter knew Alex’s visit wasn’t about romance or sex. And digging at Neal a little was never a bad idea. Peter never knew when the younger man might let some little thing slip.

“You told me to forget her,” Neal responded flatly.

“And you listened to me?” Peter asked, incredulous.

Neal shrugged. “There’s a first time for everything.”

Not this time, Peter thought. He turned to look around the room and spied the chessboard on the side table. He wandered in that direction and fiddled with one of the pieces. “Who are you playing?”

“Please don’t touch that.” Neal’s annoyance was clear in his tone of voice and the scrunched look of his face. “What are you doing here? What about the hotel?”

“Motel,” Peter clarified. “And it was occupied.”

“Ah, the dog still staying there?”

“Yeah, what’s with the dog?”

Neal arched an eyebrow. “Now you understand why I was forced to seek other accommodations.”

“Mmmm. Lucky for us.”

“Us?” Neal asked, dreading the answer and his earlier offer to Peter.

“Su casa es mi casa, right?” Peter answered with a smile.

“Right,” Neal responded, acknowledging the inevitable, that Peter was here to stay for the next few days and he had dug his own hole by inviting him to do so, more than once in fact.

“It’s gonna be fun. Oh I just got hungry. Where’s the remote?” Peter rambled on as he made his way to Neal’s sofa.

“This is gonna be really fun,” Neal parroted without even the slightest hint of Peter’s enthusiasm.

***

An hour later Peter reached into the pizza box on the coffee table and grabbed the last slice of pepperoni pie. El would not have approved of the six slices that Peter had consumed, but what his beautiful wife didn’t know couldn’t come back to bite him. “You sure you don’t want this?” Peter asked as he waved the slice in Neal’s general direction.

Neal shook his head. “I’m good.”

Peter smiled and then took a big bite of the pizza. The Knicks game was on the television, he was comfortable and full of delicious NYC pie and Neal was beside him looking stiff and wholly uncomfortable. Peter knew he deep down somewhere should feel bad about that, he was Neal’s guest after all, but there was something really satisfying about making the former con man feel out of sorts.

The Knicks sunk a three-pointer tying the score and Peter pumped his fist in the air. “Yea!”

Neal gave Peter the side eye and then picked up the book that had been sitting next to the pizza box. He crossed his right leg over his left turning away from Peter and opened his novel.

“Am I boring you?” Peter asked sardonically.

Neal glanced back at his handler and let his annoyance fly. “Honestly, I find it a bit pedestrian.”

Peter arched his eyebrows in amusement, a wry smile spreading on his face. “Oh, sports are pedestrian? I suppose you think backgammon is the height of imagination and competition?”

“I don’t think sports are pedestrian, they take skill and strategy, just like backgammon. I think watching sports is pedestrian.”

Peter thought about Neal’s response for a moment before replying. “Okay, no watching sports.” Then he picked up the remote and hit the off button. “How do you spend your evenings?”

Neal held up his book. “Reading, listening to music.”

“Kinda solitary activities. How about chess, or Scrabble.” Peter’s words were clearly meant as a challenge.

Neal closed his book with a resounding clap and placed it back on the coffee table. “You’re on.”

Peter rubbed his hands together as he made his way over to Neal’s dining room table. “This should be good.”

Neal followed him. “Really, you’re some sort of Scrabble prodigy?”

Peter shrugged. “I’ve been known to score a bingo or two.”

“Wow, I guess I need to be sure I’m on my game.”

Peter gave Neal ‘the look’. “Sarcasm doesn’t become you.”

“Just bring it.” Neal replied as he sat in front of the board.

Neal picked up all the tiles and dropped them into the bag. He shook it a couple of times and then held it out to Peter to pull a tile to see who would go first.

Peter reached in and came out with an ‘A’. An auspicious beginning.

Neal grinned when he saw it, reached into the bag himself and pulled out a blank tile.

“How is it possible that you’re cheating already?” Peter asked shaking his head in disbelief.

Neal smiled that con man smile, the one that broke the hearts of countesses and bank clerks alike. “Now, how would I do that?”

“I have no idea, but I’ve caught you before and if you’re not careful I’ll catch you again.”

“Good luck with that.”

They took turns pulling their tiles and then set about arranging them on their trays.

Peter had some decent letters, but he knew there was no point in really putting any strategy together until he knew what he had to work with.

Neal was moving letters around, taking his sweet time. After a few minutes of this, Peter could wait no more, “Come on.”

“Patience, I’ve almost got it.”

Peter rolled his eyes and folded his arms across his chest.

Finally, Neal picked up a tile and placed it on the board, followed by another and another until not one was left on his tray. W-I-C-K-I-N-G. “Let’s see, that’s thirty-four, doubled, plus fifty, one eighteen.”

Peter stared down at the board in disbelief. Then he shoved his chair back and looked under the table.

“Peter, I don’t have a hidden cache of tiles.”

Finding nothing obvious under the tabletop, Peter grumbled as he sat back up. “Hmph.”

“Come on, just play. I promise I’m not cheating.”

Peter continued to look at him skeptically.

“Have I ever lied to you?” Neal countered.

“Not directly,” Peter replied.

Neal spread his hands out in a his best ‘there you have it’ gesture.

“Fine,” Peter said returning his attention to his own letters.

He fiddled with his tiles for several minutes, finally picking up two of them and laying them down on the board next to Neal’s ‘C’.

Neal looked down, his eyebrows rising on his forehead. “Cat, nice, Peter. The ‘T’ on the triple letter score. That’s ah, eleven points.”

On his next turn, Neal scored another forty-six points. Then Peter followed with another whopping fourteen.

Neal’s smile was growing more smug with each turn, which was annoying Peter no end.

On his fourth turn, Peter’s luck changed. He had a ‘W’ and pulled a ‘X’ and was able to spell waxen with the ‘W’ on a triple letter score and the ‘N’ on a double word score for a total of eighty-eight.

Neal’s smile lost its haughtiness when Peter added up his score and the younger man became intent upon his own tiles. From there on it was a game, with Peter inching closer to Neal’s score on every turn.

At one point, Neal appeared to be struggling, shifting his tiles around on his tray, taking much longer to finish his turn. “I’ve got you worried, don’t I?” Peter teased, not so secretly glad to see the kid to whom everything seemed easy struggle a bit.

“Not in the least,” Neal uttered, not lifting his gaze from his letters. Finally, his eyes sparked and he placed his letters down on the board, one after another again to spell out the word BRANCHED off of an ‘N’ that Peter had just placed down for his second bingo.

“Not in the least,” Neal repeated, the smile on his face growing again.

Peter’s smirk faded and Neal couldn’t help but feel satisfied. He was used to being the smartest guy in the room but since he had formed his partnership with Peter the competition for that role had become fierce.

Peter frowned as he stared down at the board. There was no way the kid was this lucky, or this good. He couldn’t help himself as he pushed his chair out and looked under the table again, making sure to scan the underside for tape or hidden drawers.

Neal laughed. “I never would have pegged you as a sore loser, Peter.”

Peter sat back up straight in his chair and glared at Neal. “I haven’t lost.”

“Yet,” Neal finished.

Peter wasn’t a sore loser, but he was very competitive, just like his CI apparently. “Just play Caffrey.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing. And it’s your turn,” Neal said pointing to the board.

Peter looked at Neal suspiciously one last time and then turned his attention back to this tiles.

When he placed his next word down there was no fifty point bonus, but Peter managed a respectable thirty-five points.

The game continued and Peter inched closer again, but it was Neal’s game to lose and he didn’t.

Peter expected Neal to gloat, he already knew the kid was good at it, but instead he simply said “Good game, thanks Peter. It was a nice way to spend the evening.”

Peter had to admit it had been fun to pit his wits against Neal’s again, especially in a less adversarial way than when he had been chasing the con man. “Yeah, it was. Thanks.”

Neal nodded his acknowledgment.

“And, now I think it’s time to hit the hay. We’ve got a murderer to catch.”

Neal made a face. The same one he had made at their murder victim’s house when he realized the depth of the crime. “I prefer to think of it as we’ve got an art thief to catch.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night, Caffrey.”

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