Warning: language, high school AU
Word Count: 4,196
Summary: "Bobby Fischer, 1957." "You recognized that, huh?" Peter laughed, head tilted back against the tree now too. Neal admired the long column of neck presented to him and his throat went a little dry. "I was impressed." "I'm not without my talents, Caffrey," he smirked, eyes closed. Elizabeth never showed to the party but Peter really didn't mind all that much.
AN: For my friend, sosobriquet , whose birthday is tomorrow. Jessi, you wanted me to write this for you and well, when I heard it was your birthday, I couldn't resist. I hope you like it. I love you.
Special thanks to jazzrose343 for hand-holding, moral support, and being the best ever. ILU more than the world can know.
Note: This is a high school AU. The title is a mix of "The Wonder Years" and Astronatalis' song "The Wondersmith and His Sons" who describes the Wondersmith as a charming man with "a silver tongue" and "pearl teeth".
"Peter!" Peter stopped squirting his water bottle over his head and looked up under water-drenched eyelashes to see Diana running over from where the girls' lacrosse team were conditioning. Diana was beautiful, even when in ratty old standard issue gym clothes, and Peter's best friend. "Hey, you coming this weekend?"
"This weekend?" he said, grabbing the collar of his t-shirt and rubbing it over his face to soak up the sweat. Man, he hated when Coach Hughes made them condition in the heat. He put down his lacrosse stick and leaned across the bench.
"Christy and I are throwing a party at my house," Diana said.
"Oh? Christy, huh?" Peter knew very well Diana and Christy were a 'thing' but what fun was there in life but to make his friend blush?
"Yeah, and Elizabeth's going to be there." This made Peter's eyebrows perk up in interest. "And I expect you to clean your ass," and here Diana gave said ass a little slap, "up and be there."
"Hey, I'm not just a sex object for your enjoyment," Peter said indignantly, knowing she wasn't interested. "But, for you, I'll dig up my khakis."
"Oh, honey," Diana sighed, "you need El in your life." Hughes blew his whistle and Peter grabbed his equipment and turned to run.
"I'll be there," he said over his shoulder. He brushed past someone with his shoulder pads and murmured 'sorry' as he got back on the field.
"Commie pig!" Moz yelled as his friend brushed off the shoulder of his leather jacket, shaking his own fist at the boy running back on the lacrosse field they were cutting across.
"Come on, Moz, it's fine," Neal pulled at his lapels needlessly.
"Oh, don't you start bowing for the Man on me now, Caffrey. First, it starts with small things like showing superiority through athletic ventures and before you know it, we're up to lavish displays of sheer brute force and the death of creative thought. America will be like something out of a Vonnegurt short in a manner of years anyhow."
"I didn't take you for a conspiracy theorist, Moz," Neal said, patting his small friend on the shoulder and steering him off the field of play.
"And I didn't take you for a bitch." Neal shot his friend a dirty look but let it slide. "Is this about Kate?"
"What?" Neal backpeddled. "How does Kate have anything to do with this?"
"I'm just saying, you date an older woman and she jetsets off to Mexico right after she graduates with nothing more than 'Adios, Neal, it's been real', I feel like the propensity to roll over and die would be awful strong."
"This has nothing to do with Kate," Neal said firmly. "What did you want me to do? You know I'm not a violent guy."
"Nothing, nothing," Moz threw his hands up defensively.
"What's his name?"
"What? Who?" Moz replied as Neal surveyed the field.
"Number twelve, the one that hit me." Moz hummed noncommittally and Neal frowned. "Don't give me that, you know every single person in this school and their score on the Snelling eye chart."
"Damn my perfect recall," Moz said without heat. "Peter Burke, captain of boys' lacrosse, member of the debate team, vision better than 20/20."
"Whoa," Neal whistled appreciatively. "Nothing on student council?"
"He doesn't strike me as the type to middle-manage."
"Although I feel like he would look good in a suit," Neal muttered mostly to himself. "Hey, Moz, if I was to break into the school records, would I find your real name?"
"You already know my name; it's Mozzie."
"That's not your name, I named you that," Neal grumbled as they left the field, half a plan already formed in his mind for Burke. "I don't know how you managed to convince all the teachers that was your name."
"A magician does not reveal his secrets."
Neal slung an arm over Moz's shoulders. "I'm glad you're on my side, Moz."
Neal Caffrey isn't your typical bad boy. He doesn't get his way through intimidation or fear. Instead, Neal Caffrey has a much more frightening weapon: charm. With a smile and maybe a brush of his lips against an ear, he can get what he wants and the only causalities are the rules he's supposed to be following. He could do the work (his hand isn't forced in these matters, Neal Caffrey is brilliant) but why would he?
Neal has one real friend in the world and that's Moz. He found Moz (who sort of reminded him of Morocco Mole in dire need of a fez) halfway up the flag pole on the first day at June White Memorial High.
"Need some help there, buddy?" Neal said, wrapping his arms around the boy's legs.
"If you are here to finish your goons' work!" the kid panted, waving his arms wildly.
"Whoa, man," Neal panted as he unwrapped the cord and started to lower the kid to the ground, "do I look like the type that sics thugs on freshmen?"
"Not all fascists wear signs," he grumbled disbelievingly but he seemed happy enough to be back on the ground.
"Wow, I bet they named your sister Trust Issues," Neal quipped, knowing it wasn't one of his best.
"I am also unimpressed but thank you anyway, you may go back to swatting off the girls with a stick."
"Come on," Neal said, jogging to catch up as the kid walked away. "Don't you want to be friends?"
"You got a lot of moxie, kid, I'll give you that."
"Moxie? Who even says that anymore?" But the kid didn't do anything to get rid of Neal and Neal always saw passive-aggressive acceptance as a positive. "I think I'll call you Mozzie."
Mozzie groaned, "couldn't it be Maurice?" but he made no move to shrug Neal's arm from his shoulders.
"I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, Mozzie my man."
Neal always liked the idea of being Secret Squirrel. He had a cool hat.
Peter Burke might have seemed like just your average Joe high school kid but that was part of what drew Neal to him. Neal could tell that under the retail jeans and Letterman jacket, Peter Burke was just as smart, if not smarter, than he was and he was wasting his life running with the pack instead of leading it.
Neal's plan pretty much consisted of "worm way into Burke's life." If asked, Step Two was pretty much "wing it". If Mozzie asked, his plan was much more elaborate. What he wasn't counting on was Burke coming to him.
It wasn't so much as Peter showed up one day and told Neal to jump in his pants (and let's be honest, that was pretty much Neal's endgame since this whole 'Get to Know Peter Burke' operation started.) It was more like Peter knocked on the empty classroom door (don't ask what Neal was doing in an otherwise empty classroom) and asked Neal if this is where the chess club was meeting today.
"Jackpot," Neal whispered to himself. Louder he says, "This joint has a chess club?"
"Mr. Fowler told me there was but I have a feeling he thinks we're in 1982."
"Which was your clue, the fact that he doesn't understand the Internet or that hunk of junk he drives?" Neal leaned back in the car, flashing Peter's his brightest, most inviting smile. Peter took an almost imperceptible step forward and Neal smiled more. It would be considered hubris but damn was Neal good.
Peter rested his shoulder on the door frame and crossed his arms. "The coke bottle glasses and the mustache are kind of telling."
Neal took his feet off the desk and let his chair fall back onto all four legs before extending his hand. "Neal."
Peter seemed to survey him critically before stepping forward and taking his hand. "Peter Burke."
Neal raised an eyebrow and smiled. "Well, Peter Burke, you still up for that chess game?"
Diana and Christy's party was pretty much exactly what Peter expected: not his kind of crowd doing not his kind of extracurricular activities. It's not like he's a total square but he's an athlete and a smart guy, he knows how to have fun without being totally stupid.
"Just hang long enough to chat up Elizabeth," Diana goaded.
"This doesn't strike me as El's kind of place," Peter muttered around his soda can.
"You're such a stick in the mud," Diana said, grabbing Christy by the hand and wheeling her around. "Tell Peter he's got to loosen the tie every once and awhile."
"Seriously, Pete, let your hair down," Christy said. She was pushing a cup of something towards him but he just backed away and right into-
"Oh, Neal, thank God. Hide me," he staged whispered, taking Neal by the shoulders.
Neal doesn't look a gift horse in the mouth so he grabbed a couple of bottles from the cooler and said, "Come outside with me."
Once they were outside, Peter motioned towards the big tree and the pair of them sat under it. "You driving tonight?" Neal asked as he popped the cap off a bottle of imported beer. Leave it to Neal to grab the pretentious beer.
"Then one shouldn't hurt, right?" Neal smiled and he took the beer out of his hand. Neal threw himself out on the grass beside Peter, his own beer balanced on his knee.
"God, this shit is skunky," Peter laughed as he wiped his mouth off with the back of his hand. Neal looked quite put out until he took a drink of his own and grimaced.
"Damn green glass bottles." He poured the rest of it out into the grass and started twirling the empty bottle around, feigning disinterest. "There went my evil plan to liquor you up and have my way with you."
"Not under this tree, I hope," Peter laughed around another swig of beer before he followed suit and dumped it out in the grass. "I broke my collarbone falling out of this tree."
"Yeah, when I was seven. Diana told me that she could go higher than me and I told her she was too little. Guess which one of each got to the top and which one ended up in the ER." Neal laughed and leaned his head back against the tree, fedora artfully perched to cover his face like a reclining cowboy, ready to sleep the night away under the stars. Neal was nothing if not obsessed with aesthetics. "What do you think about keeping up our little chess club?" Peter asked. Neal snuck a furtive glance at Peter from the corner of his eye.
"Bobby Fischer, 1957."
"You recognized that, huh?" Peter laughed, head tilted back against the tree now too. Neal admired the long column of neck presented to him and his throat went a little dry.
"I was impressed."
"I'm not without my talents, Caffrey," he smirked, eyes closed. Elizabeth never showed to the party but Peter really didn't mind all that much.
"Neal, this is a bad idea."
"How is this a bad idea? You're going to walk over there and ask her out. She's going to say yes, you'll go on a date, and you'll call me later to tell me what a genius I am and how you never survived without me."
"Doubtful," Peter groused but Neal swept a hand across each of Peter's shoulders and told him to "get over there, soldier." Peter took about seven steps before he turned back around and walked back over to Neal. "Can't do it." Neal sighed dramatically, catching a glimpse at Elizabeth over Peter's shoulder.
"Looks like you're not going to have to." Peter whipped around frantically to see El advancing on him.
"Tonight at seven, right?" she said to Peter without preamble. "Put him in a suit," she directed at Neal.
"Smart lady," Neal said, watching her skirt bob as she walked away.
"Neal, if it wouldn't inflate your already enormous ego, I'd tell you what a genius you are."
"I think the Bell Curve is a government conspiracy," Mozzie said as his opener.
"Way to be chill, Moz," Neal muttered.
Peter, completely unfazed by the whole thing, simply said, "Grassy Knoll or Book Repository?"
"Neither, the government would never allow the true story to leak." Peter raised his eyebrows and Neal just shrugged.
"So, how'd you get saddled with a name like Mozzie Haversham?"
Neal coughed loudly.
Neal wasn't quite sure when “Operation: Get into Peter's Pants” became “Operation: Best Friends” but like any good con artist, he took the shift in the dynamic in stride. Peter adopted him into his circle and really didn't mind it when Neal would slouch against Peter's sensible black Toyota while he ran drills with the lacrosse team. In the same vein, Neal didn't mind staring at Peter from behind designer sunglasses and getting texts like, "Red tie or green?"
He actually got a text like that, which drove Neal to knock on Peter's front door an hour before he was meant to pick El up for their date.
"What are you doing here?" Peter asked, struggling his suit coat on as he moved aside to let Neal inside.
"You can't expect me to color coordinate you from across town, can you?" Neal flashed him a winning smile which only earned his a grimace in return. Peter led them down the hall to his bedroom and if Neal smile a little wider, Peter was too busy fiddling with the cuffs on his button-up to notice. "You call that a suit?" Neal ran his fingers over the lapels and tsk'd.
"Excuse me if it's not Armani, your Majesty." Peter batted Neal's hands away and grabbed the two ties from his bed. "I bought it for debate club."
"Obviously," Neal sighed, running his hands over the cheap polyester mournfully.
"So, red or green?"
"With this dove grey suit?" Neal looked affronted and just a little afraid of the idea of either. "You are lucky I took it upon myself to bring my own."
"Do I even want to know who you stole these from?"
"Peter," Neal chides, pulling several different colors of silk ties from his pocket, "do you trust me so little?"
"I just know you."
"Surprisingly well," Neal muttered, casting aside tie after tie. "Ah, this one!" he says, holding up a sky blue silk tie to Peter's neck.
"You are the gayest straight man I know," Peter said, taking the tie from Neal's hands. "And before you ask, I know about Kate."
Neal sputtered a little ungraceful for a moment before stringing together, "How do you know- Mozzie."
"Haversham talks," Peter said, fidgeting his way through a half-Windsor.
"I have no idea how you got that kid on your side, Petey." Peter stopped tying to glare. "He's got more trust issues and unhealthy fear of the government than Fox Mulder."
"You are not the only one people like," Peter said, straighting his tie and finding he left it too long in the front.
"Let me," Neal said, pulling the tie undone for him as Peter put his hands on his hips and brooded. "Nervous?"
"Why would I be nervous?"
"Oh," Neal said, pulling the tie down to measure and letting his knuckles click against Peter's belt buckle, "I don't know. You've only been after Elizabeth since freshman year."
"How do you- Diana."
"Apparently we've both leaks in our security. There you are, sir."
Peter looked down and admired Neal's work before buttoning up his jacket. "Wish me luck."
"You don't need it."
Peter texted Neal about a half hour into his date. "El says to tell you she knows this is your tie. Also, she says hi."
Neal texted back, "Marry her."
"Hey, Peter, uh, want to come bail me out?"
Peter hung up on him.
"Why do you have to be such a damn boy scout all the time, Peter?"
"Keep your own ass out of jail, Caffrey!"
"You know I have no one else, right?"
Peter frowned and maintained the staring contest he was in with his tennis shoes. "I know you're on your own, Neal."
"I don't like when we fight," Neal mock-pouted and it was just enough that Peter cracked a smile.
"El says I've been grumpy," Peter acquiesced.
"The team lost every game, I noticed."
"That had everything to do with Jones being out and you know it," Peter said, jabbing Neal in the chest to make his point.
"Friends?" Neal smiled hopefully.
"Keep yourself out of trouble, yes?" Peter sighed but he clapped a hand on Neal's shoulder and it was enough.
"Scout's Honor," he saluted.
"You were never a boy scout and we both know that."
Neal always plays white. Neal said it's just because he likes sitting on the right side of the table. Peter knew it's because Neal liked to fancy himself a step ahead.
"You open," Peter said, watching as Neal surveyed the newly set up chess board.
"Knight to F3."
"Bold move, little buddy." Peter counters with his own knight to F6.
"Oh, I'm sorry, did you mistake me for Moz again?" Pawn to C4.
"Where is Morocco Mole, by the way?" Pawn to G6.
"You see the comparison too?" Neal said appreciatively. Knight to C3.
"He just missing..."
"The Fez," they said together. Black bishop to G7 and white pawn to D4.
"He’s probably doing something neither one of us should know about so let’s leave it at that. So how are things going with El?" Neal said, watching as Peter stared at the board.
"Fine." Bishop to F4.
"Just fine?" Neal goaded, making his move.
"Great, things are great." Black pawn to D5.
"Are you guys...official?" White Queen to B3.
"Yeah, we're official."
"Oh, are you going to hold hands and put your pin on her?" Neal teased, eyes alight. They both move a few pieces in rapid succession, neither one having to stop to think.
"You think you're cute, don't you, Caffrey?" Black pawn to C6.
"I'm not so interested in my own opinion," pawn to E4, "but I'd like to hear yours."
Peter feigned interest in his pieces but flicked his eyes up to see the maniacal grin on Neal's face. He moved his knight to E7 and tried to hide his own smile that was slowly blooming on his face. "I'm sure you don't need one more person telling you good things about yourself."
"No," white rook to D1, "but maybe I need one person who matters."
"You do realize we're playing Bobby Fischer's ‘Game of the Century’?" Peter deflected.
"That seems to be a theme with us."
"So," El said, nudging his foot with hers, "are you and Neal going out tonight?"
"Hmm?" Peter said, smiling secretly at the text message that Neal had just sent him. "Oh, yeah, we're going to hang."
"Mmhmm," she said, leaning up to drape herself over Peter's body, "where are you taking him?"
"I'm not taking him anywhere," Peter groused against her lips. "We just going out to the Chinese joint."
"Oh, honey, you can't just take Neal Caffrey on a date to that cheap buffet place. He's... High class."
"El, I am not taking him on date."
"Why not?" she pouted.
"You are my girlfriend," he insisted.
"That shouldn't stop you," El added, stretching and Peter felt all her soft curves against him.
"I take you on dates, not my best friend."
"Why not both?" she pecked his lips. "I mean, I kind of assumed..."
"What?" Peter laughed.
"Well, I mean, you and he are always together, and you pick him up and drive him to school, and you wear his clothes-"
"That was once and it was a tie for my date with you."
"Mmhmm," she hummed. "You guys were boyfriends before you and I ever started anything." She kissed him to shut up any objections he had. "You should take him to that new Thai place."
"So, El thinks we're boyfriends," Peter said around a mouthful of Pad Thai.
"That's absurd," Neal laughed.
Peter realized that maybe they were a little gaymarried when he reached over to take the mushrooms off Neal's plate because he knew Neal hates him and Neal smiled at him.
Peter texted El later, “Thanks for the rec, babe. The Thai place is great.”
El sent back, “Da Nile is 4184 miles long. Welcome to mile 4185.” Peter wondered if she’d rather have a square or round diamond in her wedding ring.
"I know I've told you this before but I really hate your plans, Neal," Peter hissed as he crouched behind Neal in the bushes.
"Shut up, Peter, you know you're having as much fun as I am," Neal whispered back.
"Keep telling yourself that, Neal," but against his better judgement, he was still following Neal. Neal pulled out a leather case filled with silver instruments. "What are you doing?"
Neal paused. "It's probably better if you don't ask."
"I can't go to prison, Neal," Peter said and Neal could hear the frown in his voice.
"Don't worry, pretty boy, you'll still get into Harvard," Neal said, his tongue between his teeth in concentration. "Aha, we're in."
"You want to tell me why we're breaking into the school swimming pool at one in the morning?"
"Where's that boy scout sense of adventure when we need it?" Neal just grabbed Peter by the shirt sleeve and pulled him into the dark room. The water was back-lit by dim pot lights and they watched the reflected light wave across the ceiling as the water turned.
"Whoa," Peter whistled. "They don't cover this at night?"
"You know Coach Hughes," Neal said, unbuttoning his trousers.
"What- What are you doing?"
"Don't act so affronted, Peter. Why do you think I brought you here?" Peter really couldn't argue with that (or a half naked Neal). "If it will help protect your virtue, we'll stay in our shorts." If he was being honest, he really wasn't that interested in his virtue at that point. Not after Neal dove into the water. "Alright, you in?" Peter paced for a second, hands on his hips, before he smiled and stripped his polo over his head. Neal clapped from the water.
"Shut up!" Peter laughed. "Or I am not getting in!" He finished undressing and dipped a toe in the water. "Jesus, that's cold, Neal."
"The secret is just to jump in. You'll get used to it."
"I'm going to dunk your ass when I get in," Peter threatened.
"I'm quaking right out of my boxers." Peter jumped in, splashing Neal in the face.
"I always took you as more of a briefs kind of guy, actually," he says when he comes up for air.
"So you've thought about it?" Neal said, swimming closer.
"Cheeky bastard," Peter laughed, pushing Neal under the water. When Neal came back up, just a little breathless and water sticking to his eyelashes, Peter's smile slides right off his face.
"Have you really thought about it?" Neal asked seriously.
Peter swallowed hard, unsure of how to answer that. "Is this a game, Neal?"
"Nope," and Peter felt the ghost of a hand on his ribs.
"Neal," he said sternly, "if this is just one of your cons, if you are using me..." Neal silenced him with a kiss. Peter felt his back hit against the side of the pool and his legs tangle around Neal's. "Neal," Peter laughed when Neal's lips moved against his. "Neal, I can't-"
"Oh," Neal pulled back immediately. "I thought-"
"No, I mean, I can't- Not in the school pool, Neal! Other people are going to swim in this water!" Peter felt Neal relax against him and Peter's fingers decided to wind themselves in Neal's hair of their own accord.
"Prude," Neal laughed, dragging Peter backwards towards the ladder. "Wanna show me just how good a little boy scout you are?"
"Do you think El will mind about the hickey?"
"I have a feeling she'd mind it more if you hadn't."