It was never good when Neal behaved in a sneaky fashion, but it was dangerous when he was sneaky and seemed to have his emotions involved.
Keeping an eye on his consultant and friend, Peter saw the worried expression on Neal’s face despite his efforts to hide it, he noted the subtle checks of his phone, and he noticed the odd behavior such as Neal holding the door just open enough to be visible without allowing sight into the loft apartment where he lived.
Why he was behaving in such a fashion wasn’t something the team had managed to discern.
Working together, Jones and Diana monitored Neal on the floor while Peter checked up on Neal in their interactions. However, nothing was gaining enough information to give them a direction for further investigation.
Neal had been working a lot of mortgage fraud cases. Although he didn’t like them and typically complained, that wasn’t a valid explanation for his behavior. June was doing fine. Amongst his known criminal friends, there was only Alex and Mozzie to be concerned about. Alex wasn’t in town and Mozzie hadn’t behaved uncharacteristically any of the times Peter had checked with him. Did an enemy have Neal worried? Was there another friend that they didn’t know about?
Takin g Neal home for his wife to have a crack at him, Peter hoped Elizabeth could make him spill what was wrong.
Going through the routine, Peter took Neal into his home and stood by as Neal greeted his dog and his wife as he usually did. Then he rolled his eyes as his friend made himself at home by excusing himself to set the table while Peter remained behind for a private moment with his wife.
“How did it become routine for my criminal informant to volunteer to set the table?” Peter asked his wife before greeting her with a kiss.
Amused, Elizabeth smiled with a soft laugh. “He’s a charmer, that’s how he got to be such a good confidence man. Besides, he’s our friend and he’s also polite. A smart man doesn’t take advantage of h is boss and handler.”
“I like smart, that’s why I married my smart wife.” Peter knew how to avoid trouble with his wife. Not that he’d done anything to incur her wrath, but that was the point, he wanted to avoid doing that.
“Good answer,” his wife kissed him again with a grin before disappearing into the kitchen to check on dinner.
Making his way into where his consultant was setting the table, Peter checked on his progress before taking a surreptitious look at the bottom drawer where he allegedly stored the family’s silver. “I see you’ve got the right flatware.”
“Ha-ha,” Neal didn’t even bother looking at him. “You and I both know that drawer only contains table clothes and the linen napkins El uses for special occasions.” He continued to set the table without rising to the bate, but while setting his own.
Raising his eyebrows, Peter played along. “Oh, and when did you riffle through that drawer?”
“When you and El were visiting her sister, you forgot to check the tracking data.” Neal glanced up at him with a roll of his eyes before he shook his head.
“You know he wouldn’t do that; he checks your tracking data, even more, when we’re not in the city than he does on a general daily basis.” Elizabeth interrupted the game as she brought one of the sides in. Then she sent Peter to fetch the main dish and Neal for the remaining side to complete the setup.
Complying with her orders, both men retrieved the dishes as directed before they finished their preparation and settled down to eat for the evening.
Making conversation, they talked about their day at the office before the topic digressed to Elizabeth’s work.
“Hey, an interesting thing happened today,” Elizabeth commented as she was finishing up her meal. “There was an agent downtown, he arrested some guy for something or another, I didn’t see what all was going on, but he looked remarkably like you, Neal.”
Curious, Peter wondered what that might indicate. Did Neal have a doppelganger?
Intrigued, Neal also seemed curious about the conversation topic and asked for details.
Once she’d explained that the man had been wearing a G-man suit much like they usually saw in spy shows, he’d had a badge, a gun, but his hair was more casually swept to the side unlike Neal’s that was usually manipulated into place using an abundance of hair products.
Frowning at the reference to his hair maintenance, Neal took the tease and redirected the conversation back to their initial topic of the agent look-alike. “Maybe he’s my evil doppelganger? Oh, or maybe, I’m his evil doppelganger since I’m a convicted criminal while he’s an agent?”
“I wouldn’t say evil, per se, but doppelgangers are possible,” Peter smirked in his own tease. Neal might be a criminal, but he was generally good-hearted, he just had a propensity to accept the challenge of stealing, forging, or conning which all happened to be illegal activities.
Digressing through doppelgangers, they discussed everything from how many people allegedly looked alike in the world at any given time to legends and lore of evil spirits taking on the appearance of their victims either for pranks or with the ultimate intention of removing them and taking their place.
When the evening came to an end, Peter sighed at the closed door behind his friend’s retreating figure. Neal had insisted on catching a cab and leaving them to their evening rather than dragging Peter back into the city to drive him home. So, not only did they fail to find the source of his recent actions, but he didn’t even have the drive to revisit the topic in an effort to get any useful information.
It was only a few days later when Peter walked into the break room to see a large dish full of candies on display.
Grabbing a handful, he popped some into his mouth without paying too much attention. That was a mistake. He got a mixed blend of chocolate, peanut butter, and pure sugar in an odd concoction of textures and flavors. Managing to finish the initial few he’d taken; he was grateful he’d not put more in. Then he looked at the ones in his hand and noticed the differentiation of colors from the muted colors of the Reese's Pieces, the mixed colors of the M & M’s, and the brighter colors of the Skittles.
Snorting, he wasn’t going to be daunted by such a simple prank. He simply took a handful and a couple of napkins to divide them out on. The differences wouldn’t be a problem if he ate them separately.
Going through the day, he heard others encounter the same lack of attention to detail followed by various reactions. Some did as he did and simply separated them out, while others got upset and called it an evil prank.
What amused Peter the most, was when Diana decided to take a look at the security video to discover who their culprit was.
Although it wasn’t something to condone, Peter allowed it this time, especially when she brought him the results.
The feed showed a man in a rat pack suit, a hat, and carrying the bowl to place it in the breakroom the evening before once everyone had gone home.
Standing on the landing, Peter observed as Diana approached Neal and asked him what the meaning of his prank was.
Neal declined being the culprit so she presented the evidence which only made him confused.
“It wasn’t him; he and I were getting drinks then and talking about one of my cases.” Jones took the image and came to his defense while stating why Neal clearly hadn’t been guilty.
Intrigued and concerned, Peter more actively joined the conversation by going down to the floor. “Is there anything identifying to determine who it was or why they were here? They couldn’t possibly have risked getting into trouble simply to pull a juvenile prank.” The matter had turned serious so Peter was determined to get an answer out of Neal.
Shrugging, Neal didn’t seem to have an answer. “Maybe he did just come to the offices to pull off a prank? Did the feed show him do anything else, is there anything else to the bowl, has anyone found anything in the candy?” Neal brought up several valid questions which sent the team scurrying to investigate.
Piece by piece, they checked over the bowl and went through the candies. There was nothing on the bowl and nothing in the candy.
The feed didn’t provide anything useful either. He’d entered the building, placed the bowl in the break area, and left the building.
According to the evidence, the man had just entered the FBI simply to play a harmless prank? However, no one risked eating any more of the candy and the bowl disappeared just as mysteriously as it had shown up.
The next series of events seemed to be an attack on their computers.
Jones entered the office and found that his computer background had been replaced by an overwhelm of little arrows so that he couldn’t find his mouse. It took him a few minutes, but he simply changed the background to rectify the issue.
Then Diana found that her background had been Photoshopped while her computer system had been flipped upside down so that everything was backward. When she tried to reverse the hack, she found that her keyboard had also been reversed. Her prank took longer to rectify, but she was able to undo it, despite the grumbling and muttered comments while she did so.
Having witnessed their experiences, Peter was intrigued to find that his computer appeared to be untouched. However, this discovery was made after a thorough check to ensure that nothing seemed to be amiss.
Looking up, Peter saw Neal's smirk of amusement as he tried to keep his nose in his file. Based on that, Peter wondered if he knew the perpetrator, or if he was just enjoying the results of his actions?
One evening, Peter got home to find Elizabeth sitting on their couch curled up with a cup of calming tea and a distant-looking expression on her face. “Is anything wrong?”
“I met him...” Elizabeth slowly zoned into his presence as he took a seat on the coffee table facing her in concern. “Neal’s doppelganger was at the coffee shop today.”
“What happened?” Peter stiffened in concern. What if the agent was targeting his wife?
“Nothing, he just introduced himself as Noah when he noticed me taking surreptitious glances.” Elizabeth’s curiosity had obviously gotten the better of her, but what had become of it?
Peter forced himself to be patient and wait for his wife to work through her story.
“He was amused and intrigued when I said he resembled a friend, but I didn’t want to tell him too much. What if he felt threatened by Neal?” She didn’t seem certain if she’d handled the situation right, like she was having second thoughts of everything they’d discussed. “We had one of those brief conversations you have with a random person in a coffee shop that ends awkwardly with the excuse of things to do... I told him I had a meeting and made my exit.” Elizabeth shrugged as she finished explaining the gist of what happened.
He couldn’t see any harm in the situation, on the surface, but Peter feared the agent might have taken notes if he had any concerns. No sign of any issue didn’t mean there wasn’t any. “Just be careful, hon.” Peter reached out and took his wife’s hand. Moving to sit next to her on the couch, he felt more comfortable being where he could cuddle with her and kiss her.
‘Noah’ struck again by randomly standing around in the back offices of the FBI for a day. Peter never saw him, but he knew he’d been in the building.
A knock on Peter’s office alerted him to a passing agent’s presence. Ducking in, the agent just wanted to let him know, “Caffrey is down by our water cooler. He’s been gossiping with our secretary. My boss sent me up to tell you to reign your consultant in.”
Frowning, Peter felt insulted to have a probationary sent to tell him how to handle his consultant, but he also didn’t appreciate Neal gossiping on other floors. Sure, it was a good way to get information, but it wasn’t what he was supposed to be doing.
Nodding to the agent, Peter promised to handle it.
After the agent left their office, Peter noticed Neal come in off of the next elevator carrying a tray full of coffees. He handed the drinks out to Jones, Diana, and then came up the stairs and brought Peter a coffee.
“I figured you could use something better than the office sludge,” Neal passed Peter his favorite drink with a smile.
“Thank you,” Peter appreciated the drink, but he was also confused. Maybe he should have gotten more information on when Neal had been gossiping at the water cooler. “Did you stop off on any other floors on your way out or back in?”
Frowning, Neal looked at Peter with an inquisitive expression and a cock of his head, “Is the coffee cold?
Sighing, “No, but I’ve received a complaint that you were gossiping around the water cooler on another floor.”
“Not recently,” Neal admitted to having done it in the past.
“Don’t, other teams don’t appreciate it,” Peter ordered.
“Fine, it’s still easy enough to make random conversation in the elevator or security lines.” Neal wasn’t fazed and easily agreed to the request.
Heading back down to his desk, Neal went back to work.
It was a few hours before the next incident occurred, but Peter got a phone call from another agent on a different floor. This time, Neal was being accused of loitering in their back hallway and playing on his phone. Promising once again to address it, Peter didn’t know what to do.
Neal had been at his desk the entire hour prior so he had a viable alibi. Besides, he wasn’t prone to playing on his phone. Still, he texted Neal asking him up to his office.
Receiving the message, Neal came up within a few minutes and stood inside the doorway. “What’s up?”
“You’ve been accused of loitering in back hallways playing on your phone. Care to elaborate?” Peter raised an eyebrow at his friend in question.
Shaking his head, Neal didn’t seem to have a story or reasoning for this one. “No, I’ve been working on cases. Do I need to take a witness when I go to lunch?”
“I don’t know, do you have any plans where a witness would be needed?” Peter leaned back to enjoy the conversation.
“Nothing out of the ordinary, you can even tag along if you want to be sure.” Neal extended his hand and cocked his head with the invitation. He knew something was up, but he didn’t seem to know why he was being interrogated .
“I have a meeting and then plans with Elizabeth, so I’ll have to take a rain check. However, you could always take Jones or Diana if you think I necessary.” Peter volunteered his agents to make sure there weren’t any more issues.
Going back to his desk, Neal went back to work and Peter resumed his own tasks.
Thinking as he worked, Peter was beginning to think Noah was striking again with the random pranks, but he still didn’t know why the agent would waste his time with such activities. Was he bored? If that were the case, wouldn’t he find something better to do?
They’d managed to confirm that he was an American agent so security was only marginally concerned with him being on the premises, but that didn’t alleviate Peter’s concerns with the ramifications of his activities.
Fortunately, there weren’t any reports through the afternoon, but Peter had the feeling that Noah hadn’t left the premises, he just took more care in not being caught lurking about with no reason.
Coming into Peter’s office, Diana pulled up a seat across from him and took a seat. “I don’t know which one that was...”
Intrigued, Peter put his file down and looked to see what had her so flustered. “Which one what was? Do you mean a Noah or Neal encounter?”
“Yeah, I went to the coffee shop for my morning brew and Neal was there standing in line waiting for his order to be fulfilled. He talked to me, and we discussed the morning’s selection of pastries. But, something didn’t feel right. I don’t think it was Neal that I was talking to.” Diana wasn’t describing anything unusual, everyone knew Neal appreciated a good coffee and pastry, but Peter trusted her instincts.
“Did you check his tracker to see if he was there or not?” Peter suggested a possible way of resolving the mystery.
“He was there, at least according to his tracking data, but there was something about the way he talked that didn’t seem to be him. I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m almost positive it wasn’t Neal. However, I’m also wondering if I’m thinking that because I know Noah is around? If we didn’t know he was here, I might just think Neal was up to something or having an off day.” Diana was perplexed and confused. She had no real reason to worry about who she was talking to, yet it bothered her and the puzzle needed to be solved before she could stop thinking about it.
“Have you asked Neal himself?” Peter suggested the next possible solution to the mystery.
Groaning, Diana didn’t appreciate the suggestion. “I did, and he just showed me his cup of coffee from the same company, and a pastry that hadn’t been available at the location I was at. That matches his tracking data saying he was there, but it doesn’t clarify if he was the one I talked to or not. He wouldn’t specify whether he was the one or not either.”
Unable to really do anything about it, Peter could discipline Neal, but it didn’t seem fair over whether he’d had a coffee conversation or not. He’d save that for more serious infractions. Instead, he listened to Diana’s rant waiting for her to work through her frustrations.
When she was calmer, Diana thanked him for listening. “I think this doppelganger thing is going to drive everyone crazy!”
Chuckling, Peter had to agree. “I’ve had reports of Noah from all over the place, and I’m not sure which one is guilty in many instances.”
“Good luck deciphering the puzzles,” Diana smirked at him as she slipped out of his office and went back down to her desk.
Going back to work, Peter knew that wouldn’t be the last of Noah. The agent had been seen too recently for them to think that he’d gone. He’d be back, but who knew when or where he’d strike again.
When Peter discovered that he had been gotten, it was when he went to go home for the evening. Starting his car, he was instantaneously showered by a cloud of small confetti that blew out of his air vents.
Turning to a snickering Neal, he glared as he felt the little paper pieces settling in his hair, all over him, and throughout the entire car.
Then when Neal started coughing as a little paper got into his system, Peter thought it might be a small piece of justice, but he was glad when Neal was able to regain control of himself.
“Care to explain why your doppelganger would go through the FBI parking garage and just happen to place confetti in my air condition vents? And what do you find so funny about it?” Peter wasn’t laughing. It was a mess!
Still smiling, Neal shrugged. “I can’t explain the actions of another person. As for why it’s so funny, have you seen yourself covered with tiny pieces of paper? The expression on your face is hilarious!” He started snickering again but controlled it to avoid getting into trouble.
Grumbling about stupid doppelgangers and suspicious situations, Peter shook the confetti off of himself and made sure he’d cleared enough of it away from the vents to avoid any dangerous blocking of his view in traffic.
Since Neal thought it was so funny, Peter figured he could help him vacuum the junk out, so he drove him home and set him up with a vacuum to clean his car out.
Elizabeth came out and found him standing over a laughing Neal. “What’s going on? Why aren’t you coming in for dinner?” She greeted Peter.
“Someone’s doppelganger targeted me with confetti in my air vents and someone thinks it’s funny so he gets to vacuum it up,” Peter grumbled in his own defense as he stood with his arms crossed and a frown.
“He strikes again, huh. Maybe he is Neal’s evil doppelganger?” Elizabeth couldn’t help but smile as she reached up and brushed some more confetti off of Peter’s head.
Moving to shake his head and brush his hair with his hand, Peter was surprised to see several more pieces fall out to blow away on the breeze.
Giggling, Elizabeth remained amused and helped Peter brush some more of the pieces off of his clothes.
Laughing harder, Neal slowed down in his vacuuming as he watched their antics. Then he commented once he was able to calm down, “You know, you’re going to have to work harder than that based on how much was in there.”
“Ha-ha,” Peter glared at him and noticed that Neal still had pieces of the paper stuck all over his suit and he imagined that he probably looked the same.
It was a task, but they eventually got the worst of the confetti cleaned up. Still, Peter was still finding the odd piece even a week later.
The random pranks continued and the team continued to puzzle over the circumstances wondering why this agent that looked like Neal was messing with them for no apparent reason other than to frustrate them.
Peter was sitting in his office puzzling over the recent series of events with the door open as he watched Neal working studiously on his caseload below.
Barely noting the arrival of Bancroft as he brought some paperwork in and walked up to Hughes’ office, Peter knew it didn’t apparently apply to him so he kept his focus on his consultant throughout the meeting that transpired next door.
When it was finished, Bancroft happened to walk down and across the floor coinciding with another prank that played random music from the computers of the team.
Pausing, he stopped and looked around as the team scrambled to handle the hack and turn the music off of their computers.
“Neal, that doppelganger of yours needs to stop messing with us!” Diana grumbled as she countered the hack and showed the other members of the team what to do in response.
Unphased, Bancroft calmly turned to Neal and the entire office heard his response, “Neal, tell that brother of yours to stop messing with my agents and go back to D.C.”
Grinning and ducking his head initially, Neal actually answered Bancroft. “He’s stationed here for a few more weeks and then who knows what Washington will do with him.”
“Why is he targeting my agents?” Bancroft continued to push the conversation.
“He’s dead as far as his friends are concerned so he was feeling down, and this was a safe way for him to have some fun and interact with my friends to cheer him up. Besides, he’s only stationed here for another few weeks so it will end.”
“Good, you boys are good at what you do, but I don’t appreciate all of the shenanigans.” Bancroft was amused and admonishing at the same time.
Listening, Peter was very curious, like the team below, to realize that Bancroft knew about this brother and his working abilities. It was also complimentary that he spoke so highly of the brothers.
“Is he doing better?” Bancroft remained for a conversation, but no one complained as they gained more information out of it than they had gotten from Neal in weeks.
“Yes, he’s doing a lot better. I think this has reminded him of his time in college with his best friend.” Neal smiled fondly, “it’s been a long time, since before he was recruited, that I’ve seen him have this much fun. I know he’s been annoying the team, but this is the wellbeing of my brother.”
“He doesn’t deserve what happened to him in the field, but I’m glad he has you there to help him.” Bancroft wound their conversation down before continuing on his way.
By this time, Peter was out on the landing and descending towards the floor. He wanted to talk to Neal about this brother of his.
Holding up his hands, as he could see the intent of the whole team to question him, Neal cautioned their curiosity. “My brother was technically killed in action due to traitors in his protection team. He is still dead to everyone he’s ever known and it’s dangerous for you to know anything about him professionally. Only a few people in Washington and Bancroft have previously had information. However, it’s because I trust you not to hurt him and for his wellbeing that I suggested this in the first place. I know you’re curious, but please, trust that Bancroft knows and leave it at that.”
Stopping in their tracks, the entire team had to give consideration to Neal’s request. He wasn’t asking anything unreasonable of them, but it wasn’t going to be easy.
“What are you going to tell us about him?” Peter asked. He wouldn’t push, but he needed to know something about the man who was his consultant’s brother, the man who had been tormenting his team for weeks.
Giving it some thought for a moment, Neal nodded as he came to a conclusion. “Noah is his birth name, just like Neal is mine, and he is my younger identical twin brother. His work for the government is beyond your clearance or need to know, but he lets me know what enemies to watch out for since we look alike. That's the basics, which is sufficient.”
It wasn’t easy, but the team reluctantly went back to work.
That wasn’t the end of the pranks, but the team was no longer worried about who was committing them or why. However, they did tell Neal when his brother had crossed a line or made requests in regards to things they didn’t want him doing in advance, just in case he got ideas.
Taking it all in stride, Neal easily forwarded the commentary to his brother and accepted the team's terms for handling his brother’s pranks.
Taking Neal home with him one evening, Peter was enjoying their conversation on the drive when he started to notice that the conversation had taken a turn that he didn’t expect.
Was he still talking to Neal? The recent discovery that Neal had a younger identical twin brother meant that the two could switch places, at least in theory. But he hadn’t seen a solid image of the man, just general photos of him wearing Neal’s suit and hat as he dodged the cameras to avoid revealing his identity.
Giving it consideration, Peter continued the conversation, but he paid more attention to the man’s responses both verbally and physically when he could watch him.
Smirking, his companion seemed to have noticed his change in behavior so the game took on a new level.
Now they were challenged to see who would triumph. ‘Neal’ in keeping up his charade, or Peter in deciphering which brother he was talking to for certain.
Arriving home, Peter watched as his companion greeted Satchmo, but Satchmo was reluctant to greet him in return. He sniffed at him and whined while pacing in confusion.
That made Peter certain that he was talking to the younger brother, Noah. However, he wondered why he and Elizabeth were allowed to meet him.
Elizabeth came out to meet them as she normally did but she didn’t seem to notice anything off in the conversation.
Moving to set the table, Peter hid his smile as Noah tried to smoothly do Neal’s part for the first time. Clearly, the brothers had talked, but having experienced it multiple times over and having been described the action was two different things.
Managing, Noah set the table without having too much trouble, but he did have to pause and think through the instructions on what was where a few times.
When Elizabeth joined them with the food, they settled in and talked as they usually did.
Making use of the opportunity, Peter tried to see what he could learn about Noah. He looked like Neal, he sounded like Neal, but he wasn’t Neal.
It wasn’t easy, there were only subtle differences between the brothers since Noah was trying to perform as his brother, but Peter picked up that Noah wasn’t as interested in art or the ‘finer things’ in life, he was more down to earth. Although he tried to suppress it, his eyes lit up when Elizabeth talked about some computer issues that she’d been experiencing at work.
“I could have my brother take a look at it for you, he’s a computer engineer,” Noah volunteered himself while sharing the personal information .
Taking notes, Peter was learning that Noah was more down to earth except for being rather nerdy. Not what he expected for a brother of Neal’s, but it went with the computer pranks they’d experienced from time to time from the man.
“Ooh, I’d love that. I’ve only technically met him at the coffee shop.” Elizabeth accepted the offer, but she clearly hadn’t picked up on the fact that she was talking to him at the moment.
Amused, Peter didn’t expose his knowledge and he tried to keep his grin to himself.
“Something funny, Peter?” Noah asked, he was also trying to suppress his own grin.
“I don’t know, Neal, is there something funny going on here?” Peter asked in return which caught Elizabeth’s attention and caused her to look back and forth in between them.
“You seem to be the one amused, so you tell me,” Noah passed it back to him.
“Okay, enough with the charades, Noah. I know which one I’m talking to. Why did you switch with Neal?” Peter laid his proverbial cards down on the table.
Sitting her fork down, Elizabeth was surprised that she’d missed the switch. “You’re Noah?”
“Hello, Elizabeth. I am really sorry if I scared you when we first met at the coffee shop. I have no intention of hurting you, Peter, or my brother. However, as my brother has told the team, I’ve been betrayed by my own people more than once so I don’t like to reveal who I am or that Neal and I are brothers.” Noah answered the question and explained to them his reasonings.
Relaxing, Elizabeth was interested to get to know Noah now that she knew who she was talking to.
Sitting by and continuing to take notes, Peter enjoyed the conversation and getting to know his friend’s brother, but he also wondered where Neal had gotten off to.
A knock on the door was the indication that Neal had arrived, so Peter got up to let his friend in. When he opened the door, he was surprised to see Jones and Diana holding Neal in between them.
“I see you figured out which brother I brought home, where was he?” Peter asked in amusement as he let the group in.
“He was lurking in the back hallways of the office. We found him when we decided to check his tracking data and it showed that he was still in the office and not with you.” Diana answered the question as she pushed Neal in ahead of her.
Beaming, Neal was clearly enjoying the joke. “My brother wanted to meet you so we switched places to see how long it would take for you to realize which one of us you were talking to.”
“By the way, when did you figure it out?” Noah asked in curiosity from where he was seated on the couch as his brother was set down next to him.
For the first time, the group saw the brothers sitting together.
Peter couldn’t answer at first since he was so focused on the sight before him. Two Caffreys ... Shaking his head, Peter got his focus back together to answer the question. “You don’t quite talk like your brother, the conversation on the drive home wasn’t what I expected so I began to suspect possibilities. However, it was when Satchmo was confused by you looking like your brother but smelling different that ultimately gave you away.”
“I didn’t notice until he and Peter revealed that I was talking to Noah instead of Neal.” Elizbeth was embarrassed to admit that she hadn’t noticed.
“Don’t worry about it, El. People usually don’t know which of is which. We confused our classmates and teachers all of the time growing up. It’s actually uncharacteristic for people to be able to tell us apart. Peter is the anomaly, not the normal.” Neal tried to reassure her while casting a glance at Peter. “That’s why he’s called the archeologist, I guess, he has a tendency of getting to the bottom of things.”
“He is good at that,” Elizabeth smiled over at Peter as she took his hand.
Settling in, they continued to discuss the twins and the recent pranks.
“Now that we know who you are and can ask, care to explain which one I ran into in the coffee shop?” Diana got down to the point as she leaned forward and demanded an explanation.
Laughing, Noah nodded in a bow, “That was me, I took the chance to talk to you while my brother was in the restroom. The pastries seemed to be a safe enough topic and you didn’t seem to notice that it was me instead of Neal.”
Glaring, Diana hadn’t appreciated them toying with her. “I noticed that something was off and I knew Neal’s tracking data showed him in the coffee shop, but I couldn’t tell for certain who I’d spoken with and he wouldn’t confirm one way or the other.”
“Speaking of twin switching, which one of you pulled the bowl prank in the office?” Peter couldn’t help but ask. They’d thought it was Noah, but what if it had been Neal?
Beaming, Neal nodded in a bow similar to how his brother had. “That was me. Noah was the one talking with Jones while I snuck into the office and planted the bowl full of mixed candies.”
Frowning, Peter confronted Neal, “You lied to me?”
“No, technically, I lied to Diana.” Neal corrected while indicating the other agent sitting beside him.
Jabbing him in the side, Diana didn’t appreciate having been lied to. “Caffrey...” she complained.
Before Neal could respond to her attack, Jones commented, “I met Noah first?”
Exchanging glances, the twins seemed to decide on how to approach the reveal. Shrugging, Neal took the explanation.
“You would have seen that it was me if you’d have checked the anklet,” Neal smirked at them before continuing. “It was a risk to have me be the one to enter the office, but we thought it was worth it. We weren’t overly worried about you finding it out which of us it was, and it worked since it added to the mystery.” He was clearly amused by the joke he’d played on them.
Rolling his eyes, Peter knew he’d fallen for the ploy the twins had pulled, and he regretted that he hadn’t thought to check the tracking. “You do know that I will be checking your tracking even more for a while now?”
Shrugging, Neal didn’t seem bothered. “We’ve got a few weeks left that Noah is certainly stationed here, we can mess with you anyway.”
Elizabeth was part amused, and part not so she admonished, “Don’t take it too far now, boys.”
“We won’t,” they said in unison like the routine had been done before.
Squinting at them, Elizabeth questioned the validity of their statement, but no one pushed them. Their grinning expressions didn’t bode well for their success anyway.
Giving up on the pranks, they all knew they were going to have to endure them as long as Noah was in town, and anytime he was in town in the future.
Enjoying the conversation, the group settled in and worked to get to know the brothers.
When the evening came to an end, Jones and Diana went home, but the twins lingered behind for a brief conversation.
“You do know there was no harm intended in this, I hope you aren’t too mad,” Neal asked, he seemed slightly nervous once they were alone.
“No, I’m not upset with you. I was frustrated at various points, especially when I didn’t know who he was or why he was pulling pranks on us. However, I’m glad we were able to help you and your brother, it sounds like his work has been rough.” Peter talked to Neal while Noah was talking to Elizabeth across the room.
“Thanks, you’re my best friend, and I’m glad I got to introduce you to my brother. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but it didn’t seem viable until his assignment here. The pranks, they helped him, but they were also a way to introduce my friends to my family.” Neal looked a little awkward as he admitted his motivations.
Pleased, Peter was glad to hear that he was Neal’s best friend. He’d been surprised when he’d discovered that Neal was his best friend. “You’re my best friend too, buddy. And, I really am glad that we were able to meet your brother and help cheer him up. Family is important.”
“Family is important, whether by blood or by choice,” Neal agreed.
Exchanging hugs all around, the twins bid them good night and went back to the loft for the night.
“I’m glad June has been hosting Noah, but I’m surprised that no one noticed that there was a second brother around,” Elizabeth commented as she helped pick up after their guests.
“It explains why Neal was so cagey, and it also means that Mozzie knows about the twins. He’s a frequent visitor and Neal’s oldest friend, I doubt they’ve kept the secret from him for this long.” Peter conversed as he locked up.
“Well, at least we’ve met the twins and we know to expect pranks anytime Noah is in the city.” Elizabeth was amused as she made sure Satchmo was settled in for the evening.
“Not necessarily, Noah is a computer engineer so he can prank us from a distance, but we have his promise not to overdo it,” Peter noted as he finished his evening chores.
“Still, I’m glad for them. This has been a chance for them to enjoy having some fun with friends, which probably isn’t something they get to do very much based on Neal’s comments.” Elizabeth added as she joined him for the walk upstairs to get ready for bed.
Settling in for the evening, they could only agree that they were both glad Noah had been assigned to the city to give them all the experience, even though it had meant several weeks of trouble caused by the twin’s pranking them.