|Prisoners Of Our Own Mistakes
Author: 2Old4This2 PM
Sometime after Countdown. Neal finds himself in a potentially dangerous situation. Is it just the job, or is it due to something more?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Angst - Neal C. - Chapters: 9 - Words: 39,377 - Reviews: 82 - Favs: 43 - Follows: 94 - Updated: 07-22-12 - Published: 01-10-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7729925
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Prisoners of Our Own Mistakes
A White Collar Fan Fiction
Disclaimer: White Collar is the property of Jeff Eastin and the USA Network. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made. Trust me.
The sound of the door closing behind Neal Caffrey clanged with the hollow ring of finality. This was ridiculous, of course. The door was electronic; it slid easily into place, with only an efficient thunk to signal its closing. However, finality and permanence, those concepts rang true. Neal cringed at the pun in his own mind.
That wasn't all he cringed at. It had been painful to watch as they took his finely cut suit, silk tie, and Italian leather shoes and shoved them carelessly into a storage box along with his other personal effects. The search that followed had been painful, too, both physically and emotionally. Then the cold, disinfecting shower and the presentation of his new wardrobe – all orange.
The worst part, though, was the closing of that door behind him. It was the door that separated the intake area from the cell blocks and the rest of the prison. The door that now separated him from the life he had just begun to appreciate. He even missed the tracking anklet. He was back inside.
Four hours later it was like Neal had never left. Well, maybe that was stretching a point, but the readjustment was easier than he expected. He'd already encountered a few of his acquaintances from his last stay, and while they weren't exactly glad to see him, they were civil. He had a cell to himself, and no one had tried to stick a shiv in him. Yet. Now, reclining on his thin, lumpy mattress, he had time to consider how he came to be here. Was this only to be expected after the mess he'd made of his life? He replayed the conversation he had with Mozzie in his head, looking for an answer.
"Are you crazy?" Mozzie's voice rose sharply, in direct proportion to the level of his disbelief. "You aren't serious. You can't be. No one would willingly allow themselves to be put back inside. Certainly no one would volunteer!" Mozzie paused for breath. He looked carefully at his friend's face. "You know, you don't owe the suits anything."
"I didn't volunteer, exactly, but I really couldn't say no. Not now. And yeah, Moz, I do owe them. At least I owe Peter." Neal walked to the sideboard in his small kitchen and went through the wine bottles collected there. Reading the labels, he selected a dry red and poured himself a generous serving. No, he thought, he really wasn't in a position to say no to anything right now. Not while Department of Justice was watching every move he made, reviewing every case he and Peter closed. And then there was Peter, who he had betrayed. Peter who wouldn't trust him; who couldn't trust him yet, he realized. If Peter wanted him to go undercover in prison, well that's what he'd do.
"Wouldn't it be easier if the suit just shot you?" Mozzie bypassed the wine collection, locating the gin bottle and pouring himself a healthy dose. He hurried out onto the terrace with both bottle and glass, as if there weren't enough air in the apartment.
"Peter doesn't want me dead, Mozzie. He just wants me to do my job. That's what I'm going to do." Neal joined his friend outside, admiring the view of the city, trying not to think about the small cell which would soon be his temporary home. That cell had seemed awfully small the last time. He was afraid it was going to feel even smaller this visit.
"This isn't like the last time, Neal," Mozzie continued seriously. "This time your not just a convicted felon . . . you're a nark, a snitch." He gulped down half a tumbler of gin.
"Maybe, but right now I'm the guy who stole a priceless treasure and got a highly respected agent's wife kidnapped. That's the reason why everyone will understand I'm back in. As punishment. That ought to cover things."
"Hah!" Mozzie threw back another swig of gin. "I'm sure there are people there who want you dead."
"Moz, Peter and the Bureau worked it out with the Department of Corrections. The guards will know why I'm really there. They'll watch out for me. The warden knows too. It'll be fine."
"Hah!" he said again, gazing mournfully into the bottom of his empty glass. He reached for the bottle and refilled. "Why do they need you undercover in prison?"
"Apparently forged credit cards are coming out of there. They need someone on the inside and I'm the obvious choice." Neal sipped his wine thoughtfully. "The whole thing's pretty brazen, it shouldn't take very long to figure this out. I'll be through and back here in a week." He took another sip and turned to face his friend. "It won't be that bad. I won't be in any danger."
"Where's Keller?" Mozzie's eyes were deadly serious now.
"Nowhere near here. He's not even in New York State. He's someplace seriously secure."
"Guantanamo?" Mozzie asked hopefully.
Neal gave a quick snort. "Okay, maybe not that secure."
"Then you're still in danger, my friend."
Neal really didn't think he was in any danger from Keller. Wherever Keller was, he was in isolation, all of his communications either cut off or carefully monitored. All of his bank accounts were being carefully monitored, too. No, Keller wasn't a threat, but he wasn't quite so sure that was the case with some of the other inmates.
By and large, the people he had helped the FBI capture were nonviolent, just like he was. Yes, there were a few exceptions. Wilkes probably wasn't too pleased with his current living arrangements. Joseph Ganz might be a tad put out with him. Oh, and there was Frank De Luca, Jr. and his mob buddies; but they probably wanted Mozzie more than him. Besides, the FBI and the warden both knew all this. No, he wasn't worried. He'd just be careful and figure out the credit card scam quickly.
Lying still, looking at the blank institutional walls and listening to the constant background hum of prison life, Neal was surprised to find he'd actually dozed off. Working with the FBI was making him lose his edge. That edge was what kept him alive. Maybe he should work on that.
The guard stood outside Neal's cell, looking in with a combination of curiosity and mild concern on his oddly gentle face.
Neal wasn't sure if that was a statement or a question. He answered the statement.
"Yup. Some places are hard to stay away from."
Bobby gave a brief snort. "I thought you knew better by now."
Judging by my recent past, obviously not, Neal thought. "So I guess you heard about the art?"
Sounds of an altercation farther down the cell block drew Bobby's attention. He shifted his weight and started in the direction of the noise. "Everyone's heard, man. We've got to talk. I'll try and come by later." With a last glance over his shoulder at Neal's prone form, he headed away.
Neal sat up on his bunk and watched the large man disappear. He hoped what Bobby meant was that he knew why Neal was really there. Having the guard on his side could only be a good thing.
Neal walked over to the small desk bolted to the wall of his cell. He picked up the paperback novel he had brought with him and sat back on the bunk, propped himself against the wall, and started to read. It was a police procedural. What had he been thinking?
Sara Ellis set her empty wineglass down on the table with a snap and stood. She walked across the room and turned off the stereo. On her way to the sliding glass doors, which were now filled with the rosy glow of sunset, she stopped to consider her empty glass and the bottle standing next to it. She refilled the glass and headed to the doors, opening them to the cooling evening air and the sounds of Manhattan several floors below her small balcony.
Her small space couldn't compare to the spacious rooftop terrace of June's mansion but it certainly served the needs of a woman living alone. She caught herself in a sigh and mentally shook herself. Leaning against the wall of the balcony, a pose all too similar to another person's stance, she gazed between the two buildings across the street at a sliver of the Hudson River beyond. Her apartment with a view.
She had no reason to be displeased with her apartment. The apartment had been lovely before the renovations and now it was just about perfect. No, she was very happy with her home. It was her life that she wasn't satisfied with.
She took another sip of her wine, a rather large sip, and settled back into the wrought iron chair in the corner of the balcony. The metal felt cool through the thin silk of the copper colored tunic and loose pants she wore. The light evening breeze molded the soft fabric to the contours of her body; too bad there wasn't someone there to admire the effect, she thought.
She had seen that someone, the only someone she even considered now, exactly twice since he had recovered from the injuries he sustained while trying to free Elizabeth Burke from the clutches, (clutches, really?) of Matthew Keller. Both encounters had been in his apartment, both times it had been completely casual, and both times had been totally hot. And a point not to be ignored, both times had been completely dissatisfying.
Sara forced herself to admit that she wanted more than just an uncommitted, physical relationship with Neal Caffrey. She wanted to share his energy and his enthusiasm and his intellect. She wanted his friendship and companionship; she might even entertain the terrifying concept of love. Except that she couldn't have any of that right now, because he was comfortable lying to her – she couldn't trust him. Without the trust, there was nothing. Well, almost nothing. If that longed-for relationship was really impossible, she wouldn't be sitting alone in her apartment on a Friday night feeling sorry for herself.
Shivering as the sun sank behind the buildings across from her balcony, she drained her glass and went back inside, shutting the doors against the coolness of approaching autumn. She thought about refilling the glass once again and decided against it. The only thing worse than a combined dose of loneliness and self-pity would be adding an alcoholic buzz to the mix. She put the empty glass in the sink and looked at the television. Nope, no television this evening. She would exercise her brain cells instead. She picked up the most recent copy of The New Yorker from her stack of mail and turned to the political section. Even if it turned out she didn't agree with a single viewpoint in this issue, it would take her mind off herself.
She had just lost herself in the intricacies of the number of candidates running for the current elections when her cellphone trilled, requesting her attention. Glancing at the display, she didn't recognize the caller. However, her recent association with Caffrey had shown her that just because you don't know who the caller is doesn't mean you don't want to talk to them. Accepting the call, she placed the phone to her ear.
"Sara Ellis," she said cautiously.
"Are you alone?" The voice on the other end of the call somehow made the question sound like a demand.
"Why, Mozzie?" Even though she was startled to receive a call from the little man, she knew patience would get her more information than her more instinctive reaction, which was to reach through the phone and strangle him.
Deep breaths, Sara, she admonished herself. "Why do you need to know if I'm alone?"
"I don't know." Mozzie's voice sounded a little odd – odder than he normally sounded.
"Are you drunk?" Sara asked him suspiciously.
"Maybe a little."
"What's this about, Mozzie?" Sara knew she sounded irritated – she was irritated – but she needed to get Mozzie to focus.
Sara felt her heart speed up. What could possibly have happened? Had something gone wrong on a case? Was he hurt? No, she was sure Peter himself would have called her to give her that kind of news. Had Neal run? No, then Mozzie would never have called her. Besides, she really didn't think Neal would run; not now, anyway.
"Mozzie?" she prompted him while trying to get a grip on her own wayward thoughts. "What about Neal?"
"He's back in maximum security."