A/N: Welcome to my one hundredth posted fic! I, for one, am really excited! I didn't want to post just another one-shot for this kind of milestone (haha), so instead I welcome you to a collection of song-inspired drabbles (a few of which end up being the length of multiple drabbles, but what can I say?). I love doing this kind of fanfiction experiment, writing drabbles inspired by whatever random song decides to pop up on my iTunes. So I started picking the songs--i.e. my iTunes gave me whatever it wanted--and I got so excited that I just didn't stop. I had intended to do a set of ten, and then I said "oh, well, maybe I'll do fifteen, or twenty, or twenty five..." and oh look, I ended up with fifty! Anyway, there are a ton of soundtrack songs mixed in here, along with just plain random songs. I did my best with each of them. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these songs, nor do I own White Collar or any of the characters.
A word on the pairings: Throughout this you will find just about every pairing. There's a lot of slash and there's a lot of Peter/Elizabeth/Neal. If you dislike it, don't read it.
And one more warning: There are definite, definite spoilers for Out of the Box in this. Largely in number seven of this first set. But also remember that some of these go AU and there's no interconnection between them, so in some places I disregard things that have happened in the show, and in other places I include them. Well, warnings and shennanigans over, onto the show!
1. For Good—Wicked
Peter Burke doesn't believe in fate. He believes in hard work and determination and choosing your own actions, creating your own path in life.
Neal Caffrey, on the other hand, isn't afraid to believe that there might be someone up there tugging on the strings, leading them down a certain pathway. He doesn't actively look for the signs, but he recognizes them when he sees them.
And to him, Peter Burke is one of those signs.
He lies in his bed sometimes, staring up at the ceiling and thinking, putting all the pieces together and realizing that there is no possible way their destinies intertwined so perfectly without a little divine intervention. If another agent had been assigned to his case or if he hadn't broken out on that day…if Peter hadn't taken a chance on him or if Kate hadn't left; if he hadn't been able to solve that first case or if the plan to get out had never come to him like a bolt of inspiration….
One tiny change and his world would be completely different. One tiny alteration and he never would have discovered how important Peter could be to him.
He shudders to think of what that world would be like and curls tighter in to Peter's side. Good thing that fate had different plans for them.
2. Goodbye Earl—Dixie Chicks (For the record, this was written before I saw Out of the Box. It's just a funny coincidence.)
"What's the FBI's stance on murder?"
Peter doesn't even look up from the files spread out in front of him, just lifts an eyebrow as though intrigued by the idea.
"Last time I checked murder was a crime." The FBI agent says, flipping the page. "And therefore the FBI is obligated to stand against it."
"What if it's not so much murder as, say…defense?"
"Something like that."
Peter looks up. There's a twist of amusement to his grin, but his eyes are more serious. "Murder's not the solution to the problem, Haversham." He pushes the folder in front of him away and pulls over another, but holds Mozzie's gaze. "He moping again?"
There's an inclination of a head and he sighs. "As tempting as it might be, we can't kill her. Or have her killed. Or any other solution which ends with her dead."
Mozzie tilts his head to the side. "Framing?" He ventures, and Peter snorts.
"As an FBI agent I am bound to uphold the law. I cannot lawfully arrest someone in good consciousness if I know they are not guilty of the crime in question." He looks away, folding his hands in front of him. "Of course, if I had evidence of a crime that she has committed, I am legally obligated to investigate. If you catch my drift."
"Ah," Mozzie says, nodding his head. "Thank you for clearing that matter up for me, Suit."
The short man makes his way out of the room, whistling. Peter grins and opens the new folder. "It's just a matter of time, Kate. A matter of time."
3. A Lot Like Me—The Offspring
The reason why he's so drawn to the white collar criminal—and the basic flaw of their potential relationship, but why linger on that thought?—is rooted in the fact that Neal defies his understanding. He has spent years of his life getting inside the other man's head, learning his patterns, learning how he reacts and why, learning the little details that make up someone's existence. And yet, at the root of it, he still lacks a basic comprehension.
This both frustrates him and exhilarates him. He hates the fact that Neal eludes him; that understanding just slips through his fingers. And at the same time he loves the fact that Neal is someone he can never know all the way through. He's so used to being around people that are transparent, people who he doesn't even have to try in order to understand. Neal's an enigma, a puzzle that he has to solve. He's a damn Rubik's cube, one with a hundred sides and a hundred colors and every time he manages to solve one piece he realizes that all the others have fallen into chaos again.
But he'll solve the puzzle in the end. His patience is nearly infinite, after all. It took him three years to catch Neal, and it might take a hundred for him to truly understand the man. But he'll do it. No matter what, he will understand what makes Neal Caffrey tick. He's not going to rest until he does.
4. Everything We Had—The Academy Is
The damn wine bottle is smirking at him.
He sees it, glinting there on the mantle in what was its place of glory, smirking at him, as though it's known all along that it represented nothing more than a lie. He turns his head away from it, clenching his jaw, but he can still see it in his mind, sitting there with all the smugness that a piece of glass can possess.
He turns back and glares at it, willing it to melt into a puddle of dark tinted remains. Then maybe it would be a more accurate representation of the state of things.
He stands and paces, his mind playing through the conversation over and over again. He doesn't want to, but he can't shut his brain off. It seems like everything in the world reminds him of her, and there's not even any solitude in the refuges of his mind. His memories are all tainted, and he just keeps playing through them, looking for the signs he should have seen, wondering when he became such an idiot.
We could have had anything, Kate. We could have had the world. Anything we wanted, anything we dreamt. He paces, round and round, half expecting to see the treads of his movement worked into the wood beneath his feet. And even when we didn't have anything I thought we still had everything we really needed. But I was wrong, wasn't I? I was an idiot, blinded by that pretty smile and those guiltless eyes of yours. How did I miss it? How could you have been playing me the whole time, and I never noticed?
He knocks into a chair. The corner jabs sharply into his side. He kicks it out of his way, snarling.
You couldn't have meant what you said. You couldn't have. This is part of something bigger, some angle, something that you can't tell me. You're trying to protect me. He's fooling himself again. He saw the truth, even if he doesn't want to admit it. I can't believe that it was all a lie. It had to be real. And you wouldn't just throw all that away, would you? You couldn't possibly be that person.
He pauses, realizing that he's just a bit out of breath, not sure if it's from the fierce circles of movement or from the emotions that are tight in his chest, constricting his lungs. A glint of light catches his eye, darting off of the slick glassy surface of the bottle. He crosses to it, picks it up, holds it in his hands.
This bottle is everything. It's the promise he made her of a better future; it's the map she left him so that he could find her; it's the representation that their relationship can outlast anything. And, according to her, it's all a lie. It's a piece on a chess board, just like he is.
His grip tightens around the neck of the bottle, and then in the next moment he's moving so violently and so fiercely that he can barely believe it. He doesn't recognize this rage in himself, and it almost scares him. The bottle crashes to the ground, splintering into large shards of dark glass. He leans against the wall, breathing hard, staring at the pieces. He hears footsteps in the hallway, hears June calling his name. He can hear the concern in her voice, can see it on her face as she opens the door and then looks from him to the broken bottle.
He stares at the shards of glass. They're like pieces of obsidian, like pieces of volcanic rock glittering on the floor of this apartment, pieces of another world here moving sharply into his existence. He shakes his head and gathers his control.
"I'm fine, June," he says, and then bends to pick up the pieces, one by one. If only it were as easy to pick up the pieces of his world.
5. Back to Hell—Alkaline Trio
"You look like hell."
Neal glares at him, arms folded over his chest. "Thanks for that, Moz." He says, but there's no heat to his voice. He sounds just as tired as he looks, and that worries him. He takes a seat across from his friend, looking him over carefully. Neal seems to realize that he's being scrutinized, because he lifts his head and raises an eyebrow. "Can I help you with something?"
"You don't look good, man. Jokes aside."
Neal rubs his temples. "I'm fine, Moz," he says, but there's a defeated catch to his voice, and that downright scares him. He has never heard Neal Caffrey sound defeated, not like this. He looks at his friend, leaning forwards.
"Neal." He says, and that's all he needs to say. Neal sighs and rests his head on his arms, sinking down. Now he's even more worried. Neal Caffrey doesn't sit at a table and put his head down. He doesn't break that composed shell that he gathers around himself.
"I'm just tired," Neal says dismissively. "I'm working, remember?"
"Yes, I'm aware that you're a slave to the government machine." He sees how Neal winces when he says slave, and wonders. His friend hasn't reacted to his comments in the past, so why now? "What else?"
The man frowns, and his eyes go to the window, then down to his ankle. "I hate being trapped. I can practically feel the noose tightening around my neck."
"Well now who's being melodramatic?"
Neal scowls at him and he shrugs. "I'm not meant for this corporate, paper work, normal kind of thing. I miss it."
"You do realize you get shot at more now than you ever did before, right? Although that is fairly normal for a New Yorker…."
"You know what I mean, Mozzie."
He looks at his friend, adjusting his glasses a little. "Well then, what do you want to do?"
Neal stares at him, hearing that hint of suggestion. "I can't run."
He raises his eyebrows. "Are you the Neal Caffrey I know or not?"
And slowly, very slowly, Neal begins to smile.
6. Give 'Em Hell, Kid—My Chemical Romance
The pillow still smells like him.
He's not sure what's worse, the days or the nights. During the day he has to put on one of those flawless charming grins, pretend that everything is so perfectly okay, exist in such close proximity that it drives him crazy. He can feel the heat of his skin, even through the layers of clothing and the distance that separates them. He can feel the space where the lusty gazes and the connection and the fascination was; those spaces now are filled with guilt and awkward moments. They exist like two magnets with switched polarization—where once there was the draw, now they slide in opposite directions, unable to stick any longer.
But the nights…they are emptier. He can feel perfectly alone during the day, even surrounded by dozens of people, even standing right next to him. And when night comes and he is alone…it's worse. The pillow still smells like him, like Old Spice and faint touches of mint. He hides the pillow from June, preserving the smell. He hates the reminder of what was and what was lost, but he needs it too. It keeps him awake at night, inhaling, longing, feeling like a stupid little girl with a crush who sleeps wrapped in a stolen hoodie, but he can't sleep without it either.
The hurt is like a knot in his stomach. It never loosens, just grows tighter and tighter with every day until he just wants to cry. He feels himself fading to a shadow of himself. He feels so foolish, but he can't help it. He lays awake at night and stares at the ceiling and just hears the end over and over again: we have to stop, I-I can't do this anymore, I'm sorry.
Mozzie makes remarks, and he can see the worry on his friend's face. Jones gives him looks, and Diana tries to get him to go home, but the worst is when Elizabeth sees him and her mouth turns into a little 'o' and she presses her hand to his forehead and dotes over him and asks him what's wrong, and he wants to just open his mouth and say 'this is your fault'. But he doesn't, because it's not fair to place the blame on her. Even if he wants to.
He pushes the pillow away and rolls over onto his stomach, and feels the knot tighten even further.
When there is a low knock he almost doesn't hear it. But trying so hard to feel nothing that he's hyper sensitive to every little sound, and he does here it. His heart skips a beat and he pushes his covers back, and heads for the door.
He opens the door and the knot tightens and his throat closes. "What are you doing here?" He asks. Peter doesn't respond verbally, just steps in and closes the door and touches the hollow of his neck. He shivers at the touch, his lips parting in a gasp.
Peter touches their foreheads together, his other hand coming to rest at the back of his neck. "I'm sorry," he whispers. He remembers the last time he heard those words—I'm sorry—and wonders what they mean this time. But Peter just takes his hand and tugs him towards the bed and slips beneath the covers with him.
And this time, the knot loosens.
7. If Only Tears Could Bring You Back—Midnight Sons
In his dream he relives the moment. That stupid wide grin on his face as he walks towards the plane, towards her. Her face as she looks out the window, her eyes so wide and bright, her smile the biggest one he's ever seen. That moment where he pauses, where he turns to face Peter. That split moment of indecision, where he doesn't know what to say, doesn't know what to do.
That explosion which rocks the world, which burns all of his bright dreams to cinders. He feels the heat vividly, feels the breath rush from him, feels that scream—her name—tear from his throat. He wakes every time with that scream still on his lips, wakes with the stark knowledge that he was right there. That he watched the flames burst up into the sky and couldn't save her.
He wakes, and knows that he's lost her again.
8. My World—3 Doors Down
Neal Caffrey lives in a fantasy world.
This is one of the most frustrating things about him. He lives in a world of his own creation, where he belongs to some fancy, rich, noble society (which is bullshit, because he was born on Long Island to a single mother with barely a dime to her name) and where the crimes he commits are perfectly moral in nature, because he's not hurting anyone (a crime is a crime, even if the 'victim' is a mindless bureaucratic art society), and where he has the most perfect, most beautiful girlfriend in the entire world (Peter Burke knows a few things about Kate Moreau that would make Neal's hair curl if he knew them). But Neal doesn't like to admit that his fantasy world isn't real. He's perfectly content to exist in his little bubble, with his expensive tailored suits and his fancy hats and his existentialist abstract art.
God, sometimes Peter just wants to reach out and shake him.
But Neal just gives him one of those shiny smiles and heads off to rescue his damsel in distress, and Peter just closes his eyes and shakes his head.
9. Don't Stop the Music—Rihanna
When El gives him that look—the one with the puppy dog eyes and the little pleading pout—he can't say no. He whines and chews on his lip and tries to deflect but in the end he always ends up caving. He just can't resist. Even when he really, really wants to say no. Like now.
"Please, honey? We haven't been out dancing in years."
He's going to hyperventilate, he just knows it. "That's because I'm terrible at it. Remember?"
Her lower lip starts to jut forward and her eyes get bigger and mournful. "El," he whines, knowing already that he's going to lose in the end, "don't give me that look."
"It's just dancing. Just for a few hours. Please?"
He sighs, shoulders slumping. "I guess a few hours wouldn't hurt…."
Instantly the pout is gone, replaced by a winning smile. "Thanks, sweetie!" She kisses his cheek and then flounces away, leaving him frowning after her.
"I've just been manipulated, haven't I?"
10. Get Down—Backstreet Boys
Neal Caffrey realizes that he is jealous on a Sunday, sitting on Peter and Elizabeth's couch after dinner and watching their blissful domesticity. He's certainly no stranger to envy, so he recognizes it when he feels it waking inside of him, but it honestly takes him by surprise. He frowns, sitting back and trying to examine what exactly he is jealous of.
It doesn't take long for him to root out the cause. In truth he's jealous of a lot of things. He's jealous that Peter and Elizabeth have this quaint little home and this seemingly perfect relationship and this routine of dinner and relaxation that he's been invited into but isn't truly part of. And all of that surprises him—he has, after all, spent a large part of his life trying to avoid this kind of normal domestic scene—but not nearly as much as what else he is jealous of.
He's jealous of the arm that Peter drapes around Elizabeth. He's jealous of the way Peter curls a strand of her hair around his finger, and of the way he brushes the back of her neck with his fingertips, making her shiver. He's jealous of the way she laughs at Peter, of the way her smile lights up. He's jealous of the smile that Peter has when he looks at her, of that dimple that appears in the corner of his mouth, of that light in his eyes that says he's the luckiest man on the planet.
But what does he have to be jealous of? Perhaps it's the closeness of their relationship, the ease with which they fit together. He and Kate have never meshed that easily, nor been that comfortable. So yes, he must be jealous of the kind of relationship they have, one that he envies.
He tries to convince himself that yes, that's what it is, but he knows that's not all of it. He's not only jealous of how close they are and how easy their relationship is, he's jealous that he's not part of it. The realization jolts through him. He's jealous because he wants Peter's fingers to brush his neck, because he wants El to smile at him like that, because he wants Peter's arm to fall around his shoulders. He wants to feel the heat of their bodies against, wants El to laugh that special way because of something he says, wants that little dimple to come to life when Peter smiles at him.
He realizes that Elizabeth is watching him, and realizes that he's been staring at them. He smiles at her and pulls his gaze away, distracting himself by petting Satchmo, who is sprawled at his feet. But he sees Elizabeth tilt her head so that she can whisper in her husband's ear. He sees Peter raise an eyebrow and feels the man's gaze come to rest on him.
And, dammit, he feels himself blush.
He clears his throat and stands up. "I should get going. Thank you for dinner, Elizabeth, Peter." He puts distance between them, heading for the door, seeing them exchange glances, seeing Elizabeth smile smugly.
In the time it takes him to retrieve his hat Elizabeth has already made it to the door. She's standing just in front of it, smiling at him while she blocks his escape route. "Neal, why don't you stay?"
He shakes his head. "Thank you, Elizabeth, but you don't want me underfoot the whole night." He glances over at Peter, who is standing with his arms folded. "Peter's probably had enough of me anyway," he says with a forced laugh.
But El doesn't move from in front of the door. She just smiles at him and smiles and he detects something very predatory in the gleam of her eyes. "Nonsense," she says. "We'd love to have you stay."
"I really appreciate—," he begins, and then stops when he feels Peter's hand wrap around his wrist. He meets the other man's gaze, feeling that damn blush rise higher. From the curve of Peter's lips he can tell that his friend is amused.
"Stay," Peter says, and Neal has never truly appreciated how sensual that slightly husky voice can sound. He swallows hard, too aware of the fingers still wrapped around his wrist, of the thumb that just slightly brushes against his skin.
"I—." He looks to Elizabeth, who is definitely starting to look like a cat with her eyes fixed hungrily on a mouse. "You two will probably want to be alone," he says, trying to regain his cool. She rolls her eyes, shaking her head.
"You're supposed to be a criminal mastermind, Neal." She says gently. "Do you really need it spelled out for you?"
He swallows again and gives her a charming grin, one that is cracking at the seams to show the insecurity underneath. "I'm afraid so." She gives him a wicked grin, and then presses close, one hand skimming up to rest at the back of his neck.
"Stay," she says, echoing Peter, and then she kisses him. Her kiss is soft and sweet and holds the promise of more, the promise of everything. She pulls back and he looks at Peter, nervous, his heart pounding. Peter hasn't let go of his wrist yet, and now he tugs him over. Unlike Elizabeth, Peter is taller. The angles of his body are harder and strong, and Neal revels in the distinction between them.
Peter's grin is no less wicked than the one belonging to his wife. "Are you going to listen to my wife, or do you need more persuading?"
He grins, tilting his head to the side. "I definitely think I need more persuading."
Elizabeth giggles. "That can be arranged."
The next set of ten will be up as soon as I'm finished writing it!