Windstar: In all honesty this is a huge fluff story that came out of nowhere. I don't know what it is about this show, but for some reason the ideas keep flowing and I seem to have all the time in the world to continue writing for it. So here it is, a very fluffy story for Neal and Alex.
Disclaimer: I do not own White Collar or any of its affiliations. All rights belong to USA and it's employees.
Spoilers: Just know that Alex went to Italy.
The Letter Wars:
The war started with a letter. Just one that was sent thousands of miles to the home of one Neal Caffrey. It was addressed to simply: The Gentleman, and it was well understood whose mail it was for there was only one that was paying rent there – Moz didn't count. He was just a friend...that spent almost every night there.
Still, all things considered: it was generally understood to whom the letter was to be opened by. Neal Caffrey didn't know the letter was waiting for him, because he was upstairs writing one of his own. He'd promised that he'd keep in touch, and after bribing Peter for an address, he was given one and he now knew where to write to.
Blissfully unaware of the contents of the note that sat on the table downstairs, he struggled to come up with the right words for a first response. It took him many long minutes, and many sheets of paper, and yet he still couldn't formulate a good beginning.
I miss you.
The paper rolled up and was tossed into the nearby bin. The pen descended once more on a fresh sheet.
The pen hesitated for a moment, and then he glowered at the page and ripped it up too.
How are you?
That sounded lame even to him. For a man who spent his entire life flirting with people, he was finding it unbearably hard to just sit down and write a damn letter. Glowering at it as though it were the bane of his existence, he stood up and moved to look over at the skyline.
How hard could this be? He talked to her easily when she was there. How hard could it be when she'd just be receiving it in the mail? It was a simple check up letter. He just wanted to make sure that she was safe and that was that. There was nothing more to it. So why was it taking him forever just to get passed the first line?
He tried to think of something to say to her. If she was there right now, what would he say? First, he imagined how she'd look. Definitely more tanned. He could imagine her spending her time on a beach or simply sunbathing on the roof of some fancy hotel. Her hair would be even more highlighted then it usually was – the sun bleaching it with its usual persistence.
She'd be wearing her favorite grey mini-dress with the black slip. Her black boots that curved around her legs so invitingly. Those legs that seemed to go on forever. He laughed. Why was it that his mind had no problem imagining her being voluptuous but in person it shut down like a restaurant after closing?
But she did have nice legs...and he wasn't going to add that in the letter either.
A memory tingled in the back of his head though, and he moved towards the table and sat down. Taking his pen in hand he started the letter again, this time with a bit of an ironic twinkle in his eyes. He could only imagine the annoyed look on her face when she saw it.
Dear Nancy Drew,
When I was twenty years old, I remember flashing my passport at JFK and getting on the first plane out of the country. There was this strange teenager next to me though with a plaid skirt and a ribbon in her hair with the biggest glasses I'd ever seen. (They were almost as big as the gap in her teeth).
Everyone was commenting on her name, even though I did warn her it was too conspicuous. Apparently people still read those stories even then! But she was quite insistent, and had the most adorable looking scowl on her face for the entire flight – all the way to Rome.
It was beautiful, and so was she, and so were our nights out together.
I admit I'm curious, do you think its still as beautiful now as it was then?
You'll have to let me know.
He couldn't suppress the grin that was overcoming him. It was one of his first team jobs, and he hadn't been interested in including her at all. She had just shown up one day and told him that if he wanted it done right that he'd need her. He'd ignored her for the most part, until she kept appearing and started to talk sense into him.
He had to admit, even now: he couldn't have done that particular job without her. She was the much needed distraction that gave him the clearance he needed to get through all of the security protocols. She was his saving grace, and he told her so many times. Steve was a good man, but he was nothing without his Nancy Drew.
Alex had looked so different then. Her hair always in her face or pulled back unfashionably. She wore big glasses that took away from her beautiful features. She also had a gap in her teeth. When he'd first seen her, he'd laughed so hard that he had tears in his eyes.
"You're going to be my partner?" He promptly ignored her, until she proved her worth – and faulty appearance aside, she did prove her worth.
He sealed the envelope while imagining the adorable way she'd blush whenever someone mentioned the gap in her teeth, and he stamped it before heading out the door and skipping down the stairs so he could drop it off at the mail box on his way out.
He caught sight of June as he danced towards the door, and kissed her on the cheek before wishing her a marvelous day. She simply stared after him in confusion. She hadn't seen him this excited in quite some time. Especially when she told him that there was a letter for him in the drawing room.
Turning on a dime he all but sprinted towards the mail, all the while grinning like the devil and looking particularly pleased with himself. He found it, glanced at the postmark and his smile widened even more. He tore it open.
Every girl I've met so far knows who you are, just how many people have you done in Italy anyway? You should really go to a doctor to get checked out, some of these girls don't look so clean.
He scowled and flipped his own letter over to scribble a reply to her message.
Jealousy is hardly becoming of a lady.
He could only imagine what she'd have to say to that, and with a grin and another kiss to June's cheek – he danced out of the house. It'd been a long time since he felt this good. He was all sunshine and smiles, feeling wonderful and ready to face the day.
Nothing could keep his spirits down, no matter what. And thus started the letter war.
Dear Ned Nickerson,
I have no idea how Nancy Drew might be doing at the moment, because I believe she died ten years ago and is buried somewhere under the sea– where she belongs. She took her glasses and her bad hair with her.
And for the record, you were the one that needed braces until you were seventeen!
The letter was received on a rainy day after he had been slapped in the face by two models that were horrified to discover that he was working for the FBI. They had been sending out pictures of their million dollar dresses to master forgers who would trade them the dresses and then fence them. The forgeries wouldn't be discovered until much later -after the models had left.
He'd played the part of Nick Halden once more – someone who was quickly becoming one of his favorite aliases considering how much he could get away with under it now that he had immunity. So he'd gone in, went to collect his money on the deal – they'd followed his lead as they should have...and then they were busted.
The slaps were hard enough to leave his cheek red and slightly swollen, and he swore one of them went for his eyes with their nails, but it would never be proved. Peter Burke laughed the whole way back. He was saying something about how he couldn't charm every woman for good and it was more then a little annoying.
Neal stormed through the front door, and caught sight of the letter on the banister. His sour mood lifted ever so slightly and he picked it up. Tearing it open he grimaced at the harsh words and unconsciously lifted his fingers to feel the now perfect spacing of his teeth.
Glancing in the mirror he scowled. "It wasn't that bad." Then he remembered the look on Brittany Nicole's face when he first flirted with her in the second grade. It really was pretty deplorable. He remembered begging his parents for braces ever since, knowing that the only way to gain fair maiden's heart was to not have an annoying lisp that centered itself around his crooked bones.
Of course, how was he to know that his teeth were completely irreparable without serious reconstruction efforts? How was he to know that he had to go through braces, palate expanders, retainers, headgear, tongue thrust protectors...the works. He was still (embarrassingly) wearing a retainer when he had first met Alex and she had a bigger gap then he had.
He pointed her towards an orthodontist when they returned from Italy, and that cleverly designed ass-hole promptly gave her invisalign. He'd never hated anyone more then her when he saw her teeth without braces over the next few months, and he honestly wanted to rip the thing out of her face it was driving him crazy. How dare she get around the pain and suffering he'd gone through with a simple thing like that.
Still, he had to admit – she had a gorgeous smile right now.
Dear Mrs. Invisible,
You've got no right to comment on that part of my life seeing as you skipped the torment that I had to deal with. I don't poke fun at your acne problems – you don't poke fun at my teeth! I lost many valuable relationships because of that.
I heard there's a storm heading towards Barcelona, stay out of the water!
He delivered it the next morning, feeling much better. His face didn't hurt nearly as much and he could hardly wait until he received the next note.
Alex Hunter stared at the letter when it landed in her hands, and she blinked at it long and hard for many minutes before her vision dripped red and her fingers crumbled it up and tossed it in the trash. She proceeded to storm out of the hotel she'd been staying at, and removed the card she'd not used in many years.
It was her emergency card – or rather – Neal's bank card back when they were still partners together. He'd given it to her one night after a drunken stupor and she'd needed to pay for him and get them both back to the apartment complex they lived in. He never asked for it back, and she didn't feel particularly inclined to give it back.
After the mishap in Copenhagen she had gone on a shopping spree, buying thousands of dollars of worthless items just to get a rise out of him. He continued to foot her bill though and she eventually she just resorted to using it whenever she felt particularly spiteful.
Storming into a hair salon, she looked at all the products with a great amount of annoyance. There had to be something...she remembered seeing it somewhere...and there it was! Tugging the box from the shelf she promptly paid for it and then returned to continue her trek. Oh, she was far from finished with him, and if he thought that it was only going to be seventy euros then he was sorely mistaken.
Returning to the hotel after several hours of shopping, she settled down with some paper and a box and prepared her response.
Enclosed are some items that I believe that you've missed while you were in prison. Please, feel free to use them now – all were on your dime, and you can check your bill when it comes to you. If it still does. Also, please know that I still do have photographic evidence of your last encounter with several of the bottles included.
If you keep it up, the entire FBI will learn of your misdeeds.
All the best,
July Twenty-Seventh 2001
PS: Get over Brittany Nicole, it's been over two decades. I doubt she's still agonizing over your teeth.
She sealed the items, brought it to the postman and then paid the extra fee so that the package could be delivered promptly. Then she continued to head back to the hotel, a small smile growing on her face.
Neal Caffrey had been having a beautiful day, everything had gone right and there was nothing to worry about. Nothing truly entertaining happened at the office – just more fraud cases that were utterly boring. However, Peter ignored his caution about walking down the stairs while reading a document and had tripped causing everyone in the office to stifle their growing amusements as he fought to reorganize the paperwork.
Then they'd gone out for drinks with El and they'd laughed had had a great time. Moz had come back saying that there was a package waiting for him from Italy, and he'd quickly skipped out on the last round to hurry home and open it. He was atwitter with excitement and he started imagining all the things that he might have been sent.
A rare painting? A good book? She knew how he loved those little packaged things with the zero calories and the crunchy outsides...he was all smiles and excitement as he opened the door to his room. Mozzie was looking at the box as though he could see directly into it, and he glanced back to him as he approached.
"'If you open that Pandora's Box, you never know what Trojan horses will jump out...'" Moz's words were wise at the time, but Neal just rolled his eyes.
"Whatever you say Bevin." He named the man the quote came from easily enough and quickly cut the tape and popped open the edges.
He wished he had at least waited until Mozzie had left the room though. Because his eyes fell instantly on the bottle of bleach blonde hair dye for brunettes that was nestled contently against a hair remover. He winced and tried to shut the box, but the damage had been done.
"You've played with fire mon frere, and now you have unleashed the beast." The shorter man was smiling as he gently shoved him out of the way. A grin was plastered on his face as he pulled the bottles out. There were even pins and a few ties from when it was cool to have long hair.
"That was for a job-" He tried to explain, but his companion was already laughing his heart out. "No, and that-" The nair was being inspected thoroughly and he knew that he had no choice but to tolerate the man's obvious excitement. Mozzie was absolutely glowing as he delved deeper. Before he even had a chance to say a word, Neal's hand shot out and grabbed one particularly offending item and he blinked at it in stunned horror. "How on earth did she even find one of these?"
It was a headgear, the external kind that he had been forced to wear as a child. The ones that made you get pushed into lockers and beat up on the playground because you had to wear it to school and everyone just couldn't stop laughing the moment they saw it. He had tried very hard to block those images from his head and he couldn't believe that she actually gotten her hands on one - professional fence and thief or not...
Mozzie was absolutely dying as he chortled. His sides were stitching at the look of pure annoyance on Neal's face and the brunette glowered at him. He shoved it back in the box and caught sight of the note. Reading it he rolled his eyes and moved the box towards his closet so he could put it somewhere it would hopefully disappear in.
"This has been going on for weeks now, how long are you two going to continue with this war of yours?" Moz asked as he wiped a tear from his eye. "Because, if it gets more entertaining then this, I'm going to start placing bets on the winner. We'd make a killing." Neal turned to him, and a sly smile crossed his features.
"I'm willing to handle the personal embarrassment if we made a collection off of this Mr. Haversham." He said slowly, his brain already moving forth with a plan of conquest.
"What have you got in mind?"
Peter Burke took a double take as he looked at the earnest expressions on his go-to men when it came to the life of crime and con-artists. They both were wearing cat that ate the canary expressions. They both looked more then a little pleased with themselves, and in truth – he didn't trust them entirely. He crossed his arms over his chest.
"What are you up to now?" He asked seriously. The two 'reformed thieves' (or more accurately: the one 'reformed' thief and his companion who was not necessarily as trustworthy as his patented look of indulgence tried to portray) were looking far too innocent.
"Nothing illegal." Didn't sound entirely legal when it came from that shocked look on Neal's face. He had that look memorized, and it was a look of a kid who was trying to say that he really wasn't going to steal the cookies from the cookie jar...even if his friend was acting as his front man.
"Right." He raised his eyebrows and looked at the two with an expectant look on his face. "Care to elaborate?"
"We're...planning on entering into just a small challenge with the probability of rewards at the end." Moz explained as he tried to keep his face neutral. Neal was scowling at him, clearly recognizing the look on his face.
"Would you just stop." He snapped, not enjoying this in the least.
"Stop what?" Peter was looking between the two of them curiously. He wanted to know the truth, and this game was wearing his patience down.
"Nothing." Caffrey muttered, shaking his head. "Alex and I have been writing letters to each other..."
"They're writing challenges to each other." Moz clarified. "And then some."
"Oh God." Already feeling like he was going to be dealing with a string of bank robberies and more, Peter covered his eyes with his palm. Why was it every time Neal started looking like he was going to go on the straight and narrow, he got involved in a bet with an old friend? He was seriously starting to feel concern on his partner's mental stability. If he kept it up then he was going to end up back in jail, or at least Alex would.
"It's nothing illegal!" Neal shot back once more, holding his hands up in a perfectly I'm innocent gesture.
"You want to see the box?" Moz blurted out, and Neal glared at him hard.
"You promised to keep your mouth shut." He accused, but the grin was getting to big on his normally controlled features.
"What box?" Curiosity was getting the better of Burke though, and Moz was shooting towards the closet before he could even be stopped.
"When Neal was younger he had a few interesting hair styles thats for sure-"
"Moz, you show him anything and you can find yourself back in your storage shed. Forget ever spending the night here again." Neal snapped darkly, and almost immediately the smaller man turned on his heel and returned empty handed. "As we were saying...Alex and I have been keeping in touch. And have been playing a game of...One Up. She says something she thinks'll get under my skin and I say something worse – etc."
"Sounds real mature." Burke stated blandly as he motioned for Caffrey to continue.
"Really its just a bet to see which one's going to win in the end." He was grinning ear to ear. "Only she doesn't know she's playing."
"So you want to start a bidding contest and have people place money on who they think is going to win your little...letter war?" Burke translated slowly, staring at them like they had gone insane.
"You're crazy." And with that, he left. Moz turned to Neal who frowned ever so slightly and glanced back at him.
"That wasn't exactly a no." The smaller man pointed out, and the consultant nodded.
"It almost sounded like permission." He reached for a glass of wine and angled it towards his friend. "Let the games begin."
All those years ago, when you took my credit card – it was a joint account that was made in your name. I backed out a while ago and have simply been transferring your funds from your various other accounts. Its hard to imagine you've gone all these years not noticing what's happening around you...or at least in your bank account. I hope you've enjoyed that forty-thousand dollar shopping spree you went on last week.
Alex stared at the note that was attached to the paperwork for the card she'd been using. Her blood turned to ice and she glared at it hatefully for a long while before she turned around and pulled the card from her wallet. Without even a second guess she cut it straight down the middle – rendering it completely useless.
"Alright Caffrey, two can play at this game." Pulling out a pen and paper she set to work.
Dear Frank Abagnale,
You made a mistake on one of your cheques in the third scene, its to bad, if you keep up like that – the FBI might just put a tracking anklet on you and tether you to them for the next four years.
Peter Burke sat down at his dinner table with a smile on his face. It wasn't often that he had a chance to really have a sit down with his wife. It was certainly nice, but she was looking far too inquisitive for his own good. Despite how much he tried to hide it, he looked at her curiously.
"If a man and a woman decided to see which one could 'one up' the other more, who would win?"
El frowned at him, her eye lids closing just a little so she could think fully on the question. Taking a bite of broccoli she paused just long enough to have come to a satisfactory conclusion and proceeded. "Which man and woman are we talking about?"
"Alex and Neal." He sighed and he could have sworn he saw her laugh ever so slightly. She nodded and then put more food in her mouth. Chewing thoughtfully she nodded after a moment.
"I've never met Alex, but from my point of view...definitely the woman." Peter looked at her in surprise.
"Neal's good though, he has all sorts of things he can say and use. He practically does it for a living." El nodded slowly, allowing him to get all he needed to say out.
"Yeah, but Alex does too doesn't she? And it's kind of hard to 'one up' someone when you've got a gaping hole and a neon light pointing at his heart saying 'Kate' all over it." Peter winced.
"It doesn't seem like Kate's going to be mentioned, at least not from what Mozzie's told me. He said that this is their weird way of flirting and if we encourage it it might do Neal some good."
"Encourage it how?"
"They want to make a bet out of who'll win." Peter explained slowly, and Elizabeth nodded.
"Not without the Kate card...I'm leaning towards Neal." She had a wry smile.
"Want to make a bet on it?"
Dear Sophie Devereaux,
I saw your last performance, it was just as terrible as it was the time before. Truly. Getting caught by a nobody college professor that was making a living by copy-catting professionals? You're getting sloppy. Maybe you need to touch up on some more techniques?
It seemed like everywhere Burke turned someone was talking about the bet. Those who had met Alex and Neal personally were the most likely to place wagers, but a huge bulk of the office who had never even seen Alex were still placing bets on her side.
It seemed like a full blown war in the office. The men had all teamed up with Neal (Even Hughes had grudgingly joined in after a time), and all the women had full-heartedly joined up with Team Alex. Diana said that as much of a shmoozer that Neal was, he was never going to be able to outwit a woman at the game she played best.
The battle lines were clearly defined, and the bets were being collected in a running pool on Caffrey's desk. Peter watched him every once and a while, staring through the glass as more people joined in on the fun.
There was a long list of names, and the betting was usually targeted against a certain person.
Peter bet El one romantic dinner at the restaurant of the winner's choice – no matter what the price.
She upped the ante by saying that the winner was allowed to choose the late night movie for the rest of the week.
He saw her and raised her with a present of the winner's choosing.
She met him and topped the pot with paying the electric bill completely instead of the usual fifty/fifty that they normally did.
Jones and Diana were currently going strong with favors of the office kind.
Clinton started off generous – coffee runs for a week.
She raised him with paperwork for three days.
He saw her and raised it to a week.
It continued in much the same fashion until it had topped out at two weeks of coffee, plus a months of paperwork, plus cleaning and organizing the winner's desk, plus four non-sexual and completely work appropriate favors to be extracted at any moment regardless of how much time has passed since the bet's completion unless otherwise incapable of preforming due to a preordained order from Hughes that circumvented the time restraints necessary. (That stipulation was added by the ever cautious Diana).
The most entertaining of them all so far was most certainly Rice and Ruiz.
Organized Crime and Kidnapping were head to head in a bitter battle against the clearly misogynistic men in the world and the feministic women that opposed them. Caffrey stared at them open mouthed as both (clearly unliked) members of the different units marched up to him. Rice started off with five hundred dollars that Alex won, Ruiz countered with a thousand, she upped it until it was two thousand he bit back until it was four.
It was topping off near ten thousand dollars – and with Caffrey insisting on a ten percent cut of any monetary exchanges going to the true contestants (meaning him or Alex) he was looking at one thousand dollars just from them if he won. Sure it was pocket change since he was accused of having stolen over 10.6 billion dollars in his career, but who was counting? It was all in good fun.
Then there were people who were simply betting against the bank or in this case: they believed in it so wholeheartedly, that no matter how much money went into the gamble, they'd front it. Everyone who wanted to place a bet – and therefore get the next letter to see how they were faring in the bet, had to put down fifty dollars. The bank was quickly collecting money and fast. Especially because every time someone put a cash bet down – they had to pay out to the bank bets as well. The money just kept coming in, and everyone was too enthused about it to stop.
Dear Billy Costigan,
Your work with law enforcement is hardly inspiring, and it begs wonder on which side you really think you're on. If it's mine, then perhaps we should discuss some of the things you've been doing lately...if its not...then perhaps we should simply never speak again.
"So how much is the take so far?" Moz asked Neal as they reviewed the list of promised bets that various people from across their spectrum had become involved in. In just two months one hundred and forty-four people had become involved in their game.
Of those numbers eighty-two of them were placing monetary values. All in all, whoever the true winner of the challenge was – they would be collecting nearly twenty thousand dollars in cash. Off of ten percent, it was astounding how much money was coming off of these trials.
The sixty-two people who were not interested in monetary gain had gone for much more fun approaches.
Car washes, trips to the park, romantic evenings, Coney Island, the Aquarium, lunch pre-made and without any allergens, cleaning of the entire office (that one was the maintenance staff), the list went on.
"You know, this is kind of fun." Neal said as he realized that people were actually getting real enthused about this. "Look at these two...no matter who wins, they're going on a date together."
"Yes, yes, its terribly romantic Casanova."
"I'm not womanizing them, I'm just saying-"
"Right, fine, Cupid." Moz rolled his eyes. "But the money...what are you going to do to win?" And Neal hesitated, because as much fun as this was for him...he had no idea how to win. He'd just enjoyed playing the game.
Just wondering if you're going to be tumbling down the rabbit hole anytime soon, you know how much of a klutz you can be and even more of an awkward conversation starter.
Sorry, are you back in Arkham again? Your messages are getting oh so inconsequential over here. I'll be sure to swing by when I have some time...but for right now, the sun is terribly tempting. Three shots of Ketel One are on their way, and you know what they say about drinking and flying.
Neal stopped as his pen levitated over the next word he was going to write. This would be the last name he used. If she wrote him back, and it didn't contain anthrax, then she understood his message. However he wasn't sure if he could write this particular name. Still, he focused, he rallied himself, and he prepared to move on.
He needed to stop thinking in the past. He needed to start thinking about the future. It had been four months since their letter war had started, and this was the last one he was going to send. He didn't expect a response.
Putting pen to paper, he ignored how his prospects of the bet were going and how much money that had accumulated over the past few weeks – now mounting up to a startling hundred thousand dollars. Four hundred people became involved in the bet all from various divisions of the FBI, the majority men versus women.
Several centuries have passed, and I believe I'm in your time period once again, if you're not to scared for a new adventure, perhaps you'll join me?
"What on Earth was that about?" Peter asked as he threw open the door to Neal's room. He found the convict sitting on his bed holding all his letters in his hand and he frowned as he looked at his friend. "You gave up?" He asked slowly.
"Now why would I give up my own bet?" He asked easily enough. "If she doesn't respond, then I suppose I 'one upped' her didn't I? She couldn't come up with anything better to say."
"And if she does respond?" Neal winced.
"Could always contain anthrax." He suggested mildly.
"Or she's coming home."
"Or she's coming home." He agreed softly. "But there's a lot of space between the two." He said with a bitter smile.
Burke just stared at him for a long while, before he sighed. "You're such a fool for love." And Caffrey could only sigh with him. It was true.
He'd honestly enjoyed the bantering that he'd had with Alex. It was nice to know that she was safe and nothing was going to happen to her. It was nice to know that she still had her wit. It was fun to translate her codes. It was amusing to watch and read the movies and videos that all of their messages used.
The last one...the last one was something that he had put too much thought in. He should have gone with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy...that was more appropriate. He knew that the name 'Kate' was taboo in their inner circle, but he had hoped that coming from him she would understand the message.
He was ready for her. He was okay now. She said that she'd wait, and he was giving her a sign.
It was three days before there was any movement at all. The men were convinced that they had one – many not even understanding the intricacies of what was going on. The women were still holding strong, refusing to give in just yet. The mail was just moving slowly that's all...
And that was when it happened.
Wearing her dark grey mini-dress with her black slip, black tights that disappeared into her favorite boots, and a visitor's pass to top it all off – a beautiful brunette with sun bleached highlights walked gracefully into the FBI White Collar division.
Several people froze at the sight of her, their mouths dropping in shock. By now many had seen her picture, and everyone was aware of the bet and what was at stake. This was either going to end in a slap or a kiss and all wanted to pay witness to the sight.
Neal was busy talking to Peter about a new case. His eyes were staring intently at a painting that was supposedly real. It was Sunny-side Up, one of his favorites (for personal reasons of course). He'd never stolen it, but he had been tempted many times over. His eyes were detecting each flaw and catalouging it so that he could discover how they were made later.
Peter was going to want a full report when he was done. His hands pointed to the brush strokes and he started his explanation easily enough. They weren't long enough, and certain spots had a bit more emphasis where the original had been more fluid. The white wasn't quite the same color – the difference from fluorescent and natural light causing a slightly more green pattern to the forgery.
He hadn't noticed her when she walked in, but Burke had. His note pad dropped ever so slightly as he stared at her over Neal's shoulder. She never stopped. Eventually Caffrey noticed that his attention had wavered, and so he looked up in curiosity. Turning around, he froze as he stared at the woman he'd been writing for all these months.
Without saying a word or doing a thing, she stepped right up to him and reached to the back of his head. Pulling him towards her, he didn't even bother resisting as her lips met his and his eyes slipped close. Bliss poured through his body and he felt his hands move without his mind being aware of it. He hugged her to him, their mouths working in unison.
Suddenly she was gone, her body still hugging his but her eyes traveling to Peter. "The original was fenced to a private collector." She slid the envelope out of her bag and passed it to him. "You can find all the information in here. I think Neal's feeling sick today." And wordlessly she took Caffrey's arm and led him out of the building.
He followed her without taking note of anything around him and once the elevator doors closed and they were alone – cheers tore through the White Collar office. The women had just made a killing, and the men were staring at their wallets forlornly. There were some though, that didn't care about what they lost. There were some who were just happy that everything was looking like it had been mended and healed properly. Peter couldn't find it in his heart to care that he lost.
That was...until he saw the betting cards and realized that one Neal Caffrey had bet against the bank on Alex to win - and because of it, he was included in the percentage of people who were all cashing up. He lost no money to the scam, and in fact...combined with Alex...they made two hundred thousand dollars.
Then, not only did he care, but he had to wonder just how much Alex was aware of the situation, because when he glanced out the window to watch them leave...he couldn't help but notice that they were laughing and smiling and joking and looking like they'd fooled the world. Still, his arm was around her waist, and her head was held up high.
He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen them look so happy...and just this once: he let the con slide.