Disclaimer: White Collar belongs to USA Network and Jeff Eastin
WARNING: This fic contains implied non-con and abuse of a minor but no details. Also, there is discussion of spanking.
A/N: This is an AU inspired by a picture I saw of a young Matt Bomer, he was about nineteen years old in the pic, but I could imagine him a little younger. This fic is totally a figment of my imagination, the only thing my character, Bryce Bomer, and Matt have in common is place of birth and, of course, they look exactly alike.
A special thanks to peppe1951 for beta'ing
I AM NEAL (1)
This story starts before the Ponzi scam. In this world, Neal was never a part of it.
The car was swerving erratically on the narrow two-lane coastal road. Suddenly, just as the car's right tires touched the edge of the road, the passenger-side back door flew open and a body fell out. The passenger was lucky as there was no shoulder and he landed on the soft grass edge and rolled to the muddy bottom of the ditch. He laid there stunned for a couple of seconds, then rose up on his arms to see if the car was stopping to come back for him. The taillights suddenly disappeared. He slowly brought his legs up under him and rose to his knees, surprised everything still seemed to work. He swayed as little as he stood up.
It was a young man with dark brown wavy unruly hair, dark brown somewhat bushy eyebrows and vivid blue eyes. He was wearing a blue t-shirt, blue jeans and a brown faux leather jacket. He would have been a good looking young man if his face hadn't been covered with mud and the signs of a black eye starting.
When the dizziness eased, he limped toward where the taillights had disappeared and stopped at the edge of the cliff were the earth plummeted into the sea below. The fire illuminated the rocks on the coastline and the sea breaking over them. He stood there and watched as the sea won the battle with the flames and the fire was put out. The forest was quiet. No sirens sounded. Not even the sound of another car approaching.
Reality hit the boy as he realized all the occupants of the car were dead, to include him. By the time the vehicle was discovered the sea might claim some or all of the bodies and who's to say one couldn't be his. He was free. It was over. As he limped down the road, he contemplated his options. He knew he could do it, he was smart, and he was a survivor. He just had to be careful and get far away before anyone recognized him.
He had learned the arts of a petty thief before his mother had died of ovarian cancer. He had needed to learn them in order to help them survive. Life might not have been easy, but it was good back then.
In the first small town he came to he kept out of sight until he found a flatbed truck heading for the city and snuck under the tarp when no one was looking. He was cold and hungry by the time he got there, but that was alright. He was in the city and he knew how to make it there. It took a few days to pick enough pockets to get sufficient funds to move far out of the area, but he needed an ID to cross state lines and kept looking for just the right one. On the third day, he saw him. The kid had flat mousy brown hair and dull blue eyes and looked to be around eighteen. IDs only say brown and blue, not what shade or texture. His ID would do.
He had learned how to switch pictures on IDs while living with one foster family that had kids that wanted to party in liquor establishments. He had an instant photo from a photo kiosk and made the stolen ID his.
He studied it. He was now Neal G. Caffrey, eighteen years old with brown hair and blue eyes. He smiled. He liked the sound of that name; it had a ring to it. Neal Caffrey.
The new Neal Caffrey bought a bus ticket to the other side of the country. It was as far away as he could get. It was a long trip by bus with multiple stops and he decided he needed to get used to the name before he arrived at his destination, so he started introducing himself to strangers. He soon learned that they ignored him because he was too somber; he had to re-learn how to smile. He went to the men's room and looked in the mirror as he practiced different smiles. He learned how to use which smile would get the most out of each person and rarely did they realize the smile never reached his eyes. As he re-learned the ability to socialize, he also had to learn to redirect conversations away from his past. He learned the art of deflection.
By the time he reached New York City, in his heart, mind, body and soul he was Neal Caffrey.
When he stepped off the bus, he felt like he could feel the heartbeat of the city through the soles of his shoes, the air was electric with possibilities. He smiled a genuine smile, he felt like he, Neal Caffrey, was home.
Neal was a smart talented kid and in the city he thrived. He forged some Atlantic Bank bonds that looked pretty good to him, but was hesitant about cashing them in. Then he met Mozzie. He successfully cheated a hustler out of $500 and Moz had been the shill. Moz knew talent when he saw it and hunted the kid down. Upon seeing the bank bonds, Moz knew his instincts were right and was determined to train the kid in the finer points of the art of the con. When he saw Neal's ID he noticed that it was a damn good fake, but Neal needed a real one.
"Did you manage to secure a birth certificate with this?"
"No problem. We can get you one. With your talents no one will ever know it's not real. We'll use that as your official name, but we will create several aliases. Who were you before?"
'You think you're somebody? Well you're not. You're a worthless piece of shit. You're nobody.'
"We need to work on your facial expressions kid. A five year old could have read you. You can't let anyone see your 'tell'. I have this long con I want to do, but we have to get you trained up first. Meanwhile, we need to survive, how well can you paint?"
Six months later
Peter had a solid lead on a jewel heist going down at Tiffany's. He had his van parked on stake-out watching the place. When the alarms went off, they moved in for the arrest.
Everything had gone off perfect without a hitch. Neal had the jewels in a bag in his small backpack. As he was leaving the building, the backpack rubbed against the edge of the window and set the alarm off. Damn, Moz had warned him about that! He dropped to the ground and spied a dumpster; he rushed to it and dropped the backpack with the jewels and his tools inside hoping to retrieve it later. He then punched himself in the eye as hard as he could and dropped to the ground and rolled. As he stumbled down the alley, he heard those dreaded words,
He tried to look scared as he yelled and pointed, "He went that way!"
Several agents headed in the direction he pointed as others approached him,
"Hands on your head!"
Neal slowly complied, "But I didn't do anything, he hit me!"
Jones quickly patted Neal down, "He's clean."
Peter studied the boy, he did have a nice shiner starting, and he looked like he'd recently been knocked down.
"You can put your hands down. Did you see his face?"
"No sir, he was wearing a ski mask."
"We're going to have to take you in for questioning. How old are you?"
Peter didn't think the kid looked that old, but the older he got, the younger kids looked. At least he was old enough to be questioned without a parent or guardian present.
"What's your name?"
That caught Peter's attention. "Bryce what?"
"Bryce, ah, Bomer."
"You sound like you're having a little trouble remembering your name."
"I'm nervous. I've never been surrounded by cops before." Play dumb.
"I've never been surrounded by agents either."
"Did you find an ID on him Jones?"
"No Peter. His pockets were empty."
Peter tilted his head at the kid
"I guess I forgot it at home." This is why Moz said to never carry an ID to a heist.
"Jones, take Bryce back to headquarters for questioning."
Neal put on his best innocent face, "But I didn't do anything."
"You're a witness." And a suspicious one at that.
Neal sat calmly in the interrogation room waiting for someone to interrogate him. He was far from calm on the inside, however Moz had drummed facial and body control into him for the last six months, and it was paying off. Peter was observing the kid through the one-way mirror and getting no useful information. He decided to go ahead and question him.
Neal watched the agent enter the room and take a seat.
"My name is Special Agent Burke, Bryce. How are you doing? Can I get you anything?"
"I'm fine Peter."
Peter frowned at the use of his first name by the kid.
"Tell me exactly what happened tonight."
"Well, I was walking through the alley, it's a short cut, you know, and this guy ran into me. I don't know why, but he hit me in the face and kept on running."
"Can you describe the man for me?"
"Not really Peter. He was wearing a ski mask. He was at least six foot tall and stocky. Had a heck of a punch." Neal rubbed his eye. "He was wearing dark clothes."
"Did you see his eyes?"
"Yeah, they were brown."
"You saw the color in a dark alley?"
Damn, that was a mistake. "Well, ah, it was dark and they looked brown. I'm not really sure."
Peter thought the kid acted way too calm for an innocent that had never been involved with the law before. An innocent kid would be nervous as hell. Bryce purposely kept his face neutral. Peter knew the kid was hiding something, but he had nothing to hold him on. After obtaining an address for further questioning, if needed, he released him.
He also noticed the kid made sure he never touched anything. As soon as he left, Peter ordered prints taken off the elevator button. He knew he would not get a decent print, and it would not hold up in court, but there was an off chance it might turn up something to go by.
"Damn Neal, I told you to watch the backpack! Now they've seen your face!"
"Not a problem Moz, I gave them a false name."
"Good kid. Which alias did you burn so we can trash it?"
"I… I didn't use one of them."
Moz looked at the kid, "What name did you use, Neal?"
Neal hesitated, "Bryce Bomer."
Moz studied the kid for a few moments; suddenly his eyes widened as understanding dawned on him.
"You gave them your real name!" He was furious; he thought he'd trained the kid better than that.
"Moz, I was confused. I was busy making up excuses as to why I was there and what happened. I never even considered them asking my name. I made sure I didn't use any of the aliases."
"Neal, that's what they're for! Now they're going to figure out who you are! I thought I trained you better than that."
"It's not a problem Moz. They won't figure it out."
"And why not?"
"Because Bryce Bomer is dead."
Moz wanted to scream. The kid was not listening. "And when they find out he's dead?"
"They won't Moz."
"Why not Neal?"
Neal tried to avoid Moz' eyes, "He's not eighteen."
Mozzie froze. He didn't mind training adults, but… "How old are you Neal?"
Mozzie took a deep breath, "And how old is Bryce?"
"It doesn't matter. He's dead."
A/N: Sorry I made Neal less than the perfect con we all know and love, but he is still a teen in my fic and learning. Moz is also much younger, about the age he was in 'Forging Bonds', still a small time hustler.