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Title: Origami Soul
Author: Amory Puck (pucktheperv on LJ & Tumblr)
Rating: NC-17
Fandom: White Collar
Warnings: Slash, non-con, dub-con, angst, h/c, physical & mental torture
Pairings: Peter/Neal, Kramer/Neal, Other DC Agent/Neal

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Summary: The mind is a delicate thing, but a careful man can fold it to his will. When Peter gets news that Neal is coming back to his team after months in DC, he's thrilled, but when they're taken by an unknown enemy it quickly becomes apparent that something is wrong with his friend. Now Peter must convince a terrorized, brainwashed Neal that they're on the same side before his delusions get them both killed. (AU where Neal is taken to DC at the end of the 3rd season.)

Author's Notes: For the 'Possession/Mind Control' square on my H/C Bingo Card for hc_bingo on LJ. I'm not real fond of possession, despite being a major Supernatural fan, so I went the mind control route. As always, this story will have a happy ending no matter how angsty it gets!

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Prologue

Neal was feeling cocky as he walked along, absentmindedly making a little crane out of a Wanted poster of himself he'd filched from the Marshals. He knew Peter wouldn't think it was anything to be proud of, but Neal deserved *some* credit. He'd leaped from tram car to tram car with a stolen Raphael in one hand for God's sake! And he'd actually done it without falling to his death! Not that dying with a Raphael tucked under your arm was such a terrible way to go, but he probably would have gone straight to hell for ruining that kind of masterpiece.

One thing his stint with the FBI couldn't change was the fact that the take was always exciting. Exhilarating. The daring romance of it all was like being part of a movie, or maybe a cable TV show where the smartly dressed super criminal foiled the desperate FBI agent at every turn using his great intelligence, charming good looks, and quick wit. It was like he could do anything, be anything, and no one could stop him. Well, except maybe a certain Special Agent with poor taste in pass-times and mustard stains on his shirt cuffs. But, hey, he and Peter were playing for the same team now (the unavoidable lecture he was sure to get later for his little tram car gymnastics aside) and this feeling, the pumping adrenaline that came from just *barely* getting away with it, put a bounce in his step.

This feeling of confidence, of power, of *purpose* was a rush that even foiling the plans of Interpol's most wanted couldn't give him. It reminded him of the good old days of plotting clever cons with Kate and Moz, of making spectacular grabs then repelling from twelve story buildings before anyone even knew he was there, of toying with the FBI as he was on the run, leaving little trinkets and cards for this "Special Agent Burke" whose obsession with catching Neal Caffrey had bordered on infatuation.

Or that was how Neal had seen it at the time, anyway. Maybe it was a little egotistical, thinking that way about Peter Burke. Okay, maybe it was a lot egotistical. Unmitigated ego. But Neal flirted through his cons. It was just what he did. Like a peacock flaunting its feathers. And Kate wasn't the only one he'd been trying to impress. Somewhere along the line Neal guessed that he'd convinced himself that this cunning, if somewhat less than refined, agent had been doing the same. Actually, by the time Peter had caught up to him, Neal had been so sure of it that he'd half expected the man to try and woo him from the front seat of the police cruiser.

Things had not gone exactly to plan. Neal Caffrey played with lockpicks and paintbrushes. Peter Burke, on the other hand, played with badges and guns. A whole different kind of man, which meant a whole different view of the world. Peter probably hadn't even realized that Neal had been teasing him.

Neal found out, quickly enough, that what he called flirting, Special Agent Peter Burke called insolence—or, in more plebeian terms, being a smart ass. Every time Neal tried to impress the man, to show him that Neal Caffrey was more than just a talented crook in a designer suit, somehow it always managed to end with Peter making his disappointed face as he prepped for his next lecture on honesty and virtue and all that crap. But when Neal just let things roll and didn't try to play with the other man, they were amazing together.

In the end, all of the flaunting and flirting had gotten him nothing. The daring, supposedly romantic life he'd been living had earned Kate an early death and himself a life on a leash, being treated like a pimply teenager who couldn't be trusted to make a single decision on his own lest he knock up the cheerleader after prom.

He knew that Moz thought it was the leash that he should be fighting, not the constant urges to run back to his old life of spectacular crime. But what had his life as a conman ever actually gotten him? Everything he'd gained had been equaled by losses. No, that wasn't right. The losses were *greater* than the gains. He'd be in debt for the rest of his life and beyond, because no famous paintings forged or expensive gems swiped could ever fix the overdraft on his heart. The things that had been lost… they couldn't be made up in currency.

His time with the FBI may not have involved staying at fancy hotels pretending to be minor royalty from Nigeria or slipping into so-called "uncrackable safes" just to prove that no design was advanced enough—or *creative* enough—to stop Neal Caffrey. But it gave him a life. Not Nick Halden's or Steve Tabernacle's or Victor Moreau's life, but his—Neal George Caffrey's—life.

And yeah, okay, maybe this new life couldn't quite match the invigorating high that running con after con after con gave you—but the point of a high was that eventually you had to come down from it or it would destroy you. And if you had to come down, you might as well be Neal Caffrey. Nice clothes, a fantastic home, the kind of job that most people had to graduate from Harvard to score, and, most importantly, friends. Not the kind of friends you made in the underworld, the ones that you could never put your back to for risk of getting stabbed, but the kind of friends that you could trust to support you, no payment necessary. These were the kind of friends who cared more about *you* than they cared about how well you could pull off being someone else. And, more than anything, these were the kind of friends that you would never find lying in a pool of their own blood with a bullet to the brain, execution style.

Neal *really* didn't like guns. Mostly because they came with *really* bad memories.

So, cocky attitude aside, he was starting to wonder if he even cared about his commutation. In the words of Elizabeth's ever-so-expressive cake, he'd 'keep hanging in there.' Because, in all honesty, he never planned to leave. But if he was made a free man, it was a chance to prove to Peter that he really was more than a criminal with good people skills. It was a chance to prove to the man that he was really a person, no, that he was really a *friend*—and *not* the kind who would stab you in the back the second you turned away. The kind that was there for you and supported you and cared about you.

Neal tipped off his lucky fedora, sticking the little crane into its band and flipping the hat smoothly from hand to hand just for the fun of it as he walked along, a smile on his face. This really was a chance for a whole new life. Now, if could just pry out of Peter what he'd said at his hearing…

"Neal Caffrey, you are under arrest for public endangerment."

Before Neal even had time to fully process the words, someone grabbed him around the waist, tackling him hard and knocking his hat from his hands, his pretty little crane making its first and only flight as it tumbled into a puddle. As they fell to the ground Neal tried to turn enough to hit the man's face with his elbow, but only succeeded in slamming his own head against the concrete. The last thing he saw before he completely blacked out was a fuzzy image of Peter staring down at him from the top of the steps… with Agent Kramer and half a dozen Marshals at his side.

So much for friendship.