The Seventh Sin

Summary: He thought it would be pride that did him in, that would be the sin that sent him spiraling to hell. He was wrong. Post In The Wind.

A/N: Dark and angsty, because my heart can't deal.

He thought it would be pride that did him in, that would be the sin that sent him spiraling to hell. He had a mountain of evidence to believe it would be so. He is a master forger, self-proclaimed, one of the greats. He is James Bonds and Nick Halden and Neal Caffrey and a hundred other names, and he signs his work with a flair and style that is unmatched. He dresses to please, attract, to be a mystery unto himself. Pride - he had been so sure it would be his eventual downfall.

He's never worried about two of the seven, not even for a moment. He is no sloth and he is no glutton; he works hard for what he gets, even if that work isn't necessarily legal, and he's not into overconsumption, but he will allow a few indulgences now and then.

Lust – perhaps on the radar a bit more than sloth and gluttony, but not by much. He knows he has it in him, but as much as he may flirt, he's a romantic at heart. He's always been a one-woman type of man, faithful to a fault. It is a vice he knows has crushed other men, but he's always managed to be above it, beyond it.

Envy. He probably would have thought it the second most likely candidate to overtake him if he were a betting man. He envies real artists with original work, envies Peter and Elizabeth's stable marriage, envies people with fathers who aren't –

Wrath. He'd like to say he's better than it, would like to say it hasn't touched him, but Fowler's face pops into his mind, as does the memory of the solid weight of the gun in his hand. Nature versus nurture. He is not his father, but now sometimes when he stares in the mirror for just a moment too long, it's James' reflection smirking back.

It isn't any of these things, not in the end, not when it matters. It's the greed that gets him, and he thinks he should have known. Not greed for material possessions, though he wishes it were. He wishes he could just want too much money and too much luxury, his own island and a yacht and the greatest art collection in the world. But the truth of him is this: that all he's really craved in the last few years is exactly what he had, a job at the Bureau, a family with the Burkes, and a place to belong.

Until Ellen re-entered his life, until James. He'd mostly given up on finding out who he was until it was offered up to him, dangled just slightly out of reach. It wasn't until then that he truly wanted to know more about the life he could have had, back when he wanted to be a cop like his old man and when the blue in his eyes was still a comfort.

He risked it all to get that back and look what he's done. Peter's been arrested, his father is a murderer and a liar and a con to his own son, and he has no idea who he is. This is the worst hell he'll ever know. When he looks in the mirror, he can't see himself at all, just an ugly shadow of James. Neal Caffrey does not exist. He is nothing now, just an empty shell, and it's all because he wanted more than he had, more than he deserved, more than he had any right to ask for.

Perhaps he is his father, after all. He leaves nothing but devastation in his wake, destroying the lives of the people he loves because he wanted more for himself.

When his father walks out that door for the final time, Neal knows it all, feels it all, and the pain in his chest sets his heart on fire. He is shredded, broken, too damaged for even Peter to fix. And all he can ask himself is why, why, why? Why did he ever think he deserved any more family than the one he already had?

A/N: Probably won't be my only tag for this ep, I just need some time to process and figure out what to focus on from everything that's happening now. Just thought this would be a good, short starting point. Reviews much appreciated! :)