This is my first White Collar fic. I have loved the show for a very long time and recently decided to read some of the fanfiction. After nearly two days of reading, I decided I wanted to try my hand at it. I'm not sure if this will be a one-shot or not. We'll see. Right now, I assume it will be unless enough people want me to continue. Regardless, please read and review. I'd love to hear what you think!
This will have small spoilers for Season Five's "No Good Deed."
The Pain of Change
Neal stood at the window and shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his Devore pants. He was lost in thought and the hustle and bustle of the FBI agents surrounding him faded into the background. There had been a point in his life when the only thing that could distract him like this was the idea of another score, another heist… Now, there was only one topic—or should he say person?—that had this ability.
Just thinking the name made him cringe. Things were changing. Peter had stated that they would, but he hadn't wanted to believe it. At the time, he had wanted to believe that Peter was just mad and would calm down eventually, but deep down he knew Peter meant what he had said: Peter wanted to change their relationship, and he knew there wasn't anything he could do to change the FBI agent's mind.
He knew he shouldn't want to anyway. Mozzie was right when all of this began. He should have never gotten so personally involved with a "suit," as his friend loved to call Peter, but he hadn't been able to stop himself. Peter understood him and knew him better than anyone else ever had. He had honestly felt a true camaraderie with him—he thought he had gained a family with the Burkes. Now, he knew that wasn't true. Peter had reminded him yet again that he was a criminal. Now, he accepted it: he was a criminal. He had been contemplating for quite a while now to return to the fold. Mozzie was certainly happy about the prospect, but he had been distracted by Hagen.
Sighing, he realized this separation between himself and Peter made things easier. There had been a time before when he had almost run, but Peter talked him into staying. His friendship had stopped him from stepping onto that jet. (Never mind that it had blown up.) Nothing was standing in his way now, not anymore.
"Everything okay, Caffrey?" he heard Jones ask.
Stepping away from the window, he looked back at the agent, Peter's point man. "Yeah, everything's fine."
"Are you sure?" he questioned. His voice very much portrayed the concern that also flittered across his face as he spoke. "Things have been off lately."
This caused Neal to raise his brow. While he knew Jones was usually perceptive, he would have thought Peter would have informed him of his big decision…or maybe he had. Playing along, he repeated, "Off?"
Jones nodded. "Yeah, off…you know, you and Peter. You two haven't said five words to each other when usually you start off the day catching up."
Neal shrugged as he looked up at Peter in his office. His handler was currently looking down at some paperwork in front of him, not paying him the least bit of attention or so it seemed. Now that their relationship had changed and gone back into one of "Agent vs. Criminal", maybe Peter had no desire for him to know when he was being watched. Regardless, he looked at Jones calmly and replied cryptically, "Things change all the time."
When Jones opened his mouth to obviously question him further, he backed away and held his hands up. "If you want to know, ask Peter. As for me, I'm going home. It doesn't seem like I'm needed today." As quickly as he could, he sprinted to the elevator before Peter noticed his departure. Despite their current situation, he knew Peter wouldn't want him to leave, especially without cause.
When the doors of the elevator closed, he squeezed the bridge of his nose and tried to control the sudden moisture that appeared in his eyes.
"Things have got to change," he whispered to himself. Like Peter had, he had to move forward.
Lightning popped and thunder boomed outside as Neal entered his apartment/guest room in June Ellington's home. He was soaked since he had forgotten to carry an umbrella to work and he hadn't felt like waiting in a taxi for the rain to lessen. As he took off his jacket and headed to his bedroom, he was not surprised to hear a voice ring out, "Oh, how the floodgates of hell have opened and released its minions…"
He grinned despite his morose mood and exclaimed, "Moz, what are you doing here?"
Mozzie did not answer this question; instead, he stood up from his current place on Neal's sofa and countered, "The question should be 'What are you doing here?' Did the Suit get mad at you for yet another reason and send you home?"
Neal grimaced at the reminder of Peter and their current disaccord. He had left the office to get away from Jones' questions, only to have to deal with Mozzie's questions, but he decided he'd rather discuss this with someone who was on his "reestablished side" than a suit. "No," he answered, "I sent myself home. I didn't feel like working today."
"What's this?" Mozzie said sarcastically; "Could it be that Neal Caffrey is finally getting bored of his escapades as a side kick of the Grand Suit?"
Neal rolled his eyes and answered truthfully, "Very funny, Moz. Not exactly. Just let me change my clothes and I'll tell you everything."
"Okay, but don't take too long."
Neal entered his bedroom and finished taking off his clothes. He grabbed a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, so he could lounge around the house. If Peter showed up, he wanted him to know right away that he had no intention of going back in. Of course, that was assuming that Peter would come after him. He knew he would have in the past, but now that things were changing, he didn't know…
Peter was aware of the fact that Neal was standing at the window staring down into the street below and lost in thought. He knew, because he had been doing the exact same thing before Neal had walked into the office.
He would admit it: the past week had been hard. He missed Neal. He missed their supposed coincidental run-ins in the morning and drinking coffee together as they walked to work. He missed their playful jibes while trying to solve a case. He simply missed their camaraderie…but this was something that he had to do. Neal had reminded him most painfully that they were from two different worlds. While he was the straight and narrow kind of guy who believed in the law, Neal was the kind who rode in defiance of the law.
He had wanted to believe so badly that Neal could change. He even believed that he had convinced Neal of that fact, but all it took was one tough situation and Neal fell back on old habits. Worst yet, he did it for him. Did Neal even know how hard that was to cope with? He probably didn't. Neal believed that the end justifies the means, but Peter couldn't live that way. When you lived with that kind of philosophy, you were bound to run into sticky situations and you'd end up on the wrong side of the law.
He swallowed roughly and looked at Neal once more briefly. Currently, Jones had walked up to him and was probably questioning him on why he wasn't at his desk working. In the not so long ago past, he would have been down there asking Neal if something was wrong and if he could help. He couldn't do that anymore. Besides, he knew what was wrong. Regardless of their misunderstanding, he knew Neal was feeling the same pain he felt now, but the severance of their friendship had to be done. He had gotten too involved with his CI's personal life and it had not only gotten Neal to break the law, it had made him act against his better judgment and let Dawson go free as long as he agreed to give the money back and to quit his job. Neal considered it a win. He considered it a mark on his what used to be an untarnished badge.
Lifting his head to look at Neal one more time, he was surprised to see that Neal was no longer in sight. He stood and grabbed his coat when Jones suddenly appeared before his office and walked inside.
"Peter, we need to talk," Jones said, and Peter grimaced.
"Whatever you have to say will have to wait, Jones. It seems as though Neal is on the move," he said.
Jones moved in front of the door before Peter even got near it and replied, "He's on his way home. Anyway, that's what I want to talk to you about."
Peter wasn't surprised. Too bad he had gotten lost in his thoughts earlier or he probably would have witnessed some kind of scene that would explain why Neal had gone home and Jones was now in his office. "What is it, then?" he questioned, throwing his coat back on the nearby rack.
Jones shook his head and walked farther into the office. "I know it's none of my business," he began.
Peter turned his back on him and began to walk back behind his desk. "If this is about what I think it is, then you're right—it isn't."
Jones was undeterred. "But I have to say it anyway." He turned his head slightly to look behind him to stare at the people below before turning back to Peter. "Something is wrong here, and that something is you and Neal."
Peter sat down and wondered if he should deny it. If he admitted that there was a problem, he knew Jones would want to know what had happened. Then, that would lead to questions, and he didn't want Jones to find out about Dawson. He wanted to forget that it ever happened, but he realized in order to do that, he had to get everyone used to the change he had implemented in regards to Neal…or rather Caffrey. He smiled as best as he could and said, "There's nothing wrong, Jones. Caffrey and I are fine. It's just that I have decided that things around here need to be ran by the book. We've been a little lapse in protocol and I thought we could tighten up on that."
Jones looked confused. "Has something happened?"
Peter's smile disappeared as he questioned, "Does something have to happen in order for me to want to do my job properly?"
"N-no," Jones stumbled. "It's just that…" Their eyes met again and he continued softly, "Never mind. I guess you know what you're doing."
"I do," Peter said, happy to have gotten Jones to back off and understand the situation.
As the agent went to the door, he turned around to look at Peter once more. "I do have to say just one thing, though," he stated as he rested his hand on the doorframe.
Jones sighed and said firmly, "Neal thinks highly of you. Even though he has never said it to me, I know you're the closest thing he's got to a family, and he respects you and even cares about you. Whatever this is, it's tearing him apart, and I think it's doing the same to you." Without waiting for a reply, Jones walked away.
Peter picked up a pen and started to do his paperwork again to get his mind off of the conversation right away, but he found that he couldn't do it. He flung the pen onto his desk and groaned deeply. He sprung out of his seat and went to the window. He shook his head and whispered, "I wish I could fix this."
Neal and Mozzie sat at the dining room table, sipping on a glass of chardonnay as they talked about the recent developments in Neal's relationship with Peter.
"So, let me get this straight!" Mozzie exclaimed as he hopped up from his seat. "The Suit is now convinced that you're a criminal again and that you'll never change. He's treating you like one again…Why are we still here?"
"Moz," Neal began, shaking his head, but he was interrupted.
"No, Neal!" Mozzie almost shouted. "For years now, I have said that we should leave! Time and time again, you decided to stay and I stayed, too, because I'm your friend. Whether you admit it or not, I know you stayed for the Suit. You thought with him you could lead a normal life and stay away from our usual lifestyle. Now the Suit himself says that is impossible, and it will be impossible no matter what you might have been led to believe, because he's going to treat you like a criminal, regardless. You might as well be one!"
Neal rested his head in his hands and rubbed his face thoroughly as he listened to Mozzie's logic. He had already had those exact same thoughts, but to hear them from another person solidified it in his mind. He finally brought his hands down and looked at his companion. "Then, what do you suggest I do?"
Mozzie smiled and said, "I'm so glad you asked!" He moved his seat closer to Neal's and sat down again. "I made a device that will distort the new anklet the Suit brought you, and if the he checks your whereabouts, he'll think you're here! We can cut it off and just leave! We could run to Brazil, Tahiti, or perhaps the Cayman Islands, wherever. We'll figure that out as we go!"
"What about the Codex and Chapter Thirteen?" he asked softly. It was almost surreal that he was considering this. There was a time not so long ago that he wouldn't have dreamed of leaving the life he had created here, but Peter changed all of that.
"Let Hagen worry about that!" Mozzie exclaimed. "We'll leave the window pieces here and let him figure it out, if he can get here and find it before the Suits arrive!"
Neal stood, walked out onto his terrace without saying a word, and looked at New York. He was going to miss this life. He was going to miss this city. He was going to miss Peter…
But he had to make this change.
He turned back to his friend, who had followed him outside. "Okay, Moz, let's do it," he mumbled.
"For real this time?" Moz asked excitedly.
"Yeah, for real this time."
"You will not regret this!" Mozzie exclaimed. "I'll go now and get our affairs in order, if you know what I mean. I'll handle everything. You just pack whatever is here that you want to take with you." He started to walk back into the apartment so he could leave, but he turned back. "You know we have to make a clean break, right?"
"Yeah, a clean break," Neal repeated as he leaned against the railing and looked down at the city again.
"Neal!" Peter yelled as he ran into the apartment. Ever since Jones had left his office, he had thought about their discussion and he had realized that maybe he had gone about this thing with Neal the wrong way. Maybe he was being a little too hard on Neal. He didn't know what he would do now, though—things still needed to change, but that didn't mean they had to act like strangers. Neal was like a wayward son or brother. He knew that, so he couldn't abandon him emotionally even if he wanted to. It was torture to them both, he knew that now. "Hey, Neal!" he called out again.
He knew Neal had to be there, because he had checked his anklet. Frowning when he didn't see anyone, he pulled out his phone and checked Neal's location again. It was coming from… He searched the room.
With a feeling of dread, he yanked the door open and saw the anklet sitting on a piece of paper. He lifted it and saw that it was a letter addressed to him in Neal's familiar handwriting:
The last few years have been the happiest of my life. I really enjoyed helping you, Jones, and Diana. You three tried your hardest to keep me on the right side of the law, and I must admit I did try to make all of you proud, especially you. I know you believed in me and I wanted to be the man you wanted me to be. For a while there, I thought I was.
Because of what happened with Dawson, you've made me realize the truth about myself. You were right to want to distance yourself from me. You're right: I'll always be a criminal and I will always fall back on those old habits. I didn't want to believe it. You didn't want to believe it, but now we are both accepting it.
That being said, I know as I'm writing this letter that I could stay. I could continue to work with you and the White Collar Division. It would keep me out of trouble as much as someone like me can stay out of trouble. It would give me some piece of the lie you and I had believed for so long, but I know that would be too painful to bear. I'd have to be reminded every day of what I lost, thanks to my actions. I promise you, Peter, that I thought I was doing the right thing. Unfortunately, what I am gives me a different range of what's right and wrong than yours.
Regardless of all of this, I just wanted to say thank you for being there for me. You were my best friend. You were like the father that I never had, and you tried as fathers and friends do to lead me in the right direction. I'm sorry that it was a lost cause. I will miss you, Peter, and even though I know this letter and my actions mean I'm on the run again, I can assure you that you won't find me this time. Don't waste your life and your time with El chasing me. I've taken enough of your time.
Good-bye, my friend.
Peter wiped his eyes as he finished reading the note. He drove Neal to this—he knew he did. He should have seen it coming. Taking a deep breath, he quickly called Jones and said, "It's Neal, he's running. We have to stop him. Pick me up at his place."
He hung up the phone and hurriedly made his way to the front door, but before he left, he turned back one more time to look at the apartment and his eyes rested on the dinner table. Facing him was a picture frame and inside of it was a picture of him and Neal standing side-by-side and smiling at the camera. It had been taken at one of those office Christmas parties. He swallowed roughly and felt a wave of self-denigration.
"I'm going to find you, Neal. No matter what you say or where you go, I'll always find you," he whispered softly as he grabbed the picture from the table and took it with him.
Let me know what you think, please! Continue? Yes or no?