tj_teejay: (Neal - Dark Place)
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Title: Knee-Deep
Author: TeeJay
Genre: Gen
Characters/Pairings: Neal/Sara, Peter
Rating: PG-13
Warning: Spoilers for up to and including 3x07 'Taking Account'
Summary: Neal is in way deep, and things are starting to fall apart on all fronts.
Author's Note: I apologize to all Neal/Sara fans. I don't mean any disrespect. I just needed Neal disheveled and dejected, and this was the first thing I thought of that would do the trick. And, yes, this is about the treasure and the last scene from 3x07 'Taking Account'. Also, this is partly [livejournal.com profile] kriadydragon 's fault because she made me watch "Suits".
Disclaimer: White Collar, its characters and its settings belong to Jeff Eastin and USA Network. And, guys? Your characters are not only welcome, they're wonderful. I'm just borrowing, I promise.

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Ficlet was inspired by this scene from episode 1x03 of "Suits"


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"Hey, Diana, have you seen Neal?" Peter asked.

Diana looked up from her desk chair. "Uhm, not recently."

"But he was here when you came in?"

"Yeah, bright and early."

"That's weird," Peter muttered. It was barely 8:15 AM. Neal's tracking data showed he was in the building.

"I think I saw him going into the conference room earlier," Diana volunteered.

Peter nodded. That was one place he hadn't checked, at least not past the cursory glance at the empty table through the glass wall.

He frowned when he entered the conference room. A puzzling picture greeted him, and it was more than slightly worrying. Neal was sitting on the window ledge against the backdrop of New York office high rises. He had his legs drawn up, one elbow dangling loosely over one knee, the other propped up with his hand pinching the bridge of his nose. His head was leaning back against the wall in the corner, his eyes closed. His shirt was rumpled (like he had slept in it), the sleeves rolled up. His hair looked disheveled in a way that did not become the Neal Caffrey that Peter knew.

Obviously, something had happened. Something that would let Neal drop all masks.

"Neal?" he asked—carefully, gently.

He heard Neal draw in a long breath that he held. Peter took a step closer.

"Please leave," he heard Neal's voice—small, dejected and pleading.

Peter did no such thing. Instead he walked to the ledge and sat down, only inches from Neal's feet. "What happened?"

"Which part of 'please leave' did you not hear?"

"Oh, I heard it all right."

Neither of them spoke for what felt like half an eternity. Then Neal finally muttered, "She left me."

Peter didn't have to ask who. "Did you have a fight?"

"No," Neal sighed. "No, it was..."

"It was what?"

Neal drew in another breath. "It's complicated."

"It always is. Doesn't mean it can't be fixed."

For the first time, Neal acknowledged Peter, taking his hand away from his face, lifting his head to look at him. "No, I think we're a little beyond that. Some things can't be fixed, Peter. At least not in a way that leads to any kind of favorable outcome—for your or for me."

"And what does that mean?"

Neal blinked once, twice, then pushed himself away from the wall, getting up from the ledge. "Please don't. Don't ask, okay? I'm in this. I'm in this knee-deep, way deeper than you can imagine."

He walked towards the bullpen, turning around in the door. "This can't be fixed without more people getting hurt."

Peter watched him shuffle down the stairs to his desk with an even deeper frown etched into his forehead.

This was not good, and he was almost afraid to find out what Neal was in so deeply. But he would find out. He would always find out. He just needed to ask the right questions to the right people.

Peter swallowed, thinking, 'Neal, what are you up to now?' and tried hard to ignore that gloomy foreboding in the pit of his stomach that made him wish he didn't have to ask any of those questions that would eventually uncover what Neal didn't want him to know.

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THE END.
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