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White Collar Ficlets
Matt TNH 1
Finally getting around to posting the three fills I wrote elrhiarhodan's most recent Promptfest (number IX).

The first one is a post-series moment, Neal in Paris. The prompt was Power, any character (though it was also partly based on one of the picture prompts from kanarek13). I went with Power, Peter. (475 words)

Neal Caffrey pushed the various maps and other papers off of the table with a sudden, frustrated sweep of his arm. A moment later he looked at the mess he’d made and heaved a sigh. What was wrong with him? For a start, whatever he’d been telling himself, he apparently wasn’t going to go through with any of plans he’d hatched.

And then there was the fact that he wasn’t actually Neal Caffrey anymore. Neal Caffrey was dead, had been for some months. It was Nicholas Carver who was living in a small but nicely appointed apartment with a view of the Seine. And it was Nicholas Carver who had found himself at the Louvre a few too many times in the last few weeks. Oh, it was unlikely anyone would have noticed his repeat visits. Nicholas rarely visited the same exhibit more than once or twice, and he had an apparent penchant for a varied wardrobe – one day a businessman in a nice, if unremarkable suit, another day a student carrying a sketchpad, and another an older gentleman with a cane and just the slightest limp.

But it was most surely Neal Caffrey who kept seeing – and hearing – Peter Burke in his head as he reviewed the weaknesses in the Louvre’s security. Over three thousand miles away, and Peter Burke still had power over Neal.

Neal smiled to himself. There’d always been a power imbalance between them, one a respected agent of the FBI and the other a convicted felon on work release, free at the discretion of the FBI. But really, if you believed that a tracking anklet – even the latest, greatest model – was enough to keep Neal Caffrey in check (and in New York City), well, Neal had some lovely oceanfront property to sell you. No it wasn’t truly the anklet, or the threat of prison, that gave Peter Burke power over Neal Caffrey. It was the other man’s belief that Neal could be a better man, and the threat of that look of disappointment in his eyes.

“Neal,” Peter’s voice had said, as Neal pored over his maps and timelines, and Neal could hear the sigh that would surely come after that. And now, looking down at the jumbled mess on his floor, he knew what he was going to do. Whether he was Nicholas Carver or Neal Caffrey, he wasn’t the same man that he’d been when he was gallivanting across Europe, or when Peter had gotten him out of prison. And as he gathered up his papers and sat back down at the table, going over in his head the ways he might let the right people at the Louvre know just how vulnerable their many masterpieces were, he could see the smile on Peter’s face, and in his eyes, the one that said, “I’m proud of you, Neal.”

The remaining two fills are kind of companion pieces. The first of the two that I wrote is another post-series character exploration, this time Elizabeth. The prompt was 'Elizabeth, evidence.' (568 words).

Elizabeth Burke blinked back tears as she looked down at her husband, lying unconscious in the hospital bed, and decided that things simply couldn’t go on this way. The evidence was all there. Peter had been suspended – more than once. Twice just during the mess with Fowler, and then again after he was framed by that killer who shot Mozzie. He’d been busted down to the evidence warehouse. He’d been kidnapped. And now he’d almost been killed by someone surely hired by a rich and powerful Senator. Elizabeth liked Neal, really she did. She’d liked him since the first day he’d showed up at their home in Brooklyn, only days removed from prison. Peter had cautioned her that he was a criminal, not a stray puppy. But she had seen things her husband hadn’t, the uncertainty and loneliness Neal kept carefully hidden beneath that cocky exterior. How often had she mediated between the two of them, helped them to find their common ground? And now she was going to be the one to push them apart. She hadn’t blamed Neal when she’d been kidnapped, really she hadn’t. Or even when Peter had, for that matter. Matthew Keller was a nasty piece of work, and whatever their past together, Neal wasn’t responsible for the other man’s actions. But Peter could have died today. Died. And while she cared for Neal, he wasn’t family, not really. And Elizabeth would do whatever it took to protect her husband.

Elizabeth Burke looked down at her husband, sitting on a bench in a quiet hospital hallway, shoulders slumped, holding Neal’s tracking anklet in a white-knuckled grip. He wasn’t crying, but when he looked up at her, his eyes were red-rimmed. He looked…broken. And it hit Elizabeth, then, that this was real, that Neal was really gone. And then, unbidden, came the memory of her last conversation with him, and Neal swearing to her that he would stop at nothing to keep Peter safe. And now Neal was dead, after luring Keller into some sort of trap. Maybe the two things weren’t related at all, but Neal had clearly been up to something. And it felt like just the sort of thing Neal would do. He had a history, after all – the evidence was all there.

“I need your help.”

“I could go back to prison.”

“You owe him,” she’d said, and Neal had broken into a judges’ chamber to steal and erase the evidence implicating Peter in the taking of a bribe.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Whatever it takes to bring him home.”

And Neal had risked the wrath of Reese Hughes, and given away a two and a half million dollar ring to bring Peter home safely.

“Do whatever you have to do, okay?”


And Neal had sold his soul, more or less, to Curtis Hagen, had given the man the key to his own freedom, to get Peter out of prison.

Whatever Neal had done, and he had certainly brought no small amount of chaos into their lives, and whoever Neal might be – might have been, she reminded herself – and he was surely no innocent, he was also (had also been) the sort of man who would do whatever it took, often at some risk to himself, to protect the people he cared about. The people he thought of as…

…“Peter, you, your son, you’re my family.”

The second is actually set during the finale and focuses on Peter. The prompt was "Peter, Cowboy Up." (643 words).

Somehow Peter had made it through the trip to the morgue. He’d made it through Mozzie’s breakdown, even managing to put a comforting hand on the other man’s shoulder, whatever comfort it might have been. He’d made it through the meeting with the attendant who’d catalogued Neal’s things, his tone matter of fact as he pulled the items out of an envelope and handed them one at a time to Peter. And then everyone else was gone…Mozzie, the attendant, the doctor who’d broken the news to Peter…all of them, and Peter was alone with his thoughts in the quiet of a little-used hospital hallway. “You’re free,” he’d said, looking at the tracking anklet he still held in one hand. The anklet that had been chafing at Neal even more than usual of late, after the possibility of freedom had been snatched away again. But this wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen, this wasn’t the freedom Neal should have had before the FBI had decided he was too valuable an asset, or the freedom he had been promised if he delivered the Panthers. And suddenly the weight of it all was too much, and Peter dropped heavily to onto the bench behind him, his last conversation with Neal playing in his head. “You’re my best friend,” Neal had said. And finally, after all of the chaos and pain of the day, Peter cried. “You were my best friend, too,” he thought, as his shoulders shook with his sobs.

A little while later, some time after he’d run out of tears, Peter was still sitting on that bench of chairs. Luckily it was a somewhat out of the way spot, and he’d only had to fend off a couple of nurses who’d stopped to ask if he needed anything as they were walking past. The sound of an orderly’s phone ringing as he passed by got Peter’s attention, and he pulled his own phone out of his pocket, only to see a slew of notifications announcing all of his missed calls and text messages.

“Cowboy up, Burke,” he said to himself then. He couldn’t spend the rest of the day in this hallway. There was a case to deal with. The Panthers had been arrested, but that was just the beginning – there was paperwork to do, evidence to catalog. Keller was dead, at Peter’s hand, which would mean the inevitable inquiry into the shooting. Peter took a deep breath, steeling himself to work his way through the calls and messages, to do his job. And then he swiped his phone on, and there, on the screen, was the tracking application, the one that told him where Neal was, any time, night or day. He’d had it open when Neal’s anklet had come on line so that Peter could find him after he’d left with Keller. Of course the anklet was off-line now. Would never be on line again. Peter set his phone down and picked the anklet up again.

“Cowboy up.” How many times had he said that to Neal? Enough that it had become a joke between them, more than an admonition. And now…now he would never say it to Neal again. Would never again hear about Neal’s “alleged” exploits. Would never get to say to Neal the words Neal had said to him in that ambulance. “You’re my best friend.” He gripped the anklet tighter, staring down at it as if it held the answers to his grief.

“Hon?” Elizabeth’s voice said, cutting through the fog in Peter’s head just enough to get his attention. He looked up at her with red-rimmed eyes, and there was a pause, neither of them moving or speaking for a moment, and then Peter was on his feet.

“Hon,” he replied, and half fell into her open arms, grateful that no other words were needed.

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nice ficlets! *hugs them all*

Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed them.

Lovely collection of ficlets.

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