hurinhouse: (Default)
[personal profile] hurinhouse
Title: Buy a Clue, Alex
Author: hurinhouse
Fandom: White Collar
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Alex, Neal, Mozzie, Peter, Sara, Kate
Summary: Alex doesn't know herself as much as she assumed she did
Notes: For [livejournal.com profile] runthecon with [livejournal.com profile] sapphire2309's prompt "watch it begin again"





He never mentions Kate. Alex has to bring it up herself and he'll only discuss the fact that they no longer have a third for the music box.

He shoves it aside, playing docent for her at the Ordrupgaard, complete with intriguing history lessons about Gaugin and Hammershoi. He snatches her a silk scarf as they cycle through the street markets, laughing, outpacing the merchant who somehow missed the coins Neal tossed him. When the sky moves to what he labels deep Prussian Blue, he shepherds her along the softly lit canals in Nyhavn like the gentleman he loves to embody.

She doesn't deal in romance - too dangerous. But Copenhagen is a fairy tale and she's never had a chance to be Cinderella.

At the flat, his gentle lips and hands and hips are desperate to hold onto something they both know isn't there. He's always put on a show. But now she sees he also lies to himself. He thinks he can make everyone happy - it only exposes his own cracks. Filling them is a step too far for her but she lets him treat her like a Tiffany bracelet. For him. For herself.

In the morning they'll be back to just Alex and Neal and when he falls asleep she remembers this hollow feeling from long ago, on a sidewalk in Manhattan, where she started the game as second prize to a girl who was headed to Chicago.

*

"If you ever want to ditch him and find a real partner... "

"What's your problem, Alex?"

"I'm not the one who has one." She tosses pillows onto the couch, punching a couple in the process.

"Clearly you are, or you'd be at the gala with Neal right now."

"Who would take care of you then?"

"I can take care of- " He pauses, then tilts his head back, annoyed realization. "So that's what this is. You wanted to leave me there."

She sighs, lets her exasperation bleed into her voice, "No Mozzie, I don't want you to go to prison."

"But, you're angry he scrapped the job so I wouldn't get caught!"

"I'm going out. Do you need anything before I go?"

"I don't need anything from a traitor like you!"

"Suit yourself. Here's your crutches. Sayonara."

She wants to kick his cast and throw his crutches to the other side of the room. But she makes sure he has plenty of food before she storms out.

It's not that she didn't agree with Neal. Of course they had to go back for Mozzie. Of course they had to find someone who could set his leg. Now here they all are in a Milan farmhouse till he can get around on his own.

But Neal hadn't come back for her. Not in Copenhagen. She'd been scared and alone in the French hospital he'd dropped her at while he'd flown to four different countries to throw off Interpol. He'd made sure she had a flawless alias.

Yet he hadn't stayed with her.

*

Burke the Jerk. Right in Neal's loft, with a suitcase no less. "A friend of Neal's."

So Neal lied. No surprise. She knows this search for the music box is about Kate, she's just not sure how. And now he's married to the feds.

She watches them arrive in the FBI parking lot together the next morning, Burke laughing fondly at one of Neal's stupid jokes. Neal's eyes light up while he teases the man, and Alex can see him lean back into Burke's palm as the agent ushers him into the elevator. A cast of thousands in The Book of Neal - and the lead is an elusive revolving door.

And then her prints are run. Her God damned prints are run by the FBI.

Why has she ever trusted Neal's priorities?

*

They climb out of that pit, that disgusting coffin of concrete and water, the adrenaline still pumping in her veins. She really hopes Burke slaughters Adler.

Neal takes her by surprise, hugs her tight, deliciously familiar, and she's so happy to be alive that she relishes it. Their foreheads lean together, savoring life, and he takes her head gently in his hands as though she's fragile. In that moment she could not care less about beautiful sculptures and timeless paintings and the fact that she softens for no one.

They both lean in, feeling the undertow. When their lips touch a myriad of unformed thoughts swirl through her head, making her dizzy, confused. It's soft, and it's the same as the dozens of times she's kissed him before; except this time, it's like the truth, something she never thought possible.

When they sag back, he doesn't look away from her - for as long as she returns that, this will be real. It feels like a new beginning, something they've never had. His face echoes the sentiment, a wonder at how this is happening. Alex and Neal, but more.

As they turn toward the gathering of FBI, a surprised disappointment in another woman's eyes slaps her in the face, and when Alex looks back at Neal, she sees it. She catches the thin sidelong look he tries not to send her way, the "oops" in his eyes.

So there it is. How many times does it take, Alex? It's like a blinding rush as it all comes to her now. All this time... he's not been the only one conning himself.

It's easy to let him off the hook later, inside the confines of that FBI office, with yet another of his priorities not-so-carefully watching them from a few feet off. Because finally, Alex can tell the truth. He always has been that fantasy just out of reach; she had just never realized he was her fantasy.

Now that she knows, she can let that fantasy go. She's never felt so free.


Date: 2016-05-13 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sheenianni.livejournal.com
Great portrayal of Alex and her relationship with Neal. I love that last paragraph.
Good story!

Date: 2016-05-13 10:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hurinhouse.livejournal.com
thank you!

Date: 2016-05-13 10:57 pm (UTC)
kanarek13: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kanarek13
Ooooh, such a wonderful character study and a glimpse on some of the canon events from Alex's POV ♥ I love this, squee \o/ Yay for running the con :D

Date: 2016-05-14 12:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hurinhouse.livejournal.com
Thank you! I had always felt that because of where Neal's head was when they first met, and due to how they met, Alex would never be more than good friends with benefits in his eyes, while others take turns being center stage for him. Usually it seems as though Alex is too independent too care, but once in a while you can see something soft in her eyes, and that parting comment in Under the Radar brings it all together.

Date: 2016-05-14 05:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pipilj.livejournal.com
Great seeing Neal's friends from Alex POV.

Date: 2016-05-14 12:43 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-05-14 05:40 am (UTC)
sapphire2309: (Alex)
From: [personal profile] sapphire2309
Oh, this is lovely. I like the way you looked at things.

Date: 2016-05-14 12:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hurinhouse.livejournal.com
Thanks ! This glimpse of Alex slowly realizing that she'll never be Neal's priority (even though she never thought she cared) has been languishing on my laptop for months. Your prompt helped me finish it. So thank you!

Date: 2016-05-14 03:22 pm (UTC)
sapphire2309: (Alex)
From: [personal profile] sapphire2309
It's a pleasure to have anything to do with such an insightful story being completed and sent out into the world C:

Date: 2016-05-14 06:07 am (UTC)
china_shop: Neal, Peter and Elizabeth smiling (Default)
From: [personal profile] china_shop
This is so goooood! I love this portrayal of her, how she tries to shield herself and how susceptible she is despite that. And her observations of the others are excellent. *loves*

when he falls asleep she remembers this hollow feeling from long ago, on a sidewalk in Manhattan, where she started the game as second prize to a girl who was headed to Chicago.

Ouch! Yeah.

Date: 2016-05-14 12:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hurinhouse.livejournal.com
Thank you! She's so strong - it has to be next to impossible for her to admit any weakness, even to herself. I think this was the first fic I've ever tried to get into her head.

Date: 2016-05-14 02:05 pm (UTC)
vexed_wench: (Default)
From: [personal profile] vexed_wench
Oh this is so nicely done. I really enjoyed it.

Date: 2016-05-15 12:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hurinhouse.livejournal.com
thank you!

Date: 2016-05-15 11:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pooh-collector.livejournal.com
Wow what an interesting glimpse into Alex and her very complicated relationship with Neal. With so little canon I feel like she's a hard character to get a read on, and I think you've done brilliantly here.

Date: 2016-05-16 10:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hurinhouse.livejournal.com
Thank you so much - that's a great compliment!

Date: 2016-05-16 09:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] treonb.livejournal.com
Great fic! I never thought about it that Alex did start off being second-place in Neal's life, and it's a repeating pattern for her.

Date: 2016-05-16 10:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hurinhouse.livejournal.com
yeah I think that alex is very strong and tries to be stoic but she's also human. thank you!

Date: 2016-05-16 07:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aragarna.livejournal.com
awww Alex. Terrific character study! Great job!

Date: 2016-05-16 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hurinhouse.livejournal.com
thank you so much for saying so!

Date: 2016-05-21 08:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tjs-whatnot.livejournal.com
Oh God! I just love this so very much! I love Alex, I love Alex and Neal's messed up relationship and I really love her insights into Neal. Like this line that GUTTED me!

A cast of thousands in The Book of Neal - and the lead is an elusive revolving door.

Date: 2016-05-21 10:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hurinhouse.livejournal.com
thank you so much! alex is such a complex character, but as pooh mentioned, we don't get to see much of her. after she made that neal/treasure comment in under the radar, I realized that it was possibly as much a surprise to her as it was to him. as beautiful as they are together, i think they're too much alike to be able to ever make a real go of it.
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