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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.


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