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Forget the tracker, next time Peter was getting Neal a leash.

"I told him not to go looking for it, but did he listen?" Peter griped as he strapped on his vest tighter. "Does he ever listen? Don't answer that," he warned when he saw Jones open his mouth to answer.

"Gallery's open," Diana reported as she climbed up into the Tactical van.

"They're still running that Retro—Neo…show or something," Peter muttered. He looked out the driver's window. There had to be a few dozen people inside. Peter set his jaw.

"Any sign of Neal or," Peter's eyes darted to Rook, "his friend there?"

Diana's face was pinched as she considered the gallery across the street from their van as well. "No sign."

Rook, who had been surprisingly quiet the whole ride, spoke up. "You sure Caffrey's in there?"

"He's in there all right." Peter gnashed his teeth as he yanked out his cell. He held it up so they could see Neal's cryptic text. "I told him to stay put, but, no, he just had to get back into the line of fire."

"Couldn't stay in that hotel," Rook said, surprising everyone with his reasonable tone. "That bastard pulled off every one of your teams and went in after him."

Diana smoothed out her chino blazer to hide the outline of her holster. "I spotted some of Giraldi's hard hitters around the front. There's probably more in the back. Tight spot."

"Oh, Neal's been in tighter," Peter muttered as he climbed out of the van, the others following. "Ask him about the National Arts Museum, a broken elevator and fifteen feet of garden hose."

Jones' head shot up. "That was real? I thought he was just—"

"Dunbar. I see him," Diana said suddenly. They peered around the utility van to spy Dunbar walking in long strides, not looking in either direction as he headed straight for the front door.

"He's not bothering to cover his tracks anymore," Peter murmured. His throat worked. "We're going to have to go through the side entrance. He sees us and he might start shooting."

The gun was snug against him. Nevertheless, Peter patted his holster to reassure himself it was there. Diana and Jones did the same.

"Diana, you lead one team through the back. Grab every civilian you see and get them out of there." Peter narrowed his eyes at the gallery. "Jones, you have the front. Take out Giraldi's thugs quietly." A check at Rook's set jaw pretty much told Peter what the agent wanted. "Rook and I will go through the back."

There was nothing more to say. Peter filed out with everyone. He curled and uncurled his hands. Not having even a blip from Neal's tracker or a text from him was grating. Peter wanted to charge in, but years in the FBI tempered the impulse. Too much could go wrong. Too much could still go wrong even with the most careful planning. Peter had already seen how easy plans could crumble into dust. Just look at Neal and K—

A harsh mental shake stopped those thoughts, although Peter still felt a twinge for even having them in the first place. He scowled to himself. Not now.

"Maintain radio contact," Peter told everyone gathered behind the van.

Peter gripped both Jones' and Diana's shoulders before they broke off into silent hunting parties.

* * * * *


The gallery owner caught sight of Peter as they entered from the back doors, but before she could stalk over in her three hundred dollar heels, he tipped his badge her way. She blanched when Peter very quickly explained what was happening. Meek now, she was compliant when Jones and Diana quietly herded her customers out the door, gathering stray bystanders like baby ducks. He could see Rook hauling Giraldi's men and roughly passing them to the other agents.

Peter still couldn't see Neal or Moz, but he could hear Neal's calm tenor floating around a partition of tiny paintings of different faces like a macabre trophy wall.

Darting a look at Rook, Peter flattened against the wall and edged toward the voices.

Rook silently followed.

"… everyone would just think it's good old Neal Caffrey being Neal Caffrey," Neal said in an easy voice, like he was talking about the art around him. "No one would be looking for you since they would assume I have the list."

"Nothing personal, Caffrey," Dunbar did sound sorry. "Docks had his eye on you before."

"I wonder who put it there." Neal's voice held a thin line of anger.

Dunbar chuckled. "You photograph well. And I needed to lure Docks out of his nice safe five-star hotel room to see where he stashed that list. When I told him I could get him one last fun time, he was more than happy to offer a…service fee."

"Glad to be of help." Neal's bland reply cut off into a groan. "So how much was that worth to Docks? How much of a cut was he offering you?"

"Not enough." Dunbar laughed harshly. "Bastard thought he was conning me by hiding the list for himself, but I got Giraldi to bankroll a hit on Docks." Peter curled his hand tighter around his weapon when Dunbar laughed harder. "Giraldi offered me a modest share if I get him that damn list, too."

"So instead you decided to take all of it?" Neal's words choked off after a bit of a scuffle. "Everyone thought Docks was up to his usual or wanted to do business with me and things went wrong."

Dunbar grunted. "Docks was a sick bastard. It was easy to make people think he was up to his old tricks again and you had to do what you had to do to defend yourself. Only Bonelli jumped the gun and killed Docks before we could get the list first." He snorted. "You're not ugly, Caffrey. You were exactly the kind Docks preferred."

"Thank you," Neal replied flatly.

"You didn't seem surprised to see me," Dunbar went on with a tinge of regret. "And I hid myself very well for so many years."

"Actually," Neal admitted, "I thought it might be Agent Rook."

"Rook?" Dunbar snorted. "He's been obsessed with catching Giraldi for six years."

"Took Agent Burke three years to catch me."

Peter rolled his eyes.

"Smart ass," Rook grumbled under his breath.

Neal added, "It'll take him less to catch you."

"You're strangely loyal for a con."

"And you're strangely not for a fed," Neal quipped.

There was a muffled yelp of pain. Peter grit his teeth.

"Did that hurt?" Dunbar asked, conversationally. "Maybe you should have stayed in the hospital after all."

"I don't think my insurance covers—" Neal hissed and Peter wanted to break cover. He didn't. There were still stragglers around the rest of the gallery and he couldn't risk innocents in the line of fire.

"So what now?"

"Why don't we ask Agent Burke? I think he's almost done emptying out the gallery," Dunbar said pleasantly. "What do you say, Burke? It's rude to eavesdrop."

Peter craned his neck. Jones and Diana poked their heads out halfway out of a partition. They both nodded and slipped around to circle the enclave Dunbar and Neal were in.

"I have a gun pointed at Caffrey's throat," Dunbar casually added. "No point in your team tackling me. I'm sure Neal here wouldn't want another hole."

Peter froze. "Neal?" he called out sharply.

"He shot my hat," Neal said crossly. "A Devore original and he shot it."

"Next time, I'll aim lower, Caffrey," Dunbar said, still talking like they were all sitting around having coffee.

"How about I aim lower, Dunbar?" Rook snarled. Before Peter could stop him, he drew closer to the partition.

"Henry." Dunbar sounded delighted. "We were just talking about you."

"Shut up," Rook snapped. "Tom, you son of a bitch. All these years…"

"Dunbar," Peter spoke up before Rook's temper made him break cover. "We got your men. Gallery's cleared. There's nowhere to go. If you—" Peter stilled, his eyes encountering the painting that hung behind Neal and Dunbar. The subject's pale silhouette and dark hair watched over Neal with a half-smile.

Aw, hell, kid.

Neal stood close to Dunbar, overlapping him, grimacing as Dunbar jabbed his side with his gun. There was a crimson mask over Neal's left eye, streaks smeared down his jaw and throat.

"I thought you said he shot your hat," Peter barked.

Neal shrugged. "He did. My head was sort of in the way." He looked gruesome with his face half-coated in red. "It's just a graze."

"The hat finally has some uses," Peter commented.

"You're just sore because you hate hats."

"Hey, I wear hats."

"Baseball caps doesn't count."

Dunbar snorted, his head partially concealed behind Neal. "I want that list, Caffrey."

"Won't be much good to you now," Neal pointed out. He made a face when Dunbar pulled his left arm further back, bending his wrist. "It's cliché, but do you really think you can get out of here?" Neal rolled his eyes--eye, as the other was sealed shut with dried blood. "I think you're surrounded."

Twin muzzle points poked out of either side of the display wall.

"He's right." Peter nodded behind him. "Even if you walk out of here, when word gets out that you have that list, you think Giraldi will let you walk around with his money?"

"You can buy a lot of what you need with that kind of money." Dunbar smiled thinly. "New name, new face, a plane to get out of the country." Dunbar smirked and dug the gun deeper into Neal's ribs. "Minus the explosives, of course."

Neal clenched his jaw.

"Where is that list?"

"Behind you," Neal ground out. He skidded backwards as Dunbar pulled him closer to the painting.

Dunbar didn't look twice at the portrait.

"I think Docks had everything in a flash card, maybe an SD card. Something small enough that he could have kept it with him the whole time." Neal's hand opened and closed, pinned between him and Dunbar's restraining arm. "His hand felt sticky when I shook it. It was adhesive, to glue it on the frame of this painting."

"Not bad for a con. Hanging around with us rubbed off," Dunbar admitted. He actually had the nerve to sound approving. "Docks came here almost every week before he got picked up. But why this painting?"

Neal's eyes cast down. "No one was interested in her. Docks must have cut its alarm sensors one day then hid the list on the one painting he figured would still be around later for him to retrieve before he left the country."

"He was never going to testify," Dunbar agreed. "All that money…"

"Guess that's why you switched sides," Rook growled before Peter could stop him. He moved forward. "Decided to go to business for yourself, you greedy son of a—"

"Not another step," Dunbar snapped. He jabbed his gun tighter into Neal, deep enough that Neal slouched into it with a wince.

Rook halted, his foot still in the air.

"Get it," Dunbar ordered Neal.

Neal was looking gray as he shook his head. "I don't know where it is exactly. I—ouch! Okay!" He grimaced and reached up with his left arm toward the frame. As his fingers drew closer to the painting, Neal glanced over at Peter.

Peter stiffened.

On contact, the painting's alarm went off. In fact, every alarm went off: every painting, every fire, smoke, exit, even the CO2 alarm simultaneously wailed.

Dunbar recoiled, limbs flailing in shock. Neal elbowed him, putting too much weight into it and they both fell to the ground.

Rook pounced on Dunbar. Jones and Diana reached the pair at the same moment Peter did. Jones grabbed Dunbar's gun, Diana grabbed his arm and Peter grabbed Neal.

"Get an ambulance," Peter ordered as they hauled Dunbar up. He watched Rook storm off with his former partner in custody.

Moz peered around the partition. When he spotted Peter and Neal, he sauntered over.

"Is this your doing?" Peter demanded. He kept a firm grip on Neal's arm when he felt him sway.

Moz bristled, "Do you know how counter-intuitive it was to do that?"

Neal shrugged one shoulder. "We needed a distraction. Dunbar was…distracted." Neal grimaced though as the alarms now whooped and honked like a flock of demented geese.

Peter stuck a finger in his ear. The storewide cacophony, plus the klaxons from the approaching ambulance was making his eyes water. "Can you do something about that?" he shouted.

"Moz, please?" Neal asked.

"Oh sure," Moz hollered back. He spun around, waving his arms as he stalked away. "Now you want the alarms turned off!"

Peter sighed in relief when moments later, everything silenced. He looked over to see Rook running his hands behind the painting.

"Got it," Rook announced. He lifted up a tiny baggie with a chip inside. The grin he had stretched oddly on his face.

"Please don't give Dunbar a deal for it," Peter grumbled, but he couldn't help returning Rook's expression.

"Deal?" Rook grunted as he neared them. He tossed the list up and caught it easily. "What for?"

When Rook's eyes went to Neal, Peter tensed.

"Caffrey…" Rook's mouth contorted but words wouldn't come out. Finally, he sucked in his breath and stuck out his hand.

Neal reached out without hesitation and they shook. Rook pulled back almost immediately. He cleared his throat, muttered something about taking Dunbar in and left.

"I never thought I'll see the day," Peter mused.

"I think I would like to sit down," Neal spoke up breathlessly.

"Oh, sure." Peter was steering him toward a row of chairs by the front of the gallery when Neal spoke up again.

"Actually…" Neal swallowed convulsively. "Now, please."

Crap. Peter eased Neal to the floor.

Neal sat cross-legged, his chin to his chest. "Thank you," he murmured. He held his head up with his right hand, his left pressed to his chest.

Standing up, Peter gazed at the painting. Her pale skin, dark hair was too painful to look at for too long. Peter averted his gaze. He glanced down and saw Neal was staring up at it. The longing on his face…

"So…" Peter stepped in front of Neal, moving a little closer until his leg bumped into Neal's shoulders. "Docks hid the list here, all this time."

"Then I came along," Neal added.

Peter was relieved to see Neal turned away.

"I think my wrist is definitely broken this time," Neal bemoaned. "And I don't think I can get this hat fixed."

"Glad it's not all bad news."

Neal's wordless reply bordered on impolite.

Peter said nothing when he felt Neal leaning against his legs. He shuffled closer.

"It's over," Neal said quietly.

I'm not so sure, Peter thought sadly when he caught Neal looking at the paining again.

* * * * *


A hand gripped him by the shoulder and shook.

Before Neal could respond, even before his limbs could tense, he heard a low voice rumbling like distant thunder by his ear.

"Easy. Don't take a swing at me again, Rocky."

After rubbing his eyes, Neal opened them wider. The darkness that greeted him quickened his breath, but a light clicked on near his feet, scattering the black into the shapes and angles of Peter's living area.

"You know the drill," Peter said. He could at least look apologetic. He lowered the volume further on whatever he was watching and moved the stack of files from his lap to the floor since the coffee table had been deemed a lost cause and tossed out.

Neal groaned but didn't try to sit up. The ice pack Elizabeth had given him after dinner was now a warm, limp weight on his left wrist. Neal had guessed wrong; luckily, it wasn't broken, but now his entire hand throbbed even when he moved his elbow.

"You're enjoying this," Neal half-heartedly accused Peter. "Rook is monopolizing Dunbar's questioning so you settled for me. It's like interrogation but without the polygraph."

"Yes," Peter deadpanned, "because I enjoy waking you up every four hours to ask you questions." He reached over and pulled the spent ice pack off Neal's hand.

"I could have gone back to my place." Neal tentatively felt around the bristly stitches buried into his temple. "The doctors said it wasn't serious. It only took three stitches." Although he was going to have to be creative while combing his hair the next week or so. Wonderful.

Peter sounded as impressed as he did in the ER. "June's not back yet and you with a concussion in the top floor of a mansion just screams trouble." He rose from his seat and headed into the kitchen. Still talking as he went.

"That was the deal, Neal. You didn't want to stay in the hospital and June's was out." Peter returned with a new icepack.

Neal gratefully took it. For a second, he wasn't sure where he wanted to put it more: his wrist or his head.

"I'm fine," Neal mumbled. The icepack stung first on contact but then mellowed into a numbing sensation on his wrist. He kept his eyes on his hand and not Peter. Envy tugged inside; he wished the icepack could numb everything.

"You shouldn't be alone."

Neal looked up at the words and caught Peter's very serious expression. His eyes dropped back down to his hand.

"So what's the first question again?" Neal asked, lightly. "I think it's my name? Or do you want an alias this time?"

"Neal."

"No, I think that's my answer, or did you want it in the form of a question?"

Peter sighed. But, unlike the first time he woke Neal up, he didn't play along. He turned off the television. Not a good sign. He stood by the foot of the couch, studying Neal.

"Mind not standing over me like that?" Neal muttered, not looking at Peter. He fidgeted and struggled to sit up.

There was a quiet curse and Peter sat on the armrest by Neal's feet immediately. "Sorry."

Neal shrugged. "It's fine. Just right now, you know, I…"

"Yeah."

Neal squirmed.

"It didn't happen," Neal stressed. "This…" He gestured towards Peter, towards the space over him, towards himself. "It'll go away." He wished Peter would stop nodding and agreeing with him. It wasn't Peter; it just wasn't normal. Neal wanted normal.

"Peter, nothing happened. It only looked like something did."

"Doesn't make what you feel any less important," Peter told him in the same low, understanding voice.

"I shouldn't feel anything," Neal muttered. "Nothing happened." He sat up even though his body was pleading for him to stay down. He blinked furiously at his legs.

Peter sighed, nodded again and said nothing. For some reason, that was worse.

"Shouldn't you be asking me questions right now?" Neal inwardly winced at the desperation he could hear in his own voice.

A searching gaze slid his way. "Fine…why were you at the gallery the first time?"

Closing his eyes, Neal forced out a chuckle. "I don't think that one was on the list, Peter."

"I don't care."

"I don't think my doctor would be happy to hear that—"

"Neal."

"What do you want me to say?" Neal shot back harshly before he could stop himself. At Peter's stunned silence, Neal swallowed.

"I saw the painting, Neal. Lady by the Window?"

There was a brief moment that Neal wanted to joke it wasn't one of his alleged forgeries. It was at the tip of his tongue, but he lifted his eyes and caught Peter staring at him, solemn, openly concerned, worry lining his brow.

Something snapped inside him, so abruptly, so loudly in his ears, Neal was startled no one else could hear it.

"Kate's dead." Neal's eyes burned.

Peter didn't seem as surprised as he was when the words escaped. He sighed, long and tired, as he nodded to himself.

"I would say sorry, Neal." Peter lowered himself to the couch. He gave Neal's ankles a gentle shove to make room. "But we've been telling you all this time." He dropped a hand on Neal's shoulder. "You didn't look like you wanted to hear it yet."

Mute, Neal focused at the stack of folders Peter left on the floor. He wondered how thick of a folder Kate's life amounted to.

Ash coated the back of his throat. Neal squeezed his eyes shut.

"Neal?"

"I went there," Neal croaked, "because I wanted to remember her."

"I didn't think you would ever forget her."

Shaking his head, Neal couldn't speak.

Peter sat closer, close enough Neal could sense Peter's shoulder just shy of his. Keeping his distance yet not too far, like a reassuring voice on a cell phone, telling him it was okay to hide for now because he'll be found.

"I keep seeing her on that plane."

Next to him, Peter stilled.

"All I can see now is her getting on that plane."

"But that wasn't the Kate you knew," Peter guessed.

The understanding in Peter's voice this time eased the lump lodged in Neal's throat. "We were never the white picket fence sort, but there were times, when I look at her, I thought we could be." He slouched forward, his hands cradling his face. "I wanted to remember that."

"I wish you had told me," Peter said quietly. "That day, I really wish that invite was for real. I would have gone with you. I would have."

And Peter would have. The thought of it loosened the knot in Neal's stomach and infused a warmth he wasn't accustomed to.

Neal smiled disparagingly. He shrugged. "Maybe you're right. If you had, maybe I wouldn't have gotten mixed up with Docks." The hand on his shoulder gave him a brief tightening clasp. Neal looked up at Peter's pinched expression.

"Don't ever blame yourself for that. It wasn't your fault." Peter's hard face smoothed out. "What you're feeling right now either. Okay, it didn't happen, but they made you think it could have and that's just as bad."

Speechless, Neal nodded.

An eyebrow rose in response. "Really? Are you listening?"

"Trying." Neal smiled shakily.

Peter nodded, looking satisfied.

This time, Neal's smile felt more natural. "I do listen, you know."

"How you interpret it is the problem," Peter scoffed.

Neal offered a broad grin this time. "But at least I listen."

Peter made a swipe at Neal's head, pretending he missed, but Neal suspected they both knew better.

"Go back to sleep." Peter rose to his feet and stepped back as Neal slid down to reclaim the entire couch.

"Thought you have to ask me questions," Neal yawned.

"Okay. What did you do with the Landmoch Scrolls?"

Neal smirked sleepily as his eyelids grew heavy. He wagged a finger in Peter's general direction. "Now that would be telling."

"So you did take them," Peter murmured triumphantly.

"No." Neal's next yawn stretched his reply to one long syllable. He glowered at Peter when he chuckled. Neal retaliated by adding, "I said it would be telling you I took the Landmoch Scrolls, like telling you about the Regency Bibles." He wiggled deeper into the cushions of the couch.

"Wait, you took those?" Peter demanded.

"Sleeping here," Neal murmured, his eyes sliding closed.

"Uh-huh."

The afghan that had been bunched by his feet was snapped out to drape over him. Neal opened his eyes again in time to see Peter settling back into the armchair. Neal wanted to tell him it was fine; go upstairs to Elizabeth and Satchmo. But he knew Peter would only grumble something about his backlog of mortgage frauds again, maybe threaten Neal with coming in on a Saturday to hunch over his dining table with a stack of his own. And for the first time in months, Neal found himself not minding.

Peter was still watching Neal from his chair. The folders laid balanced on his lap, ignored, the television remote on top untouched.

"It'll be fine, Neal," Peter said quietly. "You can go to sleep."

Neal let his eyes drift shut again. He could hear Peter turning on the television; whatever he was watching buzzed low in the background. Neal smiled to himself, letting his limbs relax further. The couch was thick under his back, the icepack cool around his wrist, the blanket soft and warm on top.

And for the first time in a long while, Neal knew he was safe.



The End

Author's Note: Dear brate7, the fact you haven't zatted me yet for betaing a fic that went from 21K to 38K is a mighty feat. You made incoherency into a fic! Thank you for ninjaing through tenses, plot holes, repetitive words with your red pen!

And to the mods of whitecollar_bb, much gratitude for your patience through my Internet woes, my draft woes and for this wonderful community.



Pssst: Feedback is like cookies. I like cookies. -lol-

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Comments

( 50 comments — comment )
brate7
Sep. 18th, 2011 04:16 pm (UTC)
You did it!
Yay, you posted!!! I'm so proud of you! [And while it was long, there wasn't that much to fix.]

Congratulations!
mrwubbles
Sep. 20th, 2011 02:31 pm (UTC)
Re: You did it!
-wheeze- I survived! I need a t-shirt saying that! As for fixing, while grateful to hear my grammar has not degraded that much, I know I still need you guys to point out my wordy flaws!

[[[hugs]]]
wpadmirer
Sep. 18th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
This is really good. I enjoyed it.
mrwubbles
Sep. 20th, 2011 02:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
aelfgyfu_mead
Sep. 18th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
Wow: that's quite a story there! I suspected Rook, not Dunbar.

I'm glad Peter remained convinced of Neal's innocence the whole time, and Diana and Jones were always behind Neal, even when they thought he might have killed in self-defense.

I didn't know you could use pencils that way! I'll have to keep it in mind if I'm ever pursued while I have a set of art pencils.

Great story!
mrwubbles
Sep. 20th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
Funny, lol, originally it was going to be Rook. I was having too much fun making him be mean to Neal, then I thought how satisfying it would be if he was just plain darn tootin' wrong about Caffery! :)
secretsolitaire
Sep. 19th, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
Wow, a very harrowing story! I wasn't necessarily planning to stay up to read this tonight, but after that first chapter I was totally sucked in. Nicely done. :-)
mrwubbles
Sep. 20th, 2011 02:35 pm (UTC)
Ouch! Sorry for the long night, but I'm also flattered you felt it warranted it! Thank you for the review!
sholio
Sep. 19th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this - very tense and suspenseful, and the friendship and trust ... awwww. :)
mrwubbles
Sep. 20th, 2011 02:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was what I enjoyed most writing White Collar: their friendship!
khek
Sep. 19th, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC)
Wow. What a satisfying, long, h/c read. (I haven't had one of those in awhile.)

I love how Neil's memories are revealed bit by bit, and how supportive the whole team was of him(and how they believed him right from the start.) And I didn't predict the villain until the very end.

Thank you so much for writing and sharing! (and I may need a WC icon!)
mrwubbles
Sep. 20th, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC)
(and I may need a WC icon!)

Here you go! (points to icon) Those two are adorkable! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. My first White Collar Big Bang. Whew! Done! :)
daymarket
Sep. 29th, 2011 04:25 am (UTC)
Why doesn't this have more reviews? This is beautiful and gorgeous and everything that I've ever wanted in a WC fic. There's h/c, sick!Neal, bamf!Neal, bamf!PeternEl, and SATCHMO! *flails* The first couple of sections featuring Neal's panic attack nearly gave me one as well. The characterization is just perfect for the terrible trio. Love it!
mrwubbles
Sep. 29th, 2011 01:20 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks for thinking so! I don't get reviews much; I'm probably not known out in WC fandom as I'm not involved in comms or know where to post fic links to. But that makes each review all the more awesome/precious/important for me. :)

As for Satchmo, lol, I figured that cute pup needed a chance in the spotlight too. Who could forget Satchmo? :)

Hm, need an awesome Satchmo icon too.

Thank you for the morale boosting review!
kimannebb
Oct. 1st, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
This was an amazing story, I really enjoyed it and I have rec'd it to some friends. I personally think it was more well written than the show can be and this could very well be an episode.

I really liked the connection that Peter and Neal have and how Peter and Elizabeth immediately rally around Neal to protect and support him. I also enjoyed the way Neal's memory was bleeding through and how he didn't just bounce back, but took so much of his strength to do it. That he never stopped fighting.

I just really enjoyed this, so thanks for writing and sharing!!
mrwubbles
Oct. 1st, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC)
I have rec'd it to some friends

Oh wow, thank you so much for liking it and reccing it! I had a lot of fun with my first White Collar Big Bang. And it's always such an exhilaration to read others had fun reading it.

Thank you for the high praise indeed!!!!
kriadydragon
Oct. 12th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
That was excellent. Loved all the twist and turns, especially with it being an inside job and Dunbar being behind it, and the comfort was awesome.
mrwubbles
Oct. 13th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it!
d_odyssey
Oct. 13th, 2011 12:32 am (UTC)
Wonderful story. Great voices for Neal, Peter and Elizabeth. Love how protective Peter and Elizabeth were of Neal. Good suspenseful & mysterious story with terrific h/c. It was hard watching Neal struggle to remember what happened, fearing the worst re Dochs. Very nifty that you tied the meeting to a gallery and that the list was hidden in the painting. Nice twist with Dunbar being the bad guy instead of Rooks. Very poignant ending with Neal and Peter. Nice to see Neal be able to talk about Kate and the real reason he was at the gallery. Excellent story.
mrwubbles
Oct. 13th, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
-points to icon-

Aw, just when I feel down, I get a comment that picks me back up. I'm glad the mystery played out all right. I was worried the mystery was no Sherlock Holmes, then worried that worrying about the plot made me neglect the characters, then worrying about that...well, let's just say, writing this was both fun and stressful.

But then comments like these makes writing it all the worthwhile.

Thank you!
(no subject) - d_odyssey - Oct. 14th, 2011 12:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mrwubbles - Oct. 17th, 2011 02:54 am (UTC) - Expand
rude02
Oct. 13th, 2011 05:24 am (UTC)
phew* What a ride of a story!! Loved it!
mrwubbles
Oct. 13th, 2011 02:57 pm (UTC)
OMG, I love your Team Burke icon! Plus your comment, I felt like I was just given a prize. Squee!
azuritebright
Oct. 18th, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
omgsh whoa
WHOA *flails* THIS IS AMAZING! The epic h/c is awesome, and the friendships between all the characters and the plot development and the case itself are just so well thought out and YAY! I am in love with this fic!!!!!!!!!!!
mrwubbles
Oct. 18th, 2011 02:55 am (UTC)
Re: omgsh whoa
(points to icon) If there was a way to reach through my screen in a non-scary Inception/Matrix way, I would! Thank you for reading and reviewing! :)
liaithin
Oct. 19th, 2011 09:08 am (UTC)
I loved this! You painted a vivid enough picture that I could see it all unfold before my eyes. The flashbacks incorporated throughout were great, and the case itself was really well-developed.

When I read this, yesterday, I actually had a ton of stuff to do... so I would only let myself read another chapter each time I'd finished an item on my to-do list. There's enough suspense in this story that the wait was rather torturous, so kudos for that. ;) Thank you for writing! :D
mrwubbles
Oct. 22nd, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, my fic worked as a bribe too? LOL. Thank you for the review! Glad the fic helped indirectly. :)
nebbyjen
Oct. 25th, 2011 11:45 am (UTC)
One of the best White Collar stories I've had the pleasure to read! So in character, a wonderful mystery, angst galore, and true friendship overflows throughout every chapter.
mrwubbles
Nov. 6th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for thinking so!!!! It was a fun Big Bang to try. Much love for reading and reviewing! (points icon)
frith_in_thorns
Dec. 28th, 2011 12:21 am (UTC)
Wow, this story is fantastic! I loved the character voices and I loved Peter believing Neal and being there for him. And I really loved all of the wonderful hurt/comfort for Neal *gg*

And I also really loved the plot, it was great! You had me wondering all the way through, and I really liked the slow reveal of all the missing pieces.

Just excellent!
mrwubbles
Jan. 15th, 2012 04:15 am (UTC)
-points at icon- Your comment makes me squee! Thank you for such a great review!!!
lilliandragon
Feb. 15th, 2012 10:36 pm (UTC)
This is such a great fanfiction!
I loved reading it and like it a lot.
Thank you for sharing.
mrwubbles
Mar. 15th, 2012 12:30 am (UTC)
And thank you for reading and reviewing!
cimmerdeux
Mar. 11th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
Wonderful, what an engaging story and so nicely layered, alternating between the outer world of action and the inner world of emotion; it was great, a very nice balance. I liked the mystery being unraveled of what actually happened to Neal and finding out about the list. I totally, totally LOVED bada** Peter taking out the assault team (with the help of Satchmo, El and Neal lol). Yeah, Organized Crime, I dare you to look down on White Collar, they're brains and brawn. I've always loved that about Peter, that he's kind of portrayed as this regular guy and it's like everyone forgets he's brilliant and hard as nails - everyone but Neal, El and his team that is.

Best laugh out loud moment - Neal asking about Satchmo before he asked about Peter. Second best - Mozzie pulling out the chopsticks. May I also say that Mozzie was made of pure awesomeness in this,

Neal was so sad in this but even grieving he is one tough scrapper. Neal haunting the gallery to visit with the painting, the way the story started and ended there, was very nicely done. All in all, great characterizations, wonderful OC's and a very convincing plot. Thank you.
mrwubbles
Mar. 15th, 2012 12:33 am (UTC)
Your feedback makes me squee. :)

I'm happy you enjoyed it. This White Collar fic made me nervous writing and plotting it because post-Kate death fics were done by so many talented writers.

As for Satchmo, I just had to give that cutie a chance in the spotlight too!
alvahana
Apr. 7th, 2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
Okay, this is now officially my favorite White Collar fanfic! I love everything about it - the h/c, the suspense, the twists, the characterization, etc. Thank you for writing such a wonderful story! I'm gonna reread it again and again and again...:D

I'm really looking forward to your next WC fic. Please tell me you will write more soon, pretty please??? :P
mrwubbles
May. 2nd, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the high praise! I definitely have things in the works for this fandom!
devra_01
Jun. 9th, 2012 08:20 pm (UTC)
Coming into the White Collar fandom a little late and trying to catch up on the first three season and the fics. This was wonderful (as is everything you write) and I enjoyed the visuals, the dialogues and how captured the characters. Thank you for sharing your talent
mrwubbles
Jun. 9th, 2012 08:39 pm (UTC)
Squee! Thank you for the feedback! It was my first major WC fic. Hope to try my hand on it the next big bang.
aleeban
Jun. 18th, 2012 05:55 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed it a lot! All characters were perfectly written. I count it among the best works I've read so far. Please write more WC fanfic. You're too good at capturing the feel of the show :)
mrwubbles
Jul. 27th, 2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
Oh wow! Thank you!!!!
ascendmeplz
Jul. 10th, 2012 03:04 pm (UTC)
I must say this is one of my favorites of the WC fandom, and I can't believe it took me "this long" to read it. It's filed in the non-con section of the Neal Whump Master List, so I avoided it for a while because I rarely read that subject matter. But then I thought, it's written by one of my favorite SG1/NCIS writers so... I gotta try. And I could kick myself for not doing it earlier! Yeah there's discussion and threat of it, but even then it's not an overbearing factor in the story... so much that I think it's misleading as to its categorization in the Neal list.

ANYWAY back to the fic, just amazing work. You consistently write some of the best h/c on the 'net, and always manage to make it so meaningful with whatever friendship is front and center, in this case Neal and Peter. Great work, and I'm gonna keep this handy for re-reads. I hope you're not done in the WC fandom yet.

P.S. sorry if this posted twice - the first time it told me my comment was spam
mrwubbles
Jul. 27th, 2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
I can't believe I missed this comment! I'm mortified I took this long to reply!

I had been languishing, fearing my first major WC was a big fail. Thank you for taking the time to share with me your thoughts on this!
sinfulslasher
Jul. 26th, 2012 07:10 pm (UTC)
Finally got around to reading this, and ZOMG, watch me flailing at the awesomeness that this fic is! :D :D :D

Loved all the characters in this, they were all totally IC and the voices were perfect. I just wanted to smish Neal throughout, Peter and El were awesomely BAMF, and W00T SATCHMO!!! *snuggles the dog* The OCs were interesting, the plot was really good (had me fooled, you sneaky little...!!! *g*), and really, Mozzie? Was Teh Bestest Evah. The chopsticks! The one-liners! And, quite honestly, when he traded one pair of glasses with the exact same pair? PERFECT! I WANT TO SEE THIS ON THE SHOW! *dies laughing*
mrwubbles
Jul. 27th, 2012 09:41 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you! I have to say: I thought writing NCIS was hard but OMG, this fandom was harder! Trying to get their nuances and banter right was like trying to shoot an arrow at a pea. Blindfolded. While hopping on one foot. Singing Henry the VIII.

Oy.

So super hugs to you. I'm really, really glad to hear you thought they came off IC!
(no subject) - sinfulslasher - Jul. 27th, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
scarym1
Aug. 4th, 2012 08:13 pm (UTC)
Well that was an intense read. I tried to read it all last night but it got to 1 AM and I had to go to bed. So I finished it off today. : ) Love the angst. Poor Neal!!! He was honestly trying to be good but trouble found him anyways. Great banter between Peter & Neal. Love the inclusion of Elizabeth and Satchmo.

saphirablue
Apr. 1st, 2013 10:51 am (UTC)
I love this!

Thank you!
bluegreen_17
Oct. 26th, 2013 05:22 pm (UTC)
I lo-o-ooove this fic! The h/c is so delicious, the characterization perfect, the story interesting, and the psychological aspect (both over Kate & the attack) great. It's multilayered and compelling. Thank you for writing it, and especially for putting it up on AO3: I have it on my e-reader and have re-read it several times. Now I'm just waiting to forget it enough so that I can read it again! I do so hope you continue writing WC fic. Thank you again :-)
( 50 comments — comment )

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