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20 February 2014 @ 07:08 pm
[fic: white collar] Relentless as the Rain (2/3)  
Title: Relentless as the Rain (2/3)
Characters: Neal, Peter/Elizabeth, Rachel, Bruce, Mozzie
Rating: Teen
Word count: 6,100 (/20,500 total)
Content notes: SPOILERS for all of S5. Warnings for this chapter: Emotional manipulation, romantic coercion, non-consensual drug use. Deeper levels of angst than I usually write.
Other notes: This was written from an idea of kanarek13's, who also did the AMAZING cover art. Beta read by sholio.

Summary: Diverges from canon during the S5 finale. The standoff on the roof goes in Rachel's favour. Now Neal's stuck depending on her, whether he likes it or not.



Chapter One | Chapter Three
Read on AO3

~

Gentle fingers were stroking his hair.

He was usually quick to wake, but now he felt like he was struggling up through thick tar. So tired. A pounding headache. He caught a blurred glimpse of light and dark, and his eyes closed again.

"Sshhh," someone murmured. A woman's voice. El?

A silhouette. Head bending down towards him. He moaned as he struggled to focus, nauseous and hurting.

"Go back to sleep," the low voice said.

No, he shouldn't — but he couldn't remember why. He tried to lift his head, his hands. Everything was too heavy.

A pinch on his arm, and he was sinking again. Drowning…

~

"Neal?"

He couldn't place where he was so, out of habit, he didn't move or open his eyes. There was a mattress under him, and his head was throbbing sickly. A hangover?

"Come on, I know you're waking up."

He recognised her voice this time, and dragged his eyelids open. "Rebecca?" His voice was hoarse. What happened?

Her hair was wrong, but her smile was just the same. "Hi, Neal," Rebecca said. "I was beginning to worry."

"I'm —" Neal fumbled a hand along the side of his head, finding the place where the pain radiated from. His fingertips found a barely-clotted wound, and swollen flesh.

"It's okay," Rebecca said, gently. "You're safe now."

There was something very wrong with that statement. Neal shuddered, and his stomach turned as it came back to him. "Rachel."

She looked mildly disappointed. "I like you calling me Rebecca, you know."

"Glad to hear that, Rachel." Neal tried sitting up. He was in a small, white-painted room, on a narrow bed. Rachel was perched on the end of it, watching him.

She wasn't holding a gun. For a fleeting moment Neal considered trying to make a break for it — he measured the distance to the door. But even being semi-vertical was making him dizzy, and he'd watched her take down an FBI agent with her bare hands. He didn't stand a chance.

"I'm not going to hurt you," Rachel said, when his eyes returned to her. "You should know by now I wouldn't do that."

"My head doesn't believe you," Neal retorted. He wasn't entirely sure what had actually happened — but he remembered her holding a gun to his temple. Even concussed, he could manage that leap of logic.

Her mouth twisted wryly. "I didn't want to do that. I wasn't left with much of a choice, though."

They could probably keep up this line of argument for a very long time. "You've kidnapped me," Neal said.

Rachel looked somewhat amused. "Clearly."

"Where are we?"

"In a house that I own." She didn't elaborate on the location.

"I thought you'd changed your mind about wanting me to run away with you."

She smiled sweetly, but it had a cruel edge. "Not at all. I just stopped believing it was something you wanted."

What scared Neal the most was the calm way she said it. She wasn't delusional, or mistaken — she knew perfectly well that Neal hated her, and was afraid of her. She just didn't care, because all that mattered to her was what she wanted. And she wanted him with her, willing or not.

"Can I have some water?" he asked. His watch was no longer on his wrist and he couldn't estimate how long he'd been unconscious for, but now that he was awake the sensation of thirst was growing rapidly.

Rachel smiled again. "Of course," she said. "I'll fetch you a glass."

She stood and left the room, leaving the door very slightly ajar. Neal stared after her. It couldn't be as easy as that, surely…

With an effort, he got to his feet, holding the wall as the room spun dizzily around him. He was feeling nauseous again, and his balance was all off, but he pressed determinedly forwards.

The door swung open easily. Rachel was not in the room beyond. It had a couch and a couple of chairs, and an empty table. Wooden shutters were closed across the window, and fastened shut to block out any natural light. An alcove contained a small toilet and shower — with a curtain, rather than a glass panel that could be smashed into a weapon. Another door was set into the far wall, and this one didn't open to Neal's hand. There was a peephole in it, which was for him the wrong way around so that he couldn't see anything through it, and no keyhole. It was secured and even hinged from the other side.

"Go and sit on the couch." Rachel's voice filtered in through some hidden speaker.

Neal could have refused, but his throat was so painfully dry it was becoming all he could think about. He retreated across the room and sat down. As soon as he did so the door opened, and Rachel entered with a tall glass of water in her hand. The door shut immediately behind her, faster than he could have made it across the room. He accepted the glass from her without speaking, and tried to refrain from gulping down all the water at once.

"Better?" she asked, once she'd finished.

Neal set the empty glass down by his foot. "I don't know what you hope to achieve by keeping me here, but you should know you're not going to get it," he said.

Rachel looked politely disbelieving. "Peter's not going to find you here, you know."

Were they outside the country? "You're wrong," Neal said, hoping to cover his uncertainty. But he shouldn't be uncertain. Peter always found him.

"I'm going to leave you for now," Rachel said. "There's a button on the wall next to the door. If you need anything, hold it down and speak. That will record a message and send it to me, and then I can bring you what you need."

"I'm not going to beg you for anything," Neal said.

"You already asked for water." Rachel held her hand out. "Pass me the glass, please."

He did so. She held all the cards; the smart thing was to wait, ask for nothing, and work out what her plan was.

"Thank you," she said. "I'll see you soon, Neal. Hopefully you'll feel better after some more sleep. Oh, and don't get up until I've left the room."

And she left him there, alone.

~

Neal did sleep more — his head was still pounding. He discovered that the lights in both rooms could be dimmed, but not quite turned off, so he made it as dark as he could and lay back down on the bed.

First, though, he had examined the door and the shutters. They both seemed completely impervious. The door he suspected had some kind of electromagnetic lock which Rachel had touched a key to as she'd left, and the solid shutters let no glimmer of light through and were screwed so deeply into the wooden frame that he had no chance of prying them free without tools. But everything that had been in his pockets had gone.

He felt more human when he woke again, certainly enough to wish he had some fresh clothes to change into. His tie, jacket and shoes were missing, but otherwise he was still dressed as he had been at the fort, and the clothes were by now sweaty and rumpled.

Even so, he was hesitant about using the shower. He pulled the curtain across the tiny alcove, and he hadn't yet discovered any cameras, but he couldn't shake the feeling of eyes burning into his skin. Rachel's eyes. He shuddered, and in the end just washed his face in the minuscule sink and returned to sit on the couch.

There was nothing to occupy himself with. He tried searching the rooms for the cameras he was still sure must exist, but he had no luck and straining his eyes made his head hurt again.

He lay on the couch, trying to piece together any clues about where he was. Without meaning to, he dozed off (he blamed the concussion's lingering effects) and woke with his stomach growling with hunger and his mouth dry.

Rachel didn't return.

Finally, he decided he felt grimy enough to shower even if she was watching. There was no soap, but the warm water felt wonderful for the first few minutes. Then he began to feel lightheaded, and had to turn off the water and crouch down until it passed. His stomach growled loudly, reminding him of one of the likely causes.

There wasn't even a towel. He used his undershirt to dry himself, and then hung it over the back of one of the chairs after he'd put on the rest of his clothes again, grimacing slightly.

The button Rachel had told him to press when he needed something was taunting him. Finally, Neal gave in. "I need something to eat and drink," he said. "And some clean clothes." Since he hadn't anything to lose at this point, and drips from his hair were still running down his back, he added, "A towel would be nice, too."

Then he sat on the couch and waited.

Shortly afterwards, the door opened. Rachel held a tray in her hands, and a canvas bag hung from one shoulder. She put the tray on the table — a bowl of what looked like thick tomato soup, with two buttered rolls, and another large glass of water. "Here," she said. "Just like you asked for." She waited, while he watched her silently. "Say thank you, or you might not get more."

He waited a few more seconds. "Thank you," he said, reluctantly.

"You're welcome, Neal." She smiled at him, and offered him the bag. There was a towel on top, and a tee-shirt, jeans and one pair of boxer shorts underneath.

Rachel sat down at the table, across from the tray. Neal was reluctant to do anything with her watching, but he was hungry enough that he decided to swallow his pride, and took the other seat.

The soup was surprisingly good, and the bread was fresh. There was no way Rachel would have cooked food for him herself, so either she had bought it or this place was large enough for her to employ a cook. Either could be the case.

He didn't speak while he ate, and Rachel didn't ask him to. When he had finished, she stood. "I'll give you privacy to change," she said, as if she was being magnanimous. "You can go into the bedroom. Put the dirty clothes in the bag, and I'll have them washed."

"You don't have to wait for me," Neal said. "I can change after you've left."

"Oh, no," she said. "I insist." Her eyes were suddenly steely.

He could already see what she was doing. Give him one meal at a time, one set of clothes at a time. Make him ask for everything. "I'll wait."

"Do you think you're in a bargaining position here?" Rachel asked. "I suggest you think very carefully about what you have to lose."

Neal went into the bedroom, dried his hair properly, and changed. He gave her the bag with the dirty clothes when he came out, and she checked carefully that everything was there. "You can keep the towel," she said. "See you again soon."

~

There was no way to measure time. Nothing to give him the illusion of control.

Neal paced the room at intervals, trying to force his mind into some crack in Rachel's schemes. He wondered what Peter was doing at that moment; what Mozzie was doing. His imagination expanded outward, and he was eventually trying to picture the current movements of everyone in the White Collar Division, and all of June's relatives down to her grandchildren. Nothing he came up with was enlightening.

He realised, eventually, that pacing would just lead to him becoming thirsty again faster. Although he could drink the water from the sink if he had to. (Whether it would be good for him, on the other hand…)

If Rachel was waiting for him to call on her, he vowed he wouldn't give her the satisfaction.

Of course, now that he had made that firm decision, he began to be plagued by thoughts of food. The soup had been tasty, but it hadn't really made up for however many meals he'd missed while unconscious. And there was nothing to do but think.

It was actually the boredom that broke him, some unknown number of hours later. He rationalised it by telling himself that if he persuaded Rachel to spend more time in the room with him, she was more likely to accidentally let something slip that he could use against her. But, in truth, he was desperate for a break from staring at white walls and exits he couldn't open.

She brought him a toasted brie bagel, with a salad, and another glass of water. "Can I have a more interesting drink next time?" he asked.

"That depends," she said, and didn't tell him what it depended on. Again, she sat to watch him eat.

"This can't possibly be interesting for you," he said, between mouthfuls.

She shrugged. "You're always an interesting person, Neal."

Since he now had the feeling of having given in, the next time he was hungry enough to call for her it felt like less of a blow to his pride. He'd shifted his strategy from resistance to cooperation. It mildly surprised him how calm he felt about that.

Suspiciously calm. The time after (the day after?) that, he froze with the water glass already at his lips, and then slowly lowered it. "Is there something in this?" he asked.

Rachel regarded him calmly. "Yes."

"What?"

"Only a very low dose of Valium. Don't worry."

Neal set down the glass with a sharp clatter. "You're drugging me."

Her smile was amused. "It's for your own good, Neal, to make this easier on you." She raised an eyebrow. "You can always decide not to drink it, if you feel that strongly."

He raised one of his own eyebrows in response. "Will you give me some non-drugged water instead?"

"No."

"That's not really a decision, then," he pointed out.

Rachel shrugged. "It's still a choice. You're doing it to yourself." She leaned forwards, her elbows on the table. "Neal, you aren't going to achieve anything by resisting. You'll have to drink it sooner or later, so why don't you just get it over with?"

She sounded reasonable. There was a slight smile on her face, one that invited him to recognise the truth of her logic.

He shoved the glass deliberately towards her.

"Fine," she said, no longer smiling. She picked up the full glass and the untouched plate of food, and left the room.

~

He drank tap water, scooping it into his mouth with his cupped hands. His fingers rasped against the stubble on his chin.

Shortly afterwards, his insides began to cramp. Neal lay on the bed, his eyes closed, breathing steadily through his mouth in the hope that it would pass, but then his stomach roiled and he stumbled to the toilet in time to throw up. There was the water and little else.

Vomiting hadn't made him feel better. He was shivering, freezing cold, and at the same time he could feel himself sweat. He retched again, although there was already nothing left to bring up, and huddled against the wall.

It didn't make sense for him to be this sick. He remembered Rachel's slight smile.

When he could finally manage it he struggled to his feet, and used the wall to guide him back to the bedroom. He huddled in a tight ball under the blankets, still shivering, his head now pounding as if it had been struck again. He dozed, tumbling in and out of fever dreams which were vividly coloured and sharp as glass. Couldn't remember where he was.

"Oh, Neal." He thought the cool hand on his forehead was a part of his dream for a while. "Can you hear me? It's Rebecca."

He moaned, and turned towards her as she replaced her hand with a cold cloth. Her fingers slid down to his shoulder instead, rubbing soothingly.

"I'm going to look after you," she murmured.

He opened his eyes, and reflexively jerked away as she leaned down towards him, a dark shape.

She shushed him. "It's just me, just Rebecca. Don't worry, Neal. You're safe."

He reached for her hand. "Becca…"

…red hair fanned over his pillow and the smell of old books and this gentle voice…

He fell in and out of sleep and every time he half-woke Rebecca was there with him, comforting him and holding a glass to his lips so he could drink. Her face heat-shimmered in his blurring eyes. His fever must be very high.

What's in the water? he thought, and couldn't remember why seemed so important. In the water in the water in the water…

When he finally woke with a clear head, her absence was the first thing Neal noticed. He lay and stared listlessly at the white walls for a while, tired and wrung out, feeling as colourless as they were. Lingering remnants of his dreams gnawed at him, although he could no longer remember what they had been about.

Eventually he got up. There was a note on the table, two words on a small piece of paper. Call me.

He washed first, realising belatedly that he was dressed in a pair of cotton pyjamas he had no memory of changing into. His fingers found more stubble on his face than he remembered.

"Rebecca," he said into the hidden speaker. He didn't bother to make requests — it was her turn.

And, indeed, when she arrived a while later (enough time for him to sit down on the couch and accidentally doze off) she was bearing an unasked-for tray in her hands. "Are you feeling better?" she asked. "You've been very ill, so I only brought you soup today."

It tasted good, of course. He was coming to expect that. "I'm okay," he said. He felt sluggish and tired; fogged.

"Good," she said, and her hand drifted over the surface of the table so that it lay close to Neal's. "Is there anything you need? You only have to ask."

"I'd like some new clothes," Neal said. He rubbed at his face. "And I'd also like to shave."

"I can arrange both of those." Her smile was the same one that had calmed him as he had been wracked with fever. It unnerved him now, because she shouldn't be bringing up good feelings in him, but of course they were the ones that had been there first, that had lain as the foundation…

With a jolt, he realised that he had been sipping thoughtlessly at his glass of water, and it was now mostly empty.

Rebecca had been right all along. Resisting had been pointless. He'd been punished, and was doing what she wanted in the end.

But she kept her word, bringing him a new set of clothes, which she handed over to him, and supplies for shaving, which she didn't. "I'm afraid I can't give you the razor," she said, with an apologetic smile. "Go and change first, and then I'll shave you."

"Maybe growing a beard isn't so bad," Neal said.

"Well, think about it." She sat down to wait.

At least she wasn't trying to use a straight razor on him. When Neal emerged from the bedroom it was to find that it was an electric one she'd laid out on the table next to a gently steaming bowl of water, with no exposed blades. He weighed it up. And was the end result really going to be anything other than the one she wanted? "Fine, I'll let you shave me."

She looked pleased. "I promise I'm good at this," she said, guiding him to sit.

He closed his eyes as she wiped his face with a warm, damp cloth. Then she sprayed shaving foam into her hand and smoothed it into his face, her fingers working in little circular movements along his jaw, and then stroking down his neck. He shivered minutely.

The loud buzzing of the electric razor as she switched it on made him start. "No need to worry," Rebecca murmured into his ear, and the buzz transferred to his skin as she shaved him, gently and methodically. She was leaning close to do so and he could feel the warmth of her breath on his brow. When he opened his eyes for a quick glance she had her forehead slightly creased in concentration, her expression focused.

It was finally done. Rebecca wet the cloth again to wipe his face clean, and ran the back of her hand down his now-smooth cheek to check her work before stepping back. "You look much more like yourself now," she said.

Neal ran a hand over his face. He felt more like himself, too. "Thanks," he said.

"You're welcome." Rebecca poured the water in the bowl down the sink, and packed the shaving supplies back into it to take with her. "Make sure to rest — we don't want you getting sick again."

He kept touching his face after she had gone, feeling the phantom pressure of her hands on him. It deeply unnerved him that he hadn't minded it more.

~

Neal could feel the smothering, restraining pressure of the drugs if he thought about it, so he tried not to. And that was easier than it should have been, because all his emotions were being blunted and ground down by them.

He needed Peter to find him. Rebecca must have covered her tracks very well, but Peter was better. His strongest spikes of feeling came when Neal thought about Peter; an aching stab. He missed him as desperately as he could, and everyone else too — Mozzie, Elizabeth, June.

And there was too much time for thinking, even though he suspected he'd been sleeping far more than usual. Neal had begun looking forward to Rebecca bringing him meals, because at least it was a reprise from the monotony of his thoughts. He even dared to ask for more things — shower soap, a set of pyjamas he could keep, fresh sheets — and she gave them to him.

No books, though. Or paper, or pencils. Not even a pack of cards.

"What are you working on? You know, out there?" he asked her over his bowl of stew, and she frowned slightly.

"Neal, you know I'm not going to tell you where we are."

"No," he said, quickly. "I wasn't asking that. I just… I'm bored."

She pursed her lips, weighing up the risks of divulging information. Then she smiled. "There's a Rembrandt being moved from an art gallery. I'm working on a plan."

Neal leaned forward, instantly engaged. "How's it being transported?" he asked.

"It's the only piece moving, so one of the directors is planning to drive it to its new home himself."

Neal felt a grin spread across his face. This was the most interesting thing he'd had to think about in ages. "So everyone on both ends will be relaxed, and they'll trust it to be delivered safely. Swap the painting out before the director moves it and you could get few days before it's reported stolen."

But Rebecca shook her head impatiently. "That would be great, if I had something to swap it with. I'm planning to intercept his car. This is all low-profile, so he won't be expecting anyone to know what it is he's transporting. It should be easy."

"Except you'll have the police after you immediately. Even if you kill the guy —" don't kill him — "that'll only give you a few hours. And then they'll be after you twice as hard."

She raised her brows. "Please tell me your better suggestion, then."

"I'll do you a forgery," Neal said. He was still grinning. "No tricks, I promise. I just want to get to paint again."

"Hmm," Rebecca said, and she was smiling slightly now too. "Interesting idea. Let me think about it."

He didn't move from the table after she'd left the room, too focused on the idea that he might actually get to do something again, especially paint. He hadn't fully realised how much he'd missed it.

Rebecca returned, with a pad of paper and a pen, as well as a printout of the Rembrandt. "Make a list of everything you need," she said.

"You're letting me do it?" Neal asked. He tried not to beam gleefully, but couldn't really suppress it.

"You looked so happy about the idea," Rebecca said. "But, Neal, I'm trusting you. And I will check the painting."

"I know," Neal said. It almost didn't matter.

She was reading over his shoulder as he wrote his list. "Gas or electric oven?"

"Electric. It's easier to get the right temperature distribution."

She nodded, and asked him similar clarifying questions about some of the other items he put down.

And shortly afterwards, they were all delivered. Even the oven, which Neal had expected to have to fight over (but it really was vital for ageing the forgery properly, and he guessed she'd had to accept that). He spent a while studying the various enlarged reference images he'd asked for, and spread them over the table as he set up the easel.

Then he lost himself in brush-strokes and the smell of paint. It felt like sinking back into the arms of a long-absent lover. It felt like home.

He worked for hours, and he didn't have to request food and drink — Rebecca brought them without him asking, and stood to watch. Neal didn't really notice her coming or going.

There were no hidden messages in the forgery. He knew that it would probably end up in the hands of the FBI, and hopefully even Peter, but the risk of putting in anything that Rebecca could notice was too high. He needed her to trust him, and right now she was wary of hidden motives.

So he didn't protest when she rubbed his aching neck and shoulders as he stepped back to view his work; just tilted his head back towards her and sighed.

"This is beautiful," she murmured, looking past him to the painting. "How do you do it?"

"By loving the original," Neal said. He moved stiffly, gulping water down his parched throat as he sat again. "The painting's done. I need to let it dry, and then I'll bake it."

"You should get some sleep," Rebecca told him. She carded her fingers in his hair. "You're exhausted."

"Yeah," Neal agreed. Now that he was off his feet he felt too tired to move again. It was always hard for him to get out of the zone and take proper breaks when he was working on a painting, and with no way to keep track of time he had clearly been even worse than usual. He let his head lean against Rebecca's hand.

"Come on, bed." Rebecca pulled on his arm, until he had no choice but to get up. He groaned protestingly and made his way someone clumsily into the bedroom, where he threw himself into the bed still fully clothed.

Rebecca's hands pulled the covers up over him. "Goodnight," she whispered, and he felt the light press of her lips to his cheek.

"Goodnight," he whispered back, not opening his eyes.

~

It was a success. Rebecca, having already lined up a buyer, managed to sell the stolen Rembrandt a whole two days before the theft was realised.

Neal, listening to her talk, managed to share in the exhilaration. Rebecca, of course, noticed his animation. "I knew you still enjoyed the criminal life," she said. "You could never really have gone straight, could you?"

"I could have," Neal protested, but Rebecca just smiled indulgently. It's sweet how you actually believe that, her expression said.

Neal scowled, abruptly irritable.

"Don't be like that," Rebecca said. She sighed. "You know, I loved watching you paint. You were so absorbed in it."

"It's what I love doing," Neal said. "I miss it." After finishing the forgery he'd woken to find that all the art supplies had been removed, as if they had never been there at all. All that had been left was the canvas itself, and the oven for him to age it in. And she'd since taken that too, wheeling it out on its stand.

"I could see that in your face," Rebecca said. She tapped her fingertips on the table. "Would you like to do more? If it would make you happy…"

"Yes!" Neal interrupted. "Please." He worried, instantly, whether this would now count as him working for Rebecca voluntarily, but it seemed a very academic concern while he was locked inside a room. And he was so bored.

She looked speculative. "Actually, it would solve both your worries. You'd have something to entertain you, and it can be a way for you to pay back the diamond you lost me."

He would probably have said yes even if she'd decided to make him swap food for paints. "That sounds fair," he agreed, before she could change her mind.

And he got his paints back. Rebecca sat on the couch with him for a while as they discussed what jobs to go for, her shoulder brushing his. "You need another shave," she commented.

Neal touched his chin. "Mmm." This would be the fourth time she had shaved him, and the first time he didn't feel any actual revulsion at the idea. Just resignation.

She did shave him again after she'd brought him the first set of reference materials he needed. Neal tried to keep the images in his mind's eye, but it was difficult with Rebecca leaning so close to him, her eyes fixed on him in deep concentration. When she had finished she again checked the smoothness of her work with her fingertips, letting them glide along his jaw. He didn't look away.

"Will you paint me?" she asked.

Neal was taken aback — that hadn't at all been what he'd been expecting to hear. "Why?"

"I want to see what I look like through your eyes," she said.

He raised his brows. "What if you don't like it?"

She held his gaze. "I doubt that. But I'll take my chances."

She was very close. Neal swallowed. "Alright," he said. "I'll do this forgery first, and then you."

~

This time she didn't watch him work on the Matisse. And Neal, hoping that she wouldn't recognise them, twisted his brushstrokes to suggest symbols from the codex. It was dangerous — not least because this was a forgery that Rebecca would fence as the original piece, and alterations could result in the sale falling through if they were discovered.

But he had to try. Because the alternative was to spend the rest of his life in this room with Rebecca for his only company. Even though it was becoming harder and harder to picture the outside world, he tried to cling to it. Working in the office with Peter. Drinking wine with Mozzie. Watching movies with June. Even though it was growing difficult to remember he should be hating and fearing Rebecca, he couldn't forget these things.

Painting her, though, pushed everything else aside. She was wearing a simple white blouse when she came in. "Where do you want me?" she asked.

"Just here." Neal positioned her on one of the straight-backed chairs and retreated behind the easel. "Lift your chin… and turn your head to the left. A little more. Can you hold still like that?"

"For you," she said, and the little smile that she gave him lingered on her lips.

And Rebecca was beautiful. Neal had always known that, of course, but he rediscovered it with each line he sketched — the fall of her hair, the curve of her neck…

He didn't paint from life often. And producing a portrait of someone while they sat, just for you, was so… so intimate that he did it rarely. For people he cared deeply about.

And Rebecca, now.

When he finally let her see her portrait she exclaimed in delight, and let her hand snake around his back as he put the finishing touches on. "It's amazing," she said. "Thank you so much." She bent and gave him a gentle, hesitant kiss on his cheek.

He didn't pull away. And the second kiss she gave him was at the corner of his mouth, only just touching his lips.

~

There were more forgeries. A stock certificate one of Rebecca's contacts wanted. Paintings to replace ones stolen. Neal was allowed to keep the easel and paints in his living quarters now, and he was happy to keep working.

He kept putting codex symbols into them, now that the first ones had remained undiscovered. He wasn't even sure why, exactly — for all he knew they would never be noticed. Rebecca might even be lying to him about using his forgeries for anything at all, but they gave a shape and a purpose to his days and that was most of what mattered.

He painted her again. Didn't protest how freely she moved within his personal space now; how often she touched him.

All her dark hair dye had long since washed out. Neal was working in chalks today, and he blended marigold and ochre and terracotta with the pad of his thumb.

And then an electronic wailing split the air and he jerked, smudging an orange blur across the pencilled lines of Rebecca's face.

Rebecca shot up from her chair. She pulled open the door, and the sounds of many crashing feet could be heard from elsewhere in the building. "Neal," she said, and grabbed his arm. "We need to go."

He let her pull him out of the room. Daylight stabbed in through windows, and startled him with its brightness. More space than he'd seen in… how long?

She paused to grab something from a dresser, and then hustled Neal quickly down a hallway.

"Stop! FBI!"

The black-clad agents were at their heels, and more surged from the other doorway in the large room they'd ended up in.

"Stay back," Rebecca said. She had a gun, suddenly, and the SWAT team halted as she swung it in a slow arc. "Stay back." Her other hand was tight around Neal's arm.

"Rachel Turner!" There was a blank moment when Neal thought, who? and then he remembered, just as a familiar figure pushed his way through to the front. "Neal."

Peter looked — But no, Neal couldn't sum up a coherent reaction. His thoughts kept skittering back to, Peter. And Peter's wide eyes kept flicking to Neal, a raw desperation in them that he was keeping out of the rest of his face and his voice.

"There's no way out, Rachel," Peter said, calmly. "Let Neal go."

"Don't shoot," Neal said, numbly. There were a lot of guns aimed at them. At him. At Rebecca.

"Nobody's getting shot today," Peter said, calmly. He was thinner; that was it. Gaunt.

Rebecca pulled Neal very slightly closer. "We can get away," she whispered, into his ear.

"Rachel," Peter said, and there was more of an edge to his voice now. His gun barrel was squarely trained on her, and there was a muscle twitching in his jaw.

Neal realised, in a rush, that Peter wanted to pull the trigger.

"Don't shoot her," he repeated. "She hasn't — she hasn't hurt me."

"Okay," Peter said. "It's all right. Rachel, give yourself up and you'll be fine."

The slight twitch in the muscles of her hand in the direction of the wide French windows behind them alerted Neal to what she was about to do. And he could see the sequence of events — bullets, glass splintering, blood.

So he was the one to move instead, twisting abruptly so that he was between her and the window.

"What are you doing?" she hissed.

"Don't do it," Neal pleaded. "Not like that. They'll kill you… please…"

No one was moving, because her gun was trained on him now. "Get out of my way," she said.

Neal shook his head. "I don't want you to get hurt."

"I'll shoot you."

"No," he said. Because he didn't want to care about her but he did; she had done such a good job after all of getting inside his head and making him, in the end, reciprocate her feelings of his own free will… "Rebecca, I care about you."

Something flashed behind her eyes. "I don't," she said, and shot him.

~

Chapter One | Chapter Three

~

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/117979.html with comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
 
Vanae: Reviewvanae on February 20th, 2014 07:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, Neal...

Stopping there makes you kind of evil, you know. Enjoying the story and looking forward to the final part! :)
Frith: Neal+Peter 1frith_in_thorns on February 20th, 2014 07:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, I totally know I'm evil :D

Thank you so much!
kanarek13kanarek13 on February 20th, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC)
OMG, this chapter is simply exquisite ♥ It's disturbing and creepy and it just makes me keep chanting yes, yes, yes because Rachel is soooooo evil and I love it *hides :P*

Poor Neal, awww... He was so trying to be defiant and not give in, and I'm still in shock how Rachel was still able to manipulate him, to break him in the end with such a surgical precision *shudders*

I'm just so happy there was still enough fight left in him to reach out to Peter through the paintings, that was amazing. And most importantly, it worked!

But seriously, poor Peter, he finally found Neal only to witness him getting shot, awwww.

This is such an evil cliffie, perfect for the story, heee :D

I LOVE THIS! But you already know that \o/
Frith: Diana 1frith_in_thorns on February 21st, 2014 02:03 am (UTC)
Awww, thank you! :D This was the chapter I was least confident about, in regards to the stuff with Rachel working, so I'm really happy that you liked it! ♥ It was really interesting to think about how to write her keeping Neal prisoner.

And I'm really cruel to both of them in this fic, yep *gg*

Thank you so much, again! :D
micehell: neal gaggedmicehell on February 20th, 2014 08:00 pm (UTC)
Ooh, another good chapter! :) Though more cliffhanger-ish this time, darn your hide... ah, well, I suppose I can wait patiently for the end (considering I have no choice and all). ;)
Frith: Neal 1frith_in_thorns on February 21st, 2014 02:04 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! :D I'll be posting the last chapter on Saturday :)
ocmissocmiss on February 20th, 2014 09:07 pm (UTC)
Um, oh, what ?!
Really didn't expect that, from the beginning of the kidnap set up, to Rebecca shooting him. This is very original, can't wait for the 3rd part :)
Frith: Neal 2frith_in_thorns on February 21st, 2014 02:05 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm happy I managed to surprise you :D
caseyf123 on February 20th, 2014 11:14 pm (UTC)
Relentless As The Rain
OK, so I wasn't expecting that. I hate that she was able to control Neal so well (Yes, I know drugs are an evil witches' best friend) and actually make him care for her. Thank goodness he still maintained the where-with-all to signal Peter through his paintings. Really looking forward to the next chapter to see what grand scheme she had in her evil little head to be able to shoot Neal in so cold-hearted a manner. And poor Peter.............Nice job! (I'm trusting Neal is going to be OK)
Frith: Neal 2frith_in_thorns on February 21st, 2014 02:15 am (UTC)
Re: Relentless As The Rain
Thank you very much! :) I'm really happy you're enjoying reading -- Rachel is a great baddie, and very fun to write!
calis_1stcalis_1st on February 20th, 2014 11:32 pm (UTC)
Neal's actions are so understandable. Survival would certainly trump pride. I love that, in spite of the constant drugging, he's still able to plot a way to reach out to Peter.

Groaning at the last scene, though. Last chapter soon, please?
Frith: Neal+Peter 2frith_in_thorns on February 21st, 2014 02:20 am (UTC)
Last chapter Saturday :)

And thank you very much! I'm especially happy that Neal's actions felt in-character to you. (Sorry about the cliffhanger :P)
(Anonymous) on February 20th, 2014 11:55 pm (UTC)
I love this. The way she manipulated him into caring, the way Neal slowly gave in (yet, still managed to put symbols into his paintings for Peter to find even if his heart wasn't in it), even the way the cliffhanger works with the way this chapter was told (even if it is a very evil cliffhanger and I want more, now. Please?).
I've already read it twice...once here and once on AO3...and it's only been an hour...
Frith: Lovefrith_in_thorns on February 21st, 2014 02:37 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! ♥ I'm really happy that you enjoyed this chapter -- out of the three, it's definitely the one I was least sure of how well it worked :) It was really interesting to think about and write Neal's captivity.

I hope you enjoy the conclusion! :)
ultracapeultracape on February 21st, 2014 12:30 am (UTC)
Rebecca is truly one of the evilist villians we've seen. WOW. What she has done to Neal is going to take some major comfort to help him deal with it.
Frith: Neal 1frith_in_thorns on February 21st, 2014 02:39 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! Yeah, Rachel/Rebecca is a fantastic villain, and really fun to write. And Neal is DEFINITELY going to need a lot of time to heal from her.
joy2190joy2190 on February 21st, 2014 02:56 am (UTC)
For goodness sake, don't keep us waiting, such a cliffhanger
Frith: Diana 1frith_in_thorns on February 22nd, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
Sorry! :D But I'm really glad you're enjoying this!
hurinhousehurinhouse on February 21st, 2014 04:48 am (UTC)
omg how long do we have to wait for the rest!?

the way he knew that he shouldn't trust her but just couldn't help himself was intriguing. and here mozzie was worried about Stockholm syndrome with the suit. ;)

I hope the fbi isn't going to blame neal since he was trying to save her.
Frith: Neal+Peter 2frith_in_thorns on February 22nd, 2014 12:34 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! It was really interesting writing Neal and Rachel in this. I'll post the last chapter tomorrow :)
pipiljpipilj on February 21st, 2014 07:19 am (UTC)
Love how manipulative Rachael was - drugging Neal, making him totally dependent on her, she seems to be living of a fantasy she has created.
Neal gradually slipping in little clues that he is alive.
The evil cliffhanger :D u given us something to look fwd to. The art work for your story is spectacular
Frith: Lovefrith_in_thorns on February 22nd, 2014 12:37 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! And I'm especially glad you enjoyed Rachel here :)

The art is totally fantastic, I definitely agree! :D
sapphire2309sapphire2309 on February 21st, 2014 12:20 pm (UTC)
OMG.

I thought the first part yesterday was soul destroying, but well, if that was soul destroying that what was this?

Loved it so much. Love this evil Rebecca, love Neal's thoughts, love everything.

This is so amazing and so scary and I love it.
Frith: Neal+Peter 1frith_in_thorns on February 22nd, 2014 12:39 am (UTC)
This is totally the fic where I just break everyone :D And I'm really happy that you're enjoying it -- thank you so much! <3
robingal1: Internet loverobingal1 on February 21st, 2014 07:27 pm (UTC)
oh my goodness! I did not see that coming!
this is so emotional and exciting!
great job.
Frith: Diana 1frith_in_thorns on February 22nd, 2014 12:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! :D
Jasmine: Neal in shadowreve_silencieux on February 22nd, 2014 11:19 pm (UTC)
Catching up on comments again! I was so anxious for this part. You really twisted the screws a lot didn't you? Poor Neal, having to give in, and then falling for her again. I choose to believe it was part Stockholm Syndrome and part drugs. He was too angry to love her again. But thankfully he still tried to get word out. I wasn't expecting Peter to barge in this chapter, and OMG! Peter's going to be a mess after this. Personally, I hope he put one in her. Forget prison. That's too good for her.

Can't wait for the final chapter.
Frith: Neal+Peter 2frith_in_thorns on March 4th, 2014 01:32 am (UTC)
This fic was totally an exercise in emotionally breaking both Neal and Peter, it is very true XD And I also REALLY enjoyed writing Rachel. She's so wonderfully clever and remorseful about getting what she wants. Thank you again for commenting! :D
eldoraheldorah on March 1st, 2014 06:42 am (UTC)
Wow, you write Rachel so well. Just.. wow. This was captivating. On to the next chapter!

ETA: Sorry for the non-sensical comments on this and chapter one, you had me all caught up in all of the emotions... I couldn't come up with anything intelligent besides "I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS". =)

Edited at 2014-03-01 07:15 am (UTC)
Frith: Neal 1frith_in_thorns on March 4th, 2014 01:34 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D

I really enjoyed writing Rachel! She's so refreshingly evil and ruthless and unremorseful. (Poor Neal!)