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03 March 2012 @ 02:29 am
[fic: white collar] Splinter  
Title: Splinter
Characters/Pairing: Neal, Mozzie; Gen
Genre/Rating: Angst; PG-13
Word count: 2000
Warnings: SPOILERS for the finale, 3x16
Notes: Beta'd and encouraged by helle_d. Um, this is pretty much *all the angst* ever. I felt the need to get it out of my system.

Summary: Neal could find a healthy and responsible way to cope with what had just happened. Or, he could find somewhere to get drunk.

- o -

There's one plane, and then another, and by the time they touch down in Athens Neal's head has mostly stopped spinning under the pressure of everything he's trying not to think about, and he's just feeling empty. He gets through Customs on autopilot and lets Mozzie hail the cab to the hotel he'd booked during the stopover. The driver pegs them for rich tourists and overcharges: Mozzie doesn't seem to care and Neal certainly doesn't.

The hotel Moz has chosen is overdecorated in the worst taste money can buy. Neal dumps his bag on his bed and quirks a smile at the faux-classical pillars in each corner of the suite and the heavy curtains.

"I knew you'd like this place," Mozzie says. "It's for the sort of people who want an Authentic Greek Experience without any of the messy authenticity. A fitting metaphor for culture's inevitable decay."

"Hmm," Neal says. "Does it have a bar?"

"I can already tell that in the morning you'll wish I refused to divulge that." Mozzie sighed. "Yes, it has a bar. Do you want me to join you?"

Neal considers it. It would probably be sensible. But Mozzie's practically vibrating with excitement at being free, even if he's doing his best to hide it for Neal's sake. This is his payoff, finally, his Last Score. And right now Neal can't bear that, even if he's framing it to himself as not wanting to bring Mozzie down.

He'd love to be selfless right now. He'd love to be able to mitigate the knowledge in him that he ran to save his own skin and left Peter to face the consequences with his career on the line.

Failing that, he'll settle for getting wasted.

"I'd like to be alone," he says, and Mozzie sighs again before pulling a wad of euros out of his pocket and peeling several high-denomination notes off.

"Don't get into too much trouble," he says, which somehow has so many shades of Peter in it that Neal can't think of a reply. He just nods and walks out.

The bar is playing Brit-pop and is decorated with frescoes of nubile young Ancient Grecians lounging in front of postcard attractions. Neal has no expectation that his lack of Greek will be a problem, and, sure enough, the bartender is ex-pat English. He orders scotch.

"Let me guess," the bartender says, after he's downed his second double, "Relationship trouble?"

Neal chuckles, somewhat wryly. "You could say that," he allows. It certainly rolls off the tongue better than, say, I've fled to another continent and left my entire life and my partner behind me and I didn't even get to say goodbye. Which, come to think of it, definitely sounds like relationship trouble.

"Want to talk about it? Name's Joe, by the way."

"Nick," Neal says, automatically. He hasn't eaten for hours other than the plastic-tasting mid-flight snack, and the alcohol is already beginning to hit him hard. "And it's — complicated."

"Aren't they all," Joe agrees, an easy familiarity with this exact conversation apparent. "What's her name? Or —" he gives Neal a once-over — "His name?"

Neal laughs again — he can't help it, imagining this breadcrumb being picked up by one of the agencies who are without a doubt already attempting to trail him. "Peter," he says, and finds himself blinking rapidly, his vision momentarily blurred. Because. Peter.

Joe sees his changing expression and pours another refill without being asked. "This one's on the house," he says, and turns to serve another patron.

Neal nurses his glass, grateful for the raw burn of the alcohol in his throat. It's hitting him now. No Peter, probably never again. No Elizabeth, or Sara, or Diana, or June, or Clinton. No stakeouts, swapping stories in the early hours of the morning, or bickering in the van, or hanging out in a bar, or the adrenaline high of slotting the last vital puzzle pieces of a case together.

Mozzie would remind him there will be substitutes, ones which he'd think even better. The thrill of pulling off a perfectly-planned heist, say. But he'd be wrong. It won't be the same. It will never, never be the same.

A thought slams into him with the force of a freight train, and Neal almost drops his glass. He catches it at the last second but it still bangs against the counter-top.

"Hey," Joe says, "You alright?"

Neal nods, slowly. "Yeah," he says. "I just… realised something."

Peter wanted him to run. Peter wanted him to run because Kramer had been there to take Neal into his custody, and he had decided this was the better option. Which meant. Peter was trusting Neal to be free, and unmonitored, and away from any responsibility or control.

And that. Isn't that the heaviest responsibility Peter could have chained him with? Neal grinds the heel of his hand into his forehead, but it's hard to find clarity of thought — entirely his own fault of course. There won't be any heists. There will be as little law-breaking as he can get Moz to agree to. Because Peter is trusting him, and even if he never sees Peter again he doesn't want to let him down. His chest constricts at the very thought, and his eyes sting.

He's not accustomed to putting stock into epiphanies found at the bottom of uncounted glasses. Well, he didn't want to find any, not tonight, but forgetting is apparently beyond reach (and there'll be other nights for that — he can tell himself that this is a one-time thing, but he's too adept at spotting lies to be able to believe it). This epiphany, though. He laughs, bitterly, because compared to the binding weight of Peter's unenforceable trust the anklet was only ever a sham, like bars made of smoke and cobwebs.

His glass is empty again. Neal looks up questioningly, but this time Joe shakes his head. "I think you've had enough, Nick," he says. "You have a room here, or do you want me to call you a taxi?"

"Here," Neal says, his voice thick. "Night."

"Night," Joe says. "Hey, maybe you and this Peter bloke'll be able to work it out. You never know."

"Yeah," Neal agrees, and is disconcerted by how much the room spins once his feet are on the floor. He hadn't realised until this instant quite how drunk he'd been getting, but it's very much too late to mourn his lack of moderation.

At least the elevator is right outside the bar. Neal stares at his multiplied reflection in the mirrored walls. He doesn't look like himself, which isn't all that surprising. He isn't sure who he is now, who he's supposed to be.

At the sight of him Mozzie raises his eyebrows so high they'd be in danger of disappearing into his hairline if he had one. "In the morning I'm going to feel totally justified in saying, I told you so, as many times as I feel like," he warns.

"'f you say so," Neal says, and collapses onto the nearest chair.

"I do say so. Also, your self-medicating doesn't seem to have worked — you look even more depressed than you did when you went out."

Neal groans and leans forward so that he can fold his arms across his knees and lay his head on his arms.

Mozzie bats his shoulder. "What?" Neal mumbles.

"Water. Here. Drink it."

Neal lifts his head and squints blearily, until Mozzie physically pushes the full glass of water into Neal's hand. "Jesus," he mutters. "You're totally wasted."

"Was kinda the point." He's slurring pretty badly, he knows. The water is hard to swallow but Moz glares at him every time he tries to stop.

"I wasn't expecting you to — oh, never mind, you aren't paying attention anyway."

Neal shrugs, and attempts to stand. It doesn't go so well.

"You see?" Mozzie says, looking down at the carpet, where Neal's trying to collect bits of his uncoordinated body together. "This is exactly what I'm talking about. You don't do this."

"Why'd you care?" Neal mumbles, and groans again. Perhaps he'll just lie down here.

"You even have to ask that?" Mozzie demands. He sounds offended now.

Neal closes his eyes. "Sorry."

"Yes, well, I should hope so. Believe it or not, I didn't much want to leave New York either. You're not the only one with people to miss, you know."

"Moz, 'm sorry."

"Besides," Mozzie says. "What sort of person do you think I am to not care about whatever it is you're doing to yourself?"

Neal struggles up onto his elbows. It's another not-so-wonderful idea, as he realises when the room starts spinning very fast.

"Oh, for — you've gone green," Mozzie accuses. He sounds less than pleased, but he's a solid support for Neal to lean on as he stumbles into the bathroom, the back of his hand pressed firmly over his mouth, and leans miserably over the toilet.

Even the uncomfortably hard floor beneath his knees isn't enough to make him want to move once he's finished being sick. He leans his aching head against the cold tiled wall.

Mozzie hands him another glass of water, and crouches down on the floor beside him. "Looks like I don't even have to wait until morning to start on the told-you-so," he remarks.

Neal groans, because it's perfectly true. He rinses out his mouth, and then sips the water slowly. He's still nowhere near sober, which is probably a blessing right now.

"I would give you some painkillers, but I'm not sure your stomach will like them."

Neal groans again. "Thanks, Moz." He gestures, his hand waving vaguely to encompass the fact that it's some ridiculous hour of the morning and he's puking up his guts in a hotel bathroom and Mozzie is staying with him instead of following his natural inclination and getting as far away as possible. Thanks is a bit underwhelming, really.

"I hate to think what the Suit would say right now," Mozzie mutters darkly, and that's it, that's it, Neal's actually crying now. He tries to stop because this is as low and undignified as he's ever been, still wearing one of his favourite suits, drunk and with the stale taste of vomit and alcohol in his mouth, and smearing tears across his face with the back of his hand in a fruitless bid to stop them flowing.

"Neal," Mozzie says. "Neal, come on, don't do this."

Neal looks at him helplessly. "Not like I want to."

"Yes, well, obviously." Mozzie stares back at him just as helplessly for a minute. "Look, come on, you should go to bed. You'll feel better in the morning."

"First day of the rest of my life, huh?"

"If you enjoy sounding like a Hallmark card, sure. At least it'll be better than sitting here."

"S'pose." Neal uses the sink to pull himself unsteadily to his feet. In the mirror he looks dreadful, his face grey-hued and sheened with sweat. He takes a washcloth and wipes his face with cold water, which makes him feel a little better.

Mozzie helps again with his wavering balance. While Neal clumsily changes into a teeshirt and a pair of pyjama pants he disappears and returns with a lined trash can, more water, and several aspirin, all of which he sets up within easy reach. "Thanks," Neal mumbles, and all but falls into the bed.

"You're welcome," Mozzie says, and continues to hover. "You are my best friend, you know, questionable life choices and all."

Well, he's certainly made a major life choice which Moz is definitely going to find questionable. Probably best to leave explaining why he needs to stay on the straight and narrow until the morning, though. Neal's sceptical of his ability to verbalise things right now, particularly something as confused and complicated and unexpected as this obligation he now owes to Peter.

"You're a good friend," Neal says.

"You say that like it isn't obvious," Mozzie responds, and turns down the lights.

And Neal smiles as he falls asleep, despite everything, because not everything's been left behind, after all. And maybe, maybe, he'll find a way to get the rest back. A pipe-dream, perhaps, but he's always needed something to hope for, something which he isn't allowed to have.

It's not like it's ever stopped him before.

- o -

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/45791.html with comment count unavailable comments.
Current Music: Joshua Radin - Winter
Winterwinterstar95 on March 3rd, 2012 03:17 am (UTC)
Soul wrenching, beautiful and now I am going to crawl into a dark corner until summer.
pooh_collector on March 3rd, 2012 06:06 am (UTC)
I'm right behind you.
(no subject) - rabidchild on March 3rd, 2012 11:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - frith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 02:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ktrn_lucas88 on March 3rd, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pooh_collector on March 3rd, 2012 05:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - frith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 02:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Neal hatsholio on March 3rd, 2012 03:22 am (UTC)
Because Peter is trusting him, and even if he never sees Peter again he doesn't want to let him down.


This is lovely, utterly heartwrenching, and rings perfectly true to the characters. I think it's my favorite episode tag so far, full of details that make it feel real, and wonderful depth of emotion. Neal crying in the bathroom brought tears to my eyes, and I love Mozzie staying with him through all of that and telling him that he's his best friend. This was just completely wonderful, exactly the catharsis that I needed after the finale, too.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - worried shirtfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
Eee! Thank you! I was trying to work on some more upbeat sort of tags, but I realised that I really did need to get this out of my system first -- it was quite cathartic to write. I'm really glad the characters read as themselves in this, I was definitely concerned about tipping Neal especially over into OOC. Thank you very much! ♥
kriadydragonkriadydragon on March 3rd, 2012 04:06 am (UTC)
That was excellent. I loved Neal coming to the epiphany of Peter trusting him to be free, then finally letting the tears fall and finding something to hope for.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - passportfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm really glad you liked this -- I was a bit worried about the angst being too overwhelming!
Rumrouzrumrouz on March 3rd, 2012 05:47 am (UTC)
Because Peter is trusting him, and even if he never sees Peter again he doesn't want to let him down.

This is so touching Poor Neal

Edited at 2012-03-03 05:47 am (UTC)
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - walk wallsfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I felt so sorry for Neal at the end of the episode...
pipiljpipilj on March 3rd, 2012 05:54 am (UTC)
This was beautiful. Felt so sorry for Neal. Mozzie being a great non judgemental friend.

Edited at 2012-03-03 05:55 am (UTC)
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - blindsfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm glad you liked Mozzie here, he was fun. I was rather mean to poor Neal! *gg*
pooh_collector on March 3rd, 2012 06:09 am (UTC)
That was really lovely. Neal's epiphany about Peter was great and so dead on.

I love how this show has twisted and turned on the issue of trust since day one and this was a great homage to that.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile hatfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I really like the theme of trust running through the show. I'm very happy it worked in this fic, thank you! :D
oh these heroes come and go;: [wc] that's what i said;;micheleeeex on March 3rd, 2012 06:33 am (UTC)
I love this - poor Neal ;__;
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - tramfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 06:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you! *hugs him*
merlenhiver: Neal/Petermerlenhiver on March 3rd, 2012 06:57 am (UTC)
Oh wow, this is so perfect! Exactly what I imagine Neal's emotional state to be like after the finale. <3

compared to the binding weight of Peter's unenforceable trust the anklet was only ever a sham, like bars made of smoke and cobwebs.

THIS. Peter took a hell of a leap of faith, and I can't wait for Neal to prove him right!
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 06:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I kind of felt there would have to be SO MUCH angst for the characters, being left in that situation! I'm really happy you enjoyed this :)
RabidChild's Ficrabidchild on March 3rd, 2012 11:16 am (UTC)
Love, love, love this. I have no doubts that Neal'd get wasted the first chance he gets-what a great observation.

And this: compared to the binding weight of Peter's unenforceable trust the anklet was only ever a sham

What a line! Poor Neal, he never had a chance to go straight, but now he's going to try.

Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - tramfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 07:04 pm (UTC)
Eee, thank you very much! I really couldn't see Neal doing anything else immediately following the end of the episode. And yesterday seemed like a good day to write massive angst. :P
I really hope Neal does try to go straight now! (In a manner of speaking :P) I'm looking forward to loads of tags to fill the long time until summer...
helle_d: stylehelle_d on March 3rd, 2012 01:18 pm (UTC)
Ooh, the ending! That wraps it up very nicely as a digestif to the the ~angst~. Oh, Neal.
Frith: White Collar - Diana - mugfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
Yay, glad you liked it! I actually went to bed where I finished it, and then I got up again to post it because I knew in the morning I'd be like "wtf is ALL THIS ANGST, don't post that" XD
And thank you for your helpful comments! :D Neal needs so many hugs now...
F# A# ∞: general: better than iconssoteriophobe on March 3rd, 2012 01:38 pm (UTC)
He laughs, bitterly, because compared to the binding weight of Peter's unenforceable trust the anklet was only ever a sham, like bars made of smoke and cobwebs.

Oh my gosh, this line is absolutely brilliant. It's so….true. Hell, I think even the anklet was only effective because it was a physical manifestation of Peter's trust.

Just….AWW. Neal. I love this fic so much, it made my heart hurt, and….dsjkdjskjk. Absolutely perfect. Thank you for writing this. <3
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile shirtfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 07:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! ♥ It's always seemed to me that Neal could have run at any point if he really wanted to, but he never did, and I think that was because of Peter.
I really wanted to give Neal all the hugs after the finale. Um, instead I was really really mean to him? *g* I'm really glad you enjoyed reading :)
(Anonymous) on March 3rd, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
Yes. All of this, exactly.
Beyond that, I have no words.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile hatfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much ♥
shakespeares-katektrn_lucas88 on March 3rd, 2012 06:20 pm (UTC)
This - was - AWESOME! I can just imagine Mozzie's face should Neal ever tell him about his alcohol induced epiphany concerning crimes.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - tramfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! Hah, I'm now picturing hung-over Neal trying to explain this to Mozzie and Moz being completely uninpressed :D
Sally M: white collar 1sallymn on March 3rd, 2012 11:07 pm (UTC)

I do so want to wrap him in hugs and give him karmic hangover cures (the heart goes out to both Neal and Peter SO MUCH...)
Frith: White Collar - Neal - paperfrith_in_thorns on March 3rd, 2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you! They all need *so many hugs* after the finale.
kcrenegadekcrenegade on March 4th, 2012 01:57 am (UTC)
This was so wonderful it reminded me how depressed I am after seeing the season finale for the third time (because, yes, that last scene... -rips heart out-)

Now I'll be over here, crying my eyes out. Until summer. When Neal is not so depressed and Peter and Elizabeth...and. and. -beings the crying-

Frith: White Collar - El - happyfrith_in_thorns on March 4th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
I knoooow, it gets sadder each time you watch it, because they're happy and you know what's coming...

And thank you, so much! ♥
(no subject) - kcrenegade on March 5th, 2012 12:07 am (UTC) (Expand)