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03 July 2012 @ 11:30 pm
[fic: white collar] getting kind of cold  
I have a thing which I felt I should post before it gets jossed next week. I was holding onto it until I could find a way to conclude it, but I sort of really hate predicting canon, so... here's what I have. This is only posted to my journal for now because I'm not sure it really counts as a proper fic. And it was one of the ones that's easy to write, but hard to let other people read.

Anyway.


Title: getting kind of cold
Characters/Pairing: Neal, Mozzie; Gen
Word count: 1500
Warnings: depictions of depression
Notes: The title is from the song 'Landing In London' by 3 Doors Down. I think I can stretch a point and use this for the 'runaways' square on my hc_bingo card.

Summary: He's getting tired, now, but unsure exactly of what. Crowds. Travelling. Tired of places he'd been missing.

-

The air is clear and sharp. A dusky blue before the dawn; cloudless skies.

In front of him the world drops away, while behind and to either side dark pines cling to the mountain slopes. It's postcard-perfect, and without thinking he begins composing a message in his head to fit to it.

Dear Peter, I saw a marmot this morning. I haven't lied to anyone yet today…

He shakes his head, frustrated. Nothing good lies that way. Hasn't Mozzie told him that a hundred times, with almost-sincere conviction? Not that Mozzie's here to stop him, off in an entirely different country for a few days on some errand or job which Neal hadn't cared to know the details of. Or perhaps Mozzie had avoided telling him — he can't actually be sure, now that he thinks about it.

Neal keeps on walking, up the path. He hasn't slept, feeling uneasy and restless every time he tried to close his eyes. A walk is what he needs, to clear his head. He hasn't been using up enough energy lately.

The view is gorgeous. Like Paris, which he hadn't sent a postcard from either, or Barcelona, or any of the other places they've passed through.

He writes them in his head, though. Actually, in Paris he penned one out, then tore it up and scattered the pieces into the Seine. An artistic flourish; a melodramatic gesture; an attempt at catharsis. Not a successful one, but aren't you supposed to at least try?

He walks for hours, but can't outpace what's hanging over him.

-

Venice is beautiful in the autumn. Jewelled light through coloured glass, and water lapping against shaped stone.

Neal tries to appreciate it, he really does, but it's as if there's a barrier between it and him, like he's wrapped in cellophane, a cheap gift to be sold to tourists. He can't quite touch things, and they're not quite real.

Mozzie says, I thought you missed this place, and Neal nods and says that he's glad they came, it's lovely, and he makes some sketches of the Rialto when prompted.

One morning there's a breathtaking play of light on the lagoon, and he thinks he should want to paint it.

-

The world is very small, really. All those years of being pinned to one place, a butterfly on a specimen card, and now he can point to somewhere on the globe and be there in hours. It's surreal, almost a joke.

(He's still waiting to find the punchline.)

-

They fly to Kolkata, which is a wonderful whirl of colour, if somehow muted. Mozzie finds some old friends and goes off to con tourists — he chatters away to Neal about all the details, but, apart from the presence of the endlessly patient elephant, none of them really stick. It seems to make Mozzie excited, though, so Neal smiles and tries to pay attention.

Moz tries to get him to join in but Neal's not really interested, and anyway he manages to catch something which leaves him lying on his hotel bed for days, feverish and shaking, while Mozzie patiently leaves Neal bottles of water and food which doesn't get eaten and shows Neal photos of him sitting on the elephant's back.

The night that it's particularly bad, Neal wonders idly if he's going to die. He tries to summon up strong feelings one way or the other, but by morning his fever's broken and he still hasn't managed to care much.

He wanders through one of the markets a couple of days after that, still tired and weak. Colour everywhere, and noise. It seems to glide over him, around him, never quite touching.

-

Neal, are you okay? Mozzie asks, when they're on a plane again.

Neal nods, fine, knowing that it's too public for Mozzie to want to risk saying anything else.

He stares out of the window as the land shrinks away and all there is below them is the ocean, blue and vast, and he can't remember where they're going. Probably it's important, and probably he should care, but he doesn't.

A part of him is somewhere else, maybe. He'd never understood that expression, never being one to put down roots. But now he's been cut away and his roots left behind, and he hadn't realised quite how large a portion of him they had become.

-

Tokyo is even brighter and louder than New York, and there's something about the skyscrapers and endless stream of foot traffic which sets off a dull ache in his chest.

He's getting tired, now, but unsure exactly of what. Crowds. Travelling. Tired of places he'd been missing.

One of the days, while he's lying on his hotel bed and staring at the ceiling, he realises that Mozzie's probably arranging this tour through his favourite cities on purpose. For him.

Maybe the realisation should inspire him to get up and appreciate what's around him. Visit museums, art galleries, do some more sketching even if just for the form of it. But he's tired and everything is flat, not vibrant as his memories had been. As if freedom is souring it all.

-

Mozzie asks him, Where do you want to go? and Neal just shrugs, because his only answer is so obvious and impossible that there's no point in saying it.

Ironic, really. Now there's a radius keeping him out.

He wishes Mozzie would stop looking so worried.

-

He gets knifed on a dark London street by some skinhead who's drunk and looking for a fight. Neal leans against the rough brick of the closest wall and knows he should have been able to diffuse the situation.

It's dark, and raining, which he supposes is only to be expected, and as a result he can't see how badly he's bleeding. It had been a slash more than a stab, and with a completely sloppy technique, so he'll probably be okay. But moving from the support of the wall seems like a bad idea.

He doesn't remember dropping to his knees but the sidewalk is no colder than everything else. Raindrops fracture and fragment the glassy black puddles, distorting the reflections of the orange street lights.

Are you alright? someone says, and Neal doesn't answer. He wants to be left alone, that's all. Sir? the woman asks, more insistently, and Neal turns his head away, feels distantly the rain trickling down his face.

She stops talking to him, which is better. Everything is disjointed, but then it's been like that for a while. Snapshots. One place after another, continent and country and city, and lying on this street in the dark is just the latest one in the series.

He can't send a postcard from here. But if he's going to die he should probably let Peter know. Peter will probably want to know.

The rain increases, and it washes him away with it.

-

Neal wakes up in hospital, and there's a flickering jolt of disappointment that no one's there with him.

He's on a public ward, and after a while someone notices that he's awake. A nurse comes over but he can't remember if he even had an ID on him, never mind what it said, so when she starts to ask him questions he just closes his eyes and goes back to sleep.

Until he wakes up again and Mozzie's there, filling in paperwork for him, apparently sorting everything out. And then he's being discharged because it hadn't been very serious after all, just like he'd thought, he had lost a lot of blood but that's okay.

It's really not okay, Mozzie says as he helps Neal to his bed at the place where they're staying. Neal, what's going on with you?

Nothing, Neal says.

Mozzie makes a frustrated noise, but Neal has given him an honest answer. Nothing, nothing, nothing. He doesn't care what happens.

You're starting to scare me, Mozzie tells him.

Neal closes his eyes. Sorry. Or maybe he just thinks it.

-

This isn't where he breaks. No, it's where he realises that the break's already happened, that something's very wrong and he doesn't know how to fix it.

Belatedly, he remembers that he went through something like this in prison, both times, but hadn't recognised it. There, a routine was imposed on him. A timetable of when to eat and when to get up and when to go outside and that freed him from having to think, from having to do anything to deal with it. He just was and days drifted by in a blank haze until, eventually, he drifted somehow to the surface.

He can wait for that to happen again, he thinks.

All he's got is time.

-

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/65635.html with comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
 
Winter: bluesuitwinterstar95 on July 3rd, 2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
This has a quiet yearning that I wish we would see in the show, but know we will not. Thank you this lovely piece.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 08:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much.
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: White Collar - Neal b&wembroiderama on July 4th, 2012 12:51 am (UTC)
Oh, NEAL. This is so stark and so painful and lovely at the same time. It's excellent work, and I think you should post it wherever you want.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - blue shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I really had no idea whether this would work for other people or not - I'm very glad that it did :)
kriadydragonkriadydragon on July 4th, 2012 01:36 am (UTC)
Oh, wow. Poor Neal. All that freedom and yet not free at all. And I hear you about not wanting to predict canon. As much as I like reading what-might-be, writing it is a whole other animal that I rarely want anything to do with.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat greenfrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah - I think this is also why most of my fandoms have been procedurals, or at least ones where the status quo is pretty much maintained (like SGA). I don't like getting plot details wrong :P

And thank you very much.
F# A# ∞soteriophobe on July 4th, 2012 02:24 am (UTC)
Oh, I love this. It's so…simple, and understated, but so gorgeous and says so much. I think the conclusion is fine (perfect, actually).

Thank you for a lovely fic! <3
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 08:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much :) I wrote this in early May, actually, but I've only just worked up the nerve to post it :P I'm very, very happy that you enjoyed it.
robingal1: Internet loverobingal1 on July 4th, 2012 02:37 am (UTC)
That was tragically depressing yet so perfect.
I'm going to go watch kittens on youtube now; i need some cheering up.
Wow, hun! You've got skillz. ^_^
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile hatfrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 08:41 pm (UTC)
Sorry for being depressing! ;P And thank you very much :) :)
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Neal sidelightsholio on July 4th, 2012 03:24 am (UTC)
Ohhhh, Neal. This is lyrically beautiful despite the quietly bleak subject matter (I love the imagery of the different places he goes), and his state of mind is captured very well.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - worried shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much ♥ I really am very pleased you enjoyed this :)
pooh_collector on July 4th, 2012 03:53 am (UTC)
I've said this before I know, but Holy Hannah have you got a gift for description and imagery. So beautiful here.

And, the mood you set, stunning, sad, tired, hopeless.

I understand why it was hard to share this and thanks for doing so.
Frith: Writing - tea and bookfrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I find it helpful as well as productive to share my depression with fictional characters, but it's hard to know objectively whether the result is any good or not. So I'm rally glad that you enjoyed this, thank you again ♥
pipiljpipilj on July 4th, 2012 06:00 am (UTC)
Poor Neal, u captured his emotions and hopelessness beautifully.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat stepsfrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much :)
littlered2littlered2 on July 4th, 2012 09:38 am (UTC)
This evokes depression very well. Gorgeous writing.
Frith: Zundry - raining heartsfrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 09:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I find writing about depression helpful in dealing with it :)
Ellie Williamsmentalfirewall on July 4th, 2012 12:08 pm (UTC)
Wow. That's some powerful writing there. Thank you for posting it.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 09:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much ♥
leesa_perrie: Neal 2leesa_perrie on July 4th, 2012 12:25 pm (UTC)
Angst, lots of lovely angst! *hugs Neal tightly* This was lovely and painful and beautiful and... just perfect!
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat greenfrith_in_thorns on July 4th, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank you so much! :) :)
ladyrose42ladyrose42 on July 5th, 2012 02:30 am (UTC)
Was your mood music Peggy Lee's "is that all there is too life?". The listlessness and hopelessness of depression came thru all too clearly, and Neal's need to take the test given on National Depression Day. (Side note: a friend did, told to see someone today, and finally got help. Great to have her back) You made feel just like I was in Neal's mind with your descriptions and his POV. Why fanfic fills the void the reality of the show can't. Thanks!!
Frith: White Collar - Neal - worried shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 6th, 2012 02:01 am (UTC)
No, I haven't heard that music! I'll look it up when I next can :) I was playing "Landing in London" on repeat when I wrote this.

Thank you very much for your lovely comment! And I'm really glad that your friend has help. ♥
daria234daria234 on July 5th, 2012 03:03 am (UTC)
This is beautifully lyrical and sad, thanks.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on July 6th, 2012 02:02 am (UTC)
Thank you very much!
neontiger55 on July 5th, 2012 08:04 am (UTC)
This is really beautiful and insightful. That last line packs a punch ;)
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 6th, 2012 02:05 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really happy you liked this.
RabidChild's Ficrabidchild on July 5th, 2012 09:49 am (UTC)
This is simply beautiful. This line in particular captures the entire thing, and Neal's depression and loneliness:

A part of him is somewhere else, maybe. He'd never understood that expression, never being one to put down roots. But now he's been cut away and his roots left behind, and he hadn't realised quite how large a portion of him they had become.

Just: perfect.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile hatfrith_in_thorns on July 6th, 2012 02:10 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! ♥ I'm so glad that this fic worked.