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08 September 2012 @ 12:30 am
[fic: white collar] Old Dreams of Flight (1/?)  
I wasn't planning on posting two vaguely supernatural fics one after the other, but eh.

Title: Old Dreams of Flight (1/?)
Characters/Pairing: Neal, Peter; Gen
Genre/Rating: Wing!fic, h/c; pg
Word count: 1600
Warnings: None
Notes: So I started writing this for elrhiarhodan ages ago, but never finished it. Okay, so it's still not actually completed, but I didn't like the ending I had, so I chopped it off and will write a sequel to this instead.
Fills the "wings" square on my hc_bingo card.
Now with a gorgeous cover made by kanarek13!

Summary: Neal has a hidden ace up his sleeve, but things like that come with a cost.

- - -

Staring desperately up, Peter can see the distant figure of Neal teetering for balance on the very edge of the roof, trying to keep his footing on the rain-slick surface while dodging the faint pop of gunfire that Peter can only faintly hear. He makes an abortive gesture, like there's any possible way he can help from where he is on the ground, endlessly far below.

The tiny figure which is Neal trips back suddenly and flings out his arms, searching for some support, something to grab onto, but Peter can see, clear as lines of force on a diagram, that he's already passed some invisible point of no return. And there's nothing he can do. Nothing.

Neal tips, overbalances, falls.

He falls, tumbling down past storey after storey, and he screams something, wordless, lost to the wind, as Peter yells his name helplessly. But then —

Then, something, things, expand from Neal's shoulders, like a parachute, like wings. Which is — exactly what they are. Wings. Grey and gossamer. Neal stalls, slows, but he's still falling, and a second later he slams down hard onto the tarmac. Peter stands frozen to the spot, until he sees Neal push himself painfully to his knees, and it's only then that Peter starts running towards him.

"Neal!" Peter demands, because wings, but then he blinks and they're gone.

His team apprehend the bad guys, and Peter hovers anxiously while Neal gets checked out by a medic. Neither of them mention that he fell from the roof; Peter almost does and then realises how stupid, how unbelievable it sounds. And Neal hardly speaks at all. He seems dazed, and his responses are sluggish — but there's apparently no head injury. Or any other serious injury. Just some bruises and scrapes, the sort you'd expect from a fall of a fraction of the height.

And his shirt is all ripped up. Neal clutches a blanket proffered by the medic around him, and then his jacket. Cold, he says. The medic tells Peter it's mild shock, nothing serious.

"I just want to go home," Neal insists, when Peter shows signs of wanting to take him to the ER and have them check him over again. "I'm just… I'm really tired."

He does indeed seem exhausted,his face pale and drained, and he falls asleep with his head leaning against the car window. It takes Peter a while to get him up the stairs to his apartment, and Neal's taking almost none of his own weight by the time Peter finally manoeuvres him down onto the bed, slipping off his shoes and tie.

"You want to change?" Peter asks, almost casually.

Neal swallows. He looks suddenly more alert, and wary. Like a wild thing, about to take flight.

It's an unsettling metaphor.

Peter thinks that he should probably leave. Or at least, leave Neal alone. Go home, come up with a rational explanation. But he has to know; he pushes the jacket aside and begins to unbutton Neal's shirt. Neal watches him, saying nothing at all.

"Sit up, so you can get these off," Peter says, making it a suggestion. Neal quirks his mouth in a fleeting half-smile, and then does, using Peter's shoulder as support to pull him up.

The back of Neal's shirt is soaked with blood. Peter inhales quickly, hesitates.

"That's normal," Neal says, as if normal is a word that can or should be applied here. "Don't worry. Really."

"You're hurt," Peter says, horrified. But although Neal's hurt, he's not dead, not battered and broken by the tarmac and the relentless pressure of gravity.

"It's not as bad as it looks," Neal says. He shrugs slightly.

Peter peels away the blood-sticky cloth as carefully as he can . There are two long, parallel cuts running down the length of Neal's back. They've already stopped bleeding, it seems. "How —" he begins. And stops himself. "These should probably be cleaned."

Neal sighs slightly, and directs him to the first-aid supplies. He's lying down again by the time Peter returns with them, turned onto his side to present his back. He flinches a couple of times as Peter carefully cleans the wounds and then tapes gauze down over them. "They won't scar," he says, finally.

Peter hadn't known what to say, before then. "You have experience?"

Neal actually smiles. "Despite that terribly managed landing, yes."

He tucks this piece of information away for later — when he can tell Neal how glad he is that he has this extra ace up his sleeve, that he's a fraction further removed from the reckless crazy death which Peter is so terribly afraid will find him one day. "Does it hurt?" he asks. There are so many more questions he wants to ask, but this seems the most important one. Neal's face is still turned away from him, but it seems to be fatigue that's making him not change position, rather than a desire to ignore Peter.

"Not as much as you'd think," Neal says. "They heal quickly, anyway. It just takes it out of me, doing that."

"I can see that," Peter says. He eases the covers out from under Neal, tucks them over him gently. "Rest. You look like you need it."

"I'll tell you properly," Neal murmurs. "Promise."

Peter stays sitting there beside him, long after Neal has fallen asleep.

- - -

Neal dreams of silent flight through an empty city, glassy windows staring at him as he glides by. Air currents stream around him, sliding across his skin, but the wind is barely louder than a whisper.

Slowly, so slowly that he barely notices it at first, he is pulled downward. The knowledge of the earth below weighs in his mind like an anchor.

His descent is gradual but inevitable. He circles gently toward the deserted streets and sidewalks. At the very last moment fear grips him, cold and tight in his chest.

He wakes as his feet touch the ground.

- - -

"I stole them," Neal says, looking at his hands. His voice is soft.

"That's not the sort of thing you can steal," Peter says.

"Not the sort of thing I should have, either," Neal responds, and Peter doesn't know what to say to that. He thinks Neal has lost weight. It's been a week since — since he brought Neal home, and June had reported that Neal had stayed in bed for two days, mostly sleeping. She'd been concerned. Peter had had no idea what to tell her, so in the end had simply gone for I don't know what's wrong, let's give him some time.

The sky is grey, and they're sitting out on the balcony. Neal doesn't look up, but he's constantly making small unconscious movements. Like the breeze is swaying him this way and that as it shifts.

"So where did you steal them from?" Peter asks.

One corner of Neal's mouth turns up in a slight smile. "Not somewhere they'll be missed. Or, at least, they aren't the most valuable thing I took from that place."

"What was that?"

The rest of the smile follows. "Myself," Neal says, simply. He meets Peter's stare. Please don't ask me, his eyes implore, though his expression doesn't waver.

"You were hurt," Peter states, and although Neal tries to hide his shiver, he doesn't succeed.

"It was a long time ago. An old story." He tilts his face to catch the breeze.

"I'm here to listen, you know," Peter offers, cautiously. For a moment he thinks Neal is about to speak, but then he closes his mouth and shakes his head slightly. Peter sighs. "Neal, I want to help you." He tries for another route. "When you were falling — you couldn't do what you expected?"

There is deep pain in Neal's eyes. His smile slips away.

- - -

It's a little harder every time. A little more painful. It takes a little longer to recover afterwards. Neal meters out flight in breaths, heartbeats, wingbeats.

Every time it's a little harder, coming down to earth.

The last time he had flown was to break free from Keller, avoiding the men who had been watching to see that Neal didn't get away. But he had; he had tucked himself behind a statue high up under the roof of a cathedral, pressed between stone and stone, his face turned to the wall so that a glimpse of pale skin wouldn't give him away.

He had stayed up there all night, until Keller realised that he had slipped the trap. And the sky had called to him, up there; the ever-shifting wind, the clouds tearing and reforming. He had known, instinctively but with bone-deep certainty, that he could choose to fly up and up, vanish into the sky. Somehow. It wasn't a thing which had needed to be understood.

And yet, he hadn't. He told himself he still had plenty of time in which to decide. He could make his choice another day, continue to have both worlds for a little while longer, albeit walking slightly out of step with each.

The sky calls to him again, now. Sitting here with Peter he tries to ignore it, but it's very strong. Come back. Come back.

He has enough in him for one last flight upwards, but he looks at Peter, sees all the worry and care in his face, and thinks, I can wait a little longer.

There will be a reckoning, but not yet.

Not quite yet.

- - -

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/71714.html with comment count unavailable comments.
kanarek13kanarek13 on September 8th, 2012 12:27 am (UTC)
Oooooh \o/ A wing!fic ♥ Love it! Of course I do :D Now I wonder what Neal's story is, I hope he will decide to tell it to Peter :D And I love the whumpy part, that there is a price for having this gift and a reason for Peter to be worried and protective. I have a thing for worried and protective Peter :D

Definitely a WIN \o/ And I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment :D

Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - tablefrith_in_thorns on September 8th, 2012 12:45 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! :D You may have noticed that I also have a thing for worried and protective Peter ;P And I really like the trope of magic having a price you have to pay, so I'm glad you enjoyed that too :)
calis_1stcalis_1st on September 8th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
Oh, more, please. Not my usual kind of story but - this just pulled me in and I really, really want to find out the rest.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat greenfrith_in_thorns on September 8th, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I will hopefully have more soon :)
Winter: lovelyinbluewinterstar95 on September 8th, 2012 01:06 am (UTC)
Oh this is beautiful and bright with pain. And I love it!!!! Thanks so much for such a surprising story. More please.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - blue shirtfrith_in_thorns on September 9th, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I was quite surprised myself at how it turned, out; I just sort of... wrote it without any kind of plan. I'm glad you liked it! :D
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: White Collar - Neal b&wembroiderama on September 8th, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
This is gorgeous. I love how much the wings and the flying take out of Neal both physically and...emotionally or spiritually or whatever. I suspect that Peter is the perfect person to keep him connected to the ground. :)
Frithfrith_in_thorns on September 9th, 2012 02:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I do like the trope of magic or whatever powers that require a considerable cost from the person using them.
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Peter Neal soft filtersholio on September 8th, 2012 02:14 am (UTC)
Oh, this is absolutely gorgeous! Personally I think it stands just fine on its own -- it gives you hints without revealing the whole story, and the ending is evocative and lovely. It's a beautiful metaphor for the way that canon Neal is torn between two worlds, also.
RabidChild's Fic: Neal - fall from gracerabidchild on September 8th, 2012 08:36 am (UTC)
What she said! While I'd love a bit more explanation, I love the almost ethereal nature of this story. It's perfect on its own. Man, I love a wingfic!
(no subject) - frith_in_thorns on September 9th, 2012 02:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
oh these heroes come and go;micheleeeex on September 8th, 2012 03:09 am (UTC)
I love this! Can't wait for the next part!!
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on September 9th, 2012 02:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :D
daria234daria234 on September 8th, 2012 04:37 am (UTC)
I love this! I love how much they care but how other Neal is, and OF COURSE HE STOLE THEM!!! :)
Frithfrith_in_thorns on September 9th, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! Glad you liked Neal having stolen them :)
pipiljpipilj on September 8th, 2012 05:46 am (UTC)
Love this the pain Neal goes through before transformation is beautifully described. Peter being protective and worried without being judgmental is great.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - walk wallsfrith_in_thorns on September 9th, 2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! Peter would definitely prioritise Neal being okay above his curiosity, I think :)
saphirablue on September 8th, 2012 08:44 am (UTC)
♥ I love this! ♥

Neal's longing for the sky, wanting to fly, wanting to leave everything back on earth - perfect!

I love Peter being concerned and worried about and for Neal. ♥

Thank you! :)
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - tablefrith_in_thorns on September 16th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked how I wrote Neal here - I had a very clear picture in my head for him here, with a sky that calls. And, well, you know how much I like concerned&worried Peter :D Thanks again :)
leesa_perrie: Neal Windowleesa_perrie on September 8th, 2012 12:13 pm (UTC)
Okay, I don't normally go for wingfics much, but this one is just sooo good! I love worried Peter and angsty-whumped Neal! More please! :)

EDIT: Also, so much love that Neal stole them!! LOL! Of course he did!! :)

Edited at 2012-09-08 12:14 pm (UTC)
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - boysfrith_in_thorns on September 16th, 2012 03:16 pm (UTC)
(As with far too many times before, I really apologise for the slowness of replying!)

Thank you very much! I'm happy you liked the characters here :) And thank you, too, for taking a chance on reading this - I know this kind of story usually isn't your thing. ♥
hurinhousehurinhouse on September 8th, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC)
i love that it doesn't matter how much this scares the hell out of peter, he will be there for neal. and the one thing that keeps neal here is peter.

of course, i'm curious as to how he aquired the wings. for a moment i thought it would be that he stole them from the statues he was squeezed between, as though they were gargoyles.

great fic. will there be more?
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile hatfrith_in_thorns on September 16th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! And his capacity of caring is absolutely the thing I love the most about Peter's character :) I'm glad you enjoyed this! (And there will indeed be more!)
Paige Mpaiger1218 on September 8th, 2012 02:31 pm (UTC)
"Icarus is not a t-shirt or a swan song, no, he is born again"
Wow- not something I'd usually read but love it!!!
Frith: White Collar - Neal - blue shirtfrith_in_thorns on September 16th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
Re: "Icarus is not a t-shirt or a swan song, no, he is born again"
Thank you very much! :D Also, I love that quote in your subject line :)
florastuart: Nealflorastuart on September 8th, 2012 04:41 pm (UTC)
Ooooooooh! Oh, I love this - the images of flight are beautiful, and I love the uncertainty and foreshadowing at the end.

And I love Peter, trying to understand, wanting answers and wanting to protect Neal but also trying to give him space and not push too hard, and willing to just listen.

And I am very intrigued as to how he got the wings!
Frithfrith_in_thorns on September 16th, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I have no idea where this fic even came from, really, but I had such strong images in my head when I started writing it. Glad you enjoyed :)
elrhiarhodanelrhiarhodan on September 9th, 2012 02:56 pm (UTC)
This is absolutely gorgeous and I am stunned and delighted that you wrote it for me.

Friday and yesterday were crazy with the packing and the cleaning, so this is the first time I've been able to sit own and get a chance to thank you.

I love the imagery here. The pain - Neal's and Peter's - is palpable. And it's what you do so very, very well.

I can't wait for the next part.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on September 16th, 2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!! ♥ (And I am the LAST person to be talking about slow commenting right now, lol)

I'm really happy that you enjoyed this. When I started writing it I had no idea where it was going, but I had such strong images in my head that I had to get down. (And then I keep changing my mind and re-writing the next part...) Anyway, thank you again :)
love_82 on September 9th, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
I really like this! It is very beautiful and really pulls you in.

I like that it takes alot out of Neal to fly. I like the trope of magic and things like that having a cost to the person using them too. I love Peter being there for him and doing his best to help. I have a thing for protective Peter too. :)

And of course Neal stole the wings. :) I look forward to the next part and finding out Neal's story.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - knightfrith_in_thorns on September 16th, 2012 03:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! That trope has always been my favourite sort of magic, with there being a price and a reckoning.

I'm really glad you liked the characters here - I do think Peter would very clearly prioritise Neal's welfare over things that don't make sense to him. Thanks again! (And sorry for the slow reply - it is distressing not having a reliable source of internet!)