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20 November 2012 @ 08:32 pm
[fic: white collar] Shadows  
This is one of those things I'm going to start worrying about having posted very soon. I wasn't really trying to write this; it just sort of... happened. May be OOC.

Title: Shadows
Characters/Pairing: Neal/El/(Peter)
Rating: T
Word count: 750
Warnings: Very oblique discussion of depression/SI
Notes: For the square "scars" on my hc_bingo card.

Summary: It's easier to share secrets in the dark.

- - -

Peter's breathing is low and quiet, occasionally hitching in a soft snuffle. It's still a new enough sound that Neal can't filter it out, but he doesn't mind. It's been too long since he lay beside someone under the safe warmth of a quilt and just listened to them sleep, safe in the gentle darkness.

There's a quiet creak from the door hinges, and Neal half sits up as he realises what must have woken him. "El?" he whispers.

"Hey." She doesn't go back to her side of the bed, slipping in next to him instead. He wraps his arms around her, and she nestles against him. "Mmm. You're warm."

"You're cold." He strokes his hands up and down her night-chilled arms, from her wrists to the thin strips of her nightgown and back again. She sighs happily, her breath humming against his skin like a cat's purr. It's a bit squashed for space, with Peter asleep right against Neal's back, but he doesn't mind. Not at all.

"This is nice," El whispers, echoing his thoughts.

"Yeah." He shifts a little, to get more comfortable, and keeps the fingers of one hand stroking gently over El's skin, learning the angles and curves of her arm and wrist, down to the palm of her hand.

That's how he finds them. Faint, straight imperfections which have been invisible to his eye. But his hands are more sensitive, his hands are what he trusts, and the movement of his fingers falters to a stop over those well-hidden lines.

She shivers. She doesn't speak, but the shiver runs through her whole body and into him.

He tries to move away, to pretend that nothing's happened, but she interlocks her fingers with his. "I'm sorry," she whispers.

"What for?" He was half asleep but he isn't now, even though Peter's breathing against him continues undisturbed.

"You weren't supposed to — I don't know. Never mind."

He wants to hold onto her more tightly. He wants to cry. "Why did…" He trails off.

"Does it matter?" She's facing away from him. Her eyes will be wide open, as his are, staring into the dark.

He's touching old ghosts. He can feel them, pressing in — but no, those belong to him. "I guess not," he whispers.

"I thought you might understand." No surprise in her soft voice. She curls close against him again, still tense. She is soft and warm and Neal is suddenly, startlingly aware of how much he loves her. It clenches his heart tight, like a vise.

"Does Peter know?" But Neal's already sure of the answer. This is something she would never have told Peter; so convinced he can save everyone from themselves if he only tries hard enough.

"It was a long time ago. It… doesn't matter now."

Neal knows the shape of that lie, the taste of it on his tongue. He hears an echo in his ears of Peter insisting that lying to someone won't protect them.

But it will. It will.

"I understand," he says, and El relaxes.

"I love you," she murmurs, barely above a breath.

"I love you, too." His voice is a little desperate. "El —"

"Shh." She slides her arm carefully out of the light hold of his fingers, and he moves at the same time, obscuring her actions from both of them as he reaches to pull the duvet further over them. He's cold now, too.

She's silent for so long that he thinks she's fallen back to sleep, but she speaks at last. "I didn't want you to know, either."

"You didn't want to remember."

"Yes." She breathes out a laugh. "Tell me you haven't done the same."

Neal presses his face into her hair. "I wouldn't lie to you."

A pause. "Yes, you would."

He smiles sadly, but any words of contradiction would be hollow. "Sometimes… some things are too important."

"Do you mean the truth, or the lies?"

He has to consider that, searching for what's honest here. "Both, I guess."

"If you need to talk," she whispers, "I'll listen. To whatever you want to say."

"Love you," he whispers again, which isn't an answer. And is. He holds her close, her skin smooth and warm and unbroken beneath his hands.

And they let Peter sleep on, his breaths rising and falling, undisturbed.

- - -

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/79045.html with comment count unavailable comments.
RabidChild's Fic: El & Neal - togetherrabidchild on November 20th, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
I honestly don't have words for this - so intimate and raw and quiet at the same time. I love the honesty you portray between them, the way they get each other in a way that Peter doesn't (and of course he gets them in ways the other doesn't). it's so much a part of human relationships, that different face we have depending on who we are with, and to see them sharing theirs with each other is beautiful. Thanks for writing this.
Frith: White Collar - El - hair upfrith_in_thorns on November 20th, 2012 10:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much ♥ Neal having a history with depression is now very much part of my head-canon (and for his mother, too). And I also see El relating, although I can't pinpoint why exactly I started feeling that. But it would definitely be something I don't think either would share with Peter. Again, thank you. (I was so nervous about posting this!)
theatregirl7299theatregirl7299 on November 20th, 2012 09:08 pm (UTC)

Wow. Very Powerful. I've always thought that Neal and Elizabeth have an interesting dynamic that revolves alot around Peter, and you've captured that perfectly.

Beautiful job.
Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on November 20th, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you, very much. I find Neal and El's potential interactions with each other really interesting - I'm really happy you liked this, and thought it worked.
theatregirl7299theatregirl7299 on November 21st, 2012 02:04 am (UTC)

I do too. There's almost a hyper-awareness about them, especially when it comes to Peter.
elrhiarhodanelrhiarhodan on November 20th, 2012 09:16 pm (UTC)
Wow - you leave me speechless.

You've touched so beautifully on something so infinitely difficult. It feels real and warm and urgent - yet not.

And Peter sleeps on, untroubled by a darkness that neither Neal nor El want to stain him.

Thank you.
Frith: White Collar - El - happy phonefrith_in_thorns on November 20th, 2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I was really worried about this coming across as overly melodramatic, or OOC, but I could picture so clearly Neal and El having this conversation. And they would never want to tell Peter, because they know it would hurt him...
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: White Collar - Neal b&wembroiderama on November 20th, 2012 09:54 pm (UTC)
This is beautiful and just...perfect.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - worried shirtfrith_in_thorns on November 20th, 2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much ♥
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Elizabeth smilingsholio on November 20th, 2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
I like this a lot. One of my occasional sources of frustration with the show is that the writers don't let El be human (fragile, breakable) very often -- she's just the sympathetic shoulder for the other characters. This really gets underneath the surface of that. And Neal's deflection is very him, too. Fandom is really into the whole cathartic-emotional-sharing thing (which I'm on board with, don't get me wrong *g*), but in reality people do keep this kind of secret from each other; I expect Peter has a few traumas he hasn't shared with El, either. And it rings very emotionally true.
Frith: White Collar - El - hair upfrith_in_thorns on November 20th, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I've been trying to write more El, lately, and she always seems to come out... darker... than I expect. Or less nice, maybe, is the phrase I'm looking for. Which is to say, I know what you mean -- I want to see her not be perfect and happy-supportive all the time. (And now I'm having plot bunnies! *wanders off to write*)
Laura: Neal in streetcookielaura on November 21st, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
This is so beautiful. And I want to say more stuff about it but I'm all choked up and incoherent so just - thanks ♥

And absolutely don't worry about posting it x
Frith: White Collar - Neal - worried shirtfrith_in_thorns on November 21st, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you ♥ ♥ ♥

ETA: Actually, this was originally going to be my LAS fic this week (and I wrote it before the weekend!), but then I decided I really didn't want to send this out for being voted on.

Edited at 2012-11-21 10:07 pm (UTC)
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 21st, 2012 05:37 am (UTC)
I'm really not sure how to put into words what I'm feeling about this. It was so quiet, slow and subdued in tone and weight, but the content was so fraught and intimate.

I never really considered the idea that in an OT3 that Neal and El would have deep things between them that they kept from Peter. But, it makes so much sense here.
Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on November 21st, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. I was really quite nervous about posting this, and I'm so glad you felt it made sense for the characters ♥
pipiljpipilj on November 21st, 2012 07:34 am (UTC)
This was beautiful.
Frith: White Collar - El - hair upfrith_in_thorns on November 21st, 2012 06:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much ♥
kanarek13: tearkanarek13 on November 21st, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow... so, so beautiful and intimate and just perfect. There aren't as many fics exploring the relationship between El and Neal as there are those about Peter and Neal. So it's always a wonderful treat♥ Love it how they don't need to explain things to each other, how they have this higher level of understanding and mutual trust and support between each other.

Awwww... Beautiful ♥
Frith: White Collar - El - hair upfrith_in_thorns on November 21st, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much ♥ I've been trying to write more El lately (the rest are just snippets), and it always seems to go rather darker than I'd intended... But I really do like exploring how she and Neal relate to each other. It's very different to how she relates to Peter, or how Neal does, I think.
MeeniMeenakshi Singla on November 21st, 2012 08:44 pm (UTC)
beautiful...something Elizabeth and Neal can relate to..
i liked the conversation there..

Thank youf or writing this
Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on November 21st, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much :)
iamhere23iamhere23 on November 21st, 2012 10:23 pm (UTC)
I've always thought that Elizabeth "gets" Neal in a fundamental way that Peter really doesn't. Even in the show, she seems to see through the show he puts up. Nicely done!
Frith: White Collar - El - happy phonefrith_in_thorns on November 21st, 2012 10:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! And yeah, I agree with you :)
hurinhousehurinhouse on November 21st, 2012 11:07 pm (UTC)
beautiful. i love that they get to have this moment alone, that they understand each other in a way only they can, and that it's ok if they never talk about it - they'll always have that connection.
ladyrose42ladyrose42 on November 22nd, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)
National Depression Day saved a friend of mine when she took the test. And some things are better left unsaid to those closest to you, so it doesn't eat away at them, which it would with Peter. Nicely underdone to convey the essence of the story.
Machiavellian Puppet Master: WC--Neal as Banksytjs_whatnot on November 22nd, 2012 04:41 am (UTC)

So very beautiful!