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14 April 2013 @ 11:16 pm
[fic: white collar] this is the story of the boys who loved you  

Title: this is the story of the boys who loved you
Characters: Diana
Rating: T
Word count: 860
Warnings: TW for serious consent issues (contains nothing explicit)
Notes: Apparently I have a lot of Feelings about Diana and the sorts of undercover work she gets.
Title from The Decemberists.

Summary: You don't put your feelings in the report.

- - -

"I won't make you do anything you aren't comfortable with."

She remembers how those words sounded. Sound. They don't lie quiet, even though she turns on music as soon as she can shut the world away behind her apartment door. (No love songs. Not tonight.)

A promise, those words; a reassurance. But also a blunt statement. He knows that he's not doing anything she's not comfortable with so he doesn't have to ask, doesn't have to look for where the lie is.

The it's too late to back out now. The I want to be comfortable with this, which is superficially similar but in no ways the same.

The shower is hot, spray stinging her eyes, and she doesn't in the end scrub at her skin but puts her arms around herself and for a moment hugs herself tightly.

But it's never as satisfying as it looks in movies, with the montage music washing all your thoughts away. It's just a shower and she barely takes any longer than usual. She towels her hair, wipes at the steam on the mirror. Tomorrow she'll have to go into work and write it all up, and just thinking about that makes her feel sick and shaky but she can't not think.

His hands on her had been possessive from the very first touch. Unconsciously so; he's a man to whom it's never occurred that beautiful women might not be comfortable around him. And she had smiled back at him, of course, because that was what she was there for and anyway it wasn't like she'd been expecting to enjoy it.

One could enjoy going undercover as a wealthy buyer, or a high-flying smooth talker, or a fixer-upper, or someone with more money than sense and an apparent willingness to be exploited. But white collar crime happens in boys' clubs, and of course the FBI doesn't want to disrupt the atmosphere; as if the criminals it throws up are anomalies rather than symptoms.

The music is still playing, loud and rhythmic, but it doesn't touch her mood.

In the morning she'll have to write it up and her report will not in any way say, I kind of feel like I've been raped, but I didn't say I wasn't okay with it and anyway there wasn't even any sex.

Those hands on her. Possessive and firm and not noticing that she wasn't into it even as she'd kissed him back and wondered if this would really be any easier if she wasn't gay. Hands finding her bra strap beneath her blouse with the deftness of practice and not realising that they weren't wanted, that they weren't supposed to

He was strong, but she could still have taken him in a fight except that she didn't fight, pinned against his unwanted heat by the weight of so many different expectations. And all the men who were in any form there in the room with her (god, she'll have to listen to the wire recording, won't she?) knew that she could of course have withdrawn her consent at any time.

This is why she'll lie by omission in the report, leave out any mention of how it felt to allow that to happen to herself.

She makes hot chocolate and curls into bed in comfortable pyjamas with a book she knows the ending to already. It's gone 2 a.m., she can see it on the luminous display of the alarm clock reminding her reproachfully that she has to get up in only a few hours.

If he had looked at her face after he'd started kissing down her neck, across her skin, what would he have seen? Would he have noticed anything at all?

But he didn't look, and that had given her the time to look around his room and notice the open file of records he wasn't supposed to have, the thing that would get them their warrant.

It had been simple from there. A code word; an incoming phone call; an excuse to leave regretfully. And if she'd been Caffrey, maybe she'd have smirked outside about those kisses, those hands.

"Are you alright?" Peter had asked her, and she'd been immediately alarmed at the thought of something showing in her face after all.

She's no martyr. It's a cowardice, this omission. How can she explain that it doesn't feel like she had a choice, when it so patently appears that she had a whole basket of them? A choice of role. A choice of mark. A choice of consent. But the jaws of the trap have always been set on the intersection of her job with the non-choices of her femaleness and her queerness.

From there, the choices topple down like dominoes.

She leaves the light on and, somewhat to her surprise, manages to drift in and out of sleep and uneasy dreams.

"I won't make you do anything you aren't comfortable with."

She keeps giving the same answer, over and over. It wasn't a question anyway; not really.

"I know, Boss. It's okay."

- - -

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/94534.html with comment count unavailable comments.
helle_d: feminist ragehelle_d on April 14th, 2013 10:42 pm (UTC)
I think this is excellent ... Diana all too often gets the really shit jobs, and for al the friendship and respect the others have for her, she gets to be the one who flirts with skeevy powerful criminals, and the power dynamics in her undercover work are very different from Neal in his undercover, in his element running a con on the world around him.

And the first/last lines are brilliant, in all their implications. Not a question. Oh, Diana.

Other lines I liked - "anomalies rather than symptoms", and "How can she explain that it doesn't feel like she had a choice, when it so patently appears that she had a whole basket of them? A choice of role. A choice of mark. A choice of consent." <3

The mood you create with all the little details of her experience - having to listen to the wiretap again, and the shower that doesn't cleanse, and " I want to be comfortable with this" makes this whole thing so claustrophobic and powerful - I love the way you've explored Diana's (lack of) choices.
florastuartflorastuart on April 14th, 2013 11:37 pm (UTC)
Ouch. This is brilliant and painful and true and it feels so very much like Diana, trying to be okay with this and not quite managing it. And the first and last lines are sharp and ... ow. Yeah. Oh, Diana.
Frith: White Collar - Diana - reflectionfrith_in_thorns on April 15th, 2013 09:06 pm (UTC)
♥ I've been wanting to write this for a while now, I think. I'm so glad it kept feeling like Diana to you.
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: White Collar - Dianaembroiderama on April 15th, 2013 12:37 am (UTC)
I love this insight into Diana's head and into how the men around her are clueless even as they're kind.
Frith: White Collar - Diana - coatfrith_in_thorns on April 15th, 2013 09:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Yeah, that was what I was going for :)
hurinhousehurinhouse on April 15th, 2013 02:49 am (UTC)
excellent. we rarely get to see fics with diana that are also about diana. peter's a caring boss but even he would be dense enough not to realize she'd feel obligated.
Frithfrith_in_thorns on April 15th, 2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
I really love Diana, and writing about her :) Thank you very much!
cimmercimmerdeux on April 15th, 2013 02:59 am (UTC)
Really excellent. I like that she wonders if her queerness is making it worse but realizing that really, no, it's having someone's hands on you, a man's hands, no matter what the reason and all of this has been set in motion by a man, a man that you respect and I can see it getting all twisted up. And to always be the candy, the sweet bait because white collar crime is so male oriented, that's got to sting. Thanks.
Frith: White Collar - Diana - coatfrith_in_thorns on April 15th, 2013 09:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, that's exactly what I was going for with this! ♥
daria234daria234 on April 15th, 2013 05:44 am (UTC)
I love this. I think it deals with the really problematic aspects of her work (and ahem of the show making her play these roles) and brings up so many great questions while still being a moving and realistic character study. I love the line: "anomalies rather than symptoms." And it's great the way that you explore what choice really is and how choices can be apparent or complicated or more than they seem.
Frithfrith_in_thorns on April 15th, 2013 09:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm especially glad that this felt realistic to you :) I love this show and I love Diana, but sometimes there are so many issues with the things it does...
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Dianasholio on April 15th, 2013 06:42 am (UTC)
Oh, this is absolutely gorgeous. It's a fantastic character portrait and, at the same time, a scathing (and well-deserved) meta-condemnation of the show's casual privilege (specifically where Diana is concerned, but in general, as well). The repeated "I won't make you do anything you aren't comfortable with", with its shift of meaning and, oh, knife-twist at the end, is really brilliant because it lures us in along comfortable good guy/bad guy lines, and then, STABBITY, there's the reminder that the beloved (male) protagonists are swimming in their own invisible sea of privilege in which Diana does not share. Neal couldn't get away with half the things he does if he weren't a handsome young white man (Leverage actually gave a few nods to this with Hardison, which I did appreciate) and Peter, even more so, is in the position of actively propping up and reinforcing the power structure, the status quo that Diana will never not have to struggle against. And I love how this story so cleverly makes the reader complicit in it too, in a way, with that little knife-twist: These characters that you love and admire? This is what it REALLY means. But it's not done in a character-bashing way at all, and Diana's respect and affection for her male co-workers is not swept aside, which in a way makes it worse -- oh, I'm not explaining this well, but I really admire what you've done here and I wish there were more stories like this in the fandom. ♥
A Figment of My Own Imaginationveleda_k on April 15th, 2013 01:26 pm (UTC)
I'm going to bounce off of this comments, because sholio said a lot of what I should have said, had I not been gaping, open-mouthed. Because lines like And if she'd been Caffrey, maybe she'd have smirked outside about those kisses, those hands are so painfully true, because with Neal there's always that element of conquest. There's a bone deep, societal convention that in any romantic encounter, the man is the winner. Neal is so hot that women just can't help themselves, except for a man, being irresistible means "Go get 'em, tiger," while for a women it's "Well, what did she expect?"

And it's incredibly important that you don't let the male characters off the hook for being a part of this. (Seriously, yes to what Sholio said about the knife twist at the end.)

And through all this you keep it about Diana's story and her feelings and process. We never lose sight of her. Yes, it's about the system, and it's about the male characters, but it's always Diana's story first and foremost.
Frithfrith_in_thorns on April 15th, 2013 09:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this is the extremely bitter Diana fic I said I was going to write :P

I'm so glad that you liked it, and especially that it didn't feel like character-bashing; I genuinely don't think the characters know that they're doing this, but that doesn't matter in terms of its effects. And the same goes for the show-level decisions. (There's another rant in here about the fallacy which is "well, X character chose to do that thing". No. Someone wrote the scenario where she had to choose it, that's not agency or choice.)
kanarek13kanarek13 on April 15th, 2013 06:54 am (UTC)
Ouch! What an excellent character study. I love the mood you created, slowly, bit by bit destroying the false image of everything being okay until we are left with nothing but the raw truth. Awww, Diana :(
Frith: White Collar - Diana - coatfrith_in_thorns on April 15th, 2013 09:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad this worked for you. (I want to give her a hug now...)
nieseryjnanieseryjna on April 15th, 2013 05:11 pm (UTC)
ow! That was painful, painfully true. Excellent Diana study.
Frith: White Collar - Diana - reflectionfrith_in_thorns on April 15th, 2013 09:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!
Treontreonb on April 17th, 2013 09:43 am (UTC)
Oh, boy.. I feel kind of sad for Peter here, not even realizing how much he's hurting Diana. And having that refrain come from both her boss and her suspect - ouch!

I love this insight into Diana's pov. The show glosses over how Diana might feel when she's asked to do this type of thing.

The way she sees Neal is exactly how I'd expect Diana to feel, but I wonder if she's right. Neal thrives when he's conning people and loves that feeling of success at the end, no matter what he has to do for it, but he's also even more of an expert than Diana is at hiding his true feelings.
Frith: White Collar - Diana - reflectionfrith_in_thorns on April 21st, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I'm not sure I agree with your last paragraph: while I can see Neal sometimes very much being uncomfortable with doing those sorts of things while undercover, there's also a totally different power dynamic at play when it's a man as opposed to a woman in this situation. Especially when Diana's playing the role of someone whom the men she comes in contact with would expect to be in control over. That's a whole other level beyond the uncomfortableness of being semi-sexual with someone you don't want to be doing that with.

I'm really glad that you enjoyed this fic! Thank you so much for commenting :)
Treontreonb on April 22nd, 2013 09:03 pm (UTC)
Hm, yeah I see what you're saying. And I can't see Neal being the butt of prostitute jokes.