attackfish: Neal & Peter text "We may someday attain a reltationship of mutual respect/ First I will see the gods walking the earth" (Peter and Neal MWT quote)
[personal profile] attackfish
Disclaimer: I don't own White Collar. I am writing this fic under the fair use exemption for transformative works.

Summary: When the FBI captures Neal Caffrey, infamous thief and con artist, they discover that he is a runaway slave. Now recaptured and sold to recoup his owners' financial losses, Neal schemes and waits for his chance. After all he escaped once. But Neal isn't the only one plotting his escape, and not all of his fellow schemers have his best interests at heart.

Author's Note: Written as a prompt fill on livejournal for thetammyjo. Only took me five years to finish it. Thank you to duckie-duckduck on tumblr for the beta.


His hands shot into the air as the army of agents in exoskeletons and flex shielding flooded into the building, laser guns pointed right at him. He and Kate broke away from each other, and he stood alone in the center of the warehouse, lacing his hands behind his head.
One of the agents strode forward, ahead of all of the people pointing guns at Neal, and the thief greeted him with a grimace. "Agent Burke."
"Neal Caffrey," Peter replied. "You're under arrest."

"I know." He could feel Kate watching as he stood there, his skin prickling too hot and too cold all at once. As he held his hand out to Peter, he could hear the click of every gun in the room being cocked. "Thank you, I never would have found her without you."

The agent took his hand, and Neal wondered if he could feel the blood racing just underneath the surface of his skin when he shook. "It's my pleasure."

His brain felt blank and heavy, like he didn't quite know how to hold his head up anymore. The handcuff snapped down and molded itself to his wrist. Neal let the agent who held it pull his arm around and hook the other cuff to his other hand, trapping his arms behind his back. "So you were all in that one little service pod out front. Can't have been comfortable."

"Didn't smell too good neither," the man responded, and Neal held in a relieved sigh. He could work with this. He could. He could get them comfortable, make them- lure them in. He just had to keep thinking.

They pushed and jostled him out of the warehouse and onto the thin strip of concrete between the building and the podlines, and he glanced back at Kate one last time before they shut the door behind him. She had just told him she loved him. He should be dwelling on that, right? But he had to keep thinking. But the gears in his head were jammed and coated with gum, stuck together.

He slumped down and kicked at the agent holding his arms, catching his foot. It slid out from under him as Neal broke away, trying to sling his arms under his legs so he could get them in front of him as he ran.

But there was still the army of agents, and he brought himself up short, holding his hands up in front of himself, hands open.

Agent Burke grabbed his elbow. "You know, Caffrey, I kinda expected you to be the kind of crook who came quietly." He waved for the agent who had been holding Neal's arms before. "Jones, get his other arm. Let's get him into the pod."

"Glad I can still surprise you," Neal gasped, letting them hustle him forward and shove him into the pod. Peter guided him to a seat and buckled him in, making Neal feel like a little kid, and just a little humiliated.

"Look, you'll be out in five years, tops," the agent told him softly. "You don't want a resisting arrest charge."

Neal let his head drop and nodded. Peter had no idea what he was talking about. The agent who Peter had said was named Jones pulled out a memory glass computer and picked up Neal's hands to press them to it. Curling his hands to keep them safe, he tried to pull away, but Peter smacked the back of his hands and Jones pressed down on his knuckles, forcing his hand open. The memglass buzzed under his hand for just a second, and by the time he pulled his fingers back, it was too late. It whirred softly, and Neal watched the lines and curves of the finger and palmprints shift hypnotically under the surface of the glass.

"So is that the new Scry 280?" Neal asked reaching for the memglass peaking out of Peter's pocket, trying to ignore the one in Jones's hands. "I heard those were-"

Peter smacked his hand again. "Behave."

"Just trying to make conversation," Neal said, trying to let his mask fall over his face, to call forth the bright, troublemaking cheerfulness that the FBI agents would expect. "Nice to finally meet you."

Peter tossed a lollipop wrapper at him. "We already met."

Neal wished the man would take his eyes off him for even a moment. If he could get to the door, if he could trick Peter into touching the door controls, he could...

Neal's lungs filled and emptied so fast. The air rushed through him. Peter put his hand on Neal's shoulder, alarmed. "Calm down!" But Neal couldn't. "Okay, breathe with me. In, out, in out, come on, I don't want you fainting on me, in, out."

Neal gulped and tried to follow along. The pod barreled along its cable, flying down between the levels of the Manhattan tower, past apartments and gardens suspended in the air. Mozzie was right, he shouldn't have come. he should have waited until he had known it was safe. He wanted to tell himself it was worth it, but he was never going to see her again.

The FBI had its own pod station. The pod hopped tracks and slid to a halt inside the complex, and when the door slid open, florescent light poured through. Neal shuddered. He had always assumed that if they got him into a pod and took him to the FBI office, he would have one last chance to get away, that the pod would pull up in front of the offices, and they would have to walk him in. He felt so cold. Maybe if he broke away and made it out of their reach, they would have to shoot him, and then it would be over.

Jones unbuckled Neal's seatbelt and gripped his arms. Swallowing, Neal stood and let him guide him out of the pod.

The memglass beeped in Jones's pocket. Neal started shaking.

Jones let go of him as two more agents came to take his place, looping their arms through his. "Agent Burke," Jones called. "Look at this."

"It popped?" Looking back, Peter narrowed his eyes. "What was he arrested for before?"

Neal thought he was going to throw up. He sagged to the floor when the two agents lost their hold, he scuttled away. Pushing himself to his feet, he ran, hands out, grateful that he had gotten them around to his front before so that he could move. Peter didn't notice until the other agents started shouting, his eyes on the stark black and white truth flashing across the memglass.

A slave. He was an escaped slave. All Neal could feel was the faint lines that the lasers had left behind when they had erased the barcode on his shoulder aching, and the sucking sensation in his chest, as if his ribs were caving in under the force of his fear.

The agents caught him and dragged him back. They didn't even draw their guns.


It occurred to Neal that there was nothing wrong with begging. Tears were running down his cheek, and distantly, he knew he should be thinking about whether it would be better to stop the tears or to use them, but...

His nose was running. He tried to bring a hand up to stem the flow, but they were chained together, and the FBI agents were holding his arms. They shuffled him through the hallways and glass walls, into an elevator and up to the floor for the Fugitive Slave division.
"Peter," Neal breathed, the word almost indecipherable through the lump in his throat, but the agent didn't look at him.

Peter walked over to one of the agents sitting at the desks all around him, and Neal watched them talk, voices too low for him to hear. The woman he was talking to got to her feet and came over to examine him. "This him?"

Peter nodded once. "He calls himself Neal Caffrey."

She pressed her eyebrows together and gave him a sideways glance. "Why would that be important?"

Peter didn't respond. "What's going to happen to him?"

She glanced down at her memglass. "Well, he's got a sell on capture order on him, so he'll be put up for auction. He'll probably go to one of the ozone building projects."

Neal's breath caught in his throat, then escaped as a sob. It wasn't like he hadn't known that was coming. It wasn't like any of the agents hadn't known that was coming. Escaped slaves were cheep.

"Oh. That's... What's the life expectancy on those?"

She shrugged. "Six months. He isn't going to be a problem for you anymore."


"So you got Caffrey," Sara said without preamble, swooping into his office.

Peter looked up from the forms on his memory glass, thinned and stretched to take up the entire top of his desk. "Yeah, we got Caffrey."
"Well?" she prompted as she bent over his desk, hands causing the documents on the memglass to ripple under their pressure. "Are you people going to charge him with the theft of the Raphael?"

"He's not going to be charged with anything," he told her heavily. She stared. When she opened her mouth to speak, Peter put a hand up, his head dropping down to hang from his neck, the effort of holding it up seemingly too much just then. Looking up again, he flicked one of the documents to her.

It stopped at the edge of the glass. Her eyes flicked down to read it, and when she finished, she stared at him, open mouthed for a long moment, before she tightened her jaw and gave him a painful smile. "I guess this means our temporary association is over." She held a hand across the table, and he took it. "It was good working with you, Agent Burke."

Peter exhaled slowly. "I'm sorry we couldn't help you recover the Raphael."

"It's okay," she said, too quickly, almost hostile. "I'll find it."


They took Neal into one of the glossy concrete cells with a medical cot in the back. The door locked behind him, and Neal grabbed for the lock picks in his pocket, but there was no lock on the inside, no control panel, nothing but blank metal. There was a hissing sound coming from the ceiling, and Neal put his hand over his mouth and nose to keep himself from breathing in the gas filling the tiny room. His ears buzzed and his head throbbed, his lungs burning with the effort of not breathing. Then his hand fell away, he gasped, and the room blurred and went gray before he could bring his hand up again.


Peter started walking towards the elevator before he even realized it. He pressed the button that would take him down to the Fugitive Slave division and marched back over to the woman who had told him Caffrey was probably going to auction. "Do you remember the slave I brought in earlier?"

She touched her memglass. "00316618525?"

He had to look down to see the picture on the screen. The numbers didn't equate with Caffrey. They were just a disjointed collection, not a cohesive whole that added up to equal a person. He'd always assumed Neal Caffrey was another alias, but he had always imagined there was some other name underneath. "That's the one. I want you to tell me what auction house was he sold to."

She gave him an odd look. "Someone else bought him before we could arrange a transfer."

"What!" Peter put his hand on his head. "Are you sure?"

She passed him the memglass and pointed to the record of sale. Peter swallowed and nodded, before turning around and leaving.


His shoulder hurt. It felt like he was waking up in bits and pieces, first his skin, which itched, then the rest of his body, then slowly, his mind. He could taste the knockout gas in his throat and on his tongue, fuzzy from the way his mouth was hanging open. He tried to blink his eyes open, but his eyelids were too heavy to move. He took a deep breath.

"Oh good, you're awake."

Neal tried to turn his head to the voice, but he couldn't move, which might not have been a bad thing given how badly his head was swimming. He tried to close his mouth, but it didn't happen. His fingers wouldn't bend. His breathing, the only thing under his control at all, sped up.

"Stop panicking," the voice cut in. "Once we're at my apartment, you'll be able to move again, and then, we're going to have a long talk."
Neal wasn't reassured. He could feel the pod moving around him and the seatbelt on his chest, and the cool cling of glass around his throat. And the burn in his shoulder that must be a new barcode, inked into his skin.

He waited with the woman who sat beside him, the one who had spoken, while the pod jumped level after level until it stopped and the woman unbuckled his seatbelt. Her fingers fell on the memglass collar around his neck and flicked over it in a quick pattern. His eyes snapped open. He lurched out of his seat towards the door, but the woman just folded her arms. "I've set it so that you have one minute to get inside the apartment before the chip locks you down again. If that happens, I'm leaving you out here all night."

Neal's hand flew down to the small of his back and the thin glass disk resting there, on top of wires that reached into his spinal cord. Back when he had escaped, chips like that were too expensive for any old slave. "Who are you?"

She raised an eyebrow. "Come inside and I'll tell you."

He followed her out of the pod and onto her front step and tried for a smile. "Lead on."

She opened the door for him, and as soon as he was across the threshold, she closed it again. "I programmed my apartment into your collar earlier. As of now, if you step outside this apartment, you will not be able to move. You will not be able to speak or close your eyes, you will be stuck on the doorstep until I decide to let you come back in."

"Who are you?" he repeated, afraid he was going to throw up.

"You remember that Raphael you stole in the summer of '05?"

"What Raphael?"

"The one you stole in the summer of '05," she said again, slowly, like he was a small child. "It was insured by my company. I want to know where it is."

"I don't know what you-"

"Sara Ellis," she finally told him. "I was working with Agent Burke when he arrested you. I know you stole the painting, Caffrey, I just want to return it."

He slumped against the wall, too tired to make it look elegant. "And what do you get for getting it back?"
She gave him a tight smile. "Two percent."

"I don't have it," he insisted. "I never stole a Raphael in my life."

"Really?" She walked over to him and pressed her face right up against his, pulled something out of her pocket, and held it up for him to see. "Well I guess I'll just take this back to work with me."

Neal tried to snatch it out of her hand, but she held it out of reach. It was long and thin, made out of gray plastic with a set of prongs on one end and a button on the other. "Is that..."

"We use these at work when someone chips a stolen slave." She looked at it thoughtfully, her voice deadpan. "Silly me, I carelessly let this fall into my purse this morning."

"And if I give you the painting, you'll take the chip off."

She put it back in her purse and tucked it into her arms, keeping her eyes on his hands. "I might be forgetful enough to leave it on the living room table when I go in to return something as valuable as the Raphael."

He pasted on an airy smile. "But I don't have it."

Opening the door, she turned back. "Then you better get used to this place. You're never going to leave. I have to go into the office now, to drop this off. Don't do anything stupid while I'm gone."


It was tempting to do something very very stupid as soon as she left, just to spite her, but his head was spinning, and he barely managed to stagger his way to the couch and collapse onto it. His back and shoulder stung each time the fabric of his shirt moved over the chip or the bandages over the barcode. He pulled himself onto his stomach and fell asleep, the sticky, bitter, chemical smell of the gas still lingering in his nose.


When he woke up again, it was still light out, but the sun had slid down the sky, into the west. His head was clearer, but the pain in his shoulder and back was sharper than before, a constant irritating reminder that he was caught, and just what they had done to him.
He took stock, piecing the world back together in his mind. He was wearing the same clothes they had captured him in, rumpled and streaked with dirt, but his own clothes, not a slave uniform, which he decided to think was a good sign. Of course it could have been that she hadn't yet come up with anything humiliating enough for her to bother replacing them. His fingers flicked open the buttons on his shirt, and he shrugged out of it, gritting his teeth as the fabric brushed against the fresh tattoo and the chip.

He stood up, ignoring the pain and checked the door. It was locked from the inside. He snorted, unlocked it, and then locked it again.

As apartments went, it was nice, with a kitchen off the side of the living room, a bedroom, a bathroom, a former laundry room that had been turned into a linen closet, the hookups for the washer and drier left out in the open rather than plastered over, and a study, bookcases along the wall with real books, he wondered if she had inherited them or bought them, sculptures, real wood floors, and large open windows facing the outside of the tower, overlooking the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. He wondered in and out of the rooms, pursuing the drawers and closet, idly picking things up and putting them down in different rooms, but anything really interesting he figured, was going to be on her memglass, which was at work with her. There was a jack for an actual landline, but no phone, which left out calling Mozzie, or Kate, if he had her number.

Sighing, he gave up for the moment and pulled one of the books off the shelves. Sullenly, he flopped down on her bed.


"Cute." Sara stood in the doorway to her room, giving him an impatient look.

"Well I couldn't find anywhere else to lie down, so I settled for this." He flashed her a grin.

She glanced up at the ceiling and put one hand on her hip. "There's a futon and some spare blankets in the living room closet. Set it up in the study."

He didn't get up. "You trust me in your study?"

"Tell you what." Her smile was painfully sharp. "If you can find anything in there, you can use it."


He waited the next day until she was almost home from work. It wasn't that he didn't think the chip would work, it was just that he couldn't keep himself from testing it out anyway. He unlocked the door and walked down her front steps, and as soon as he landed his foot on the bottom step, his limbs seized up. His arms, swinging at his sides froze, his head, slightly bent, wouldn't straighten, and he was left staring at the concrete until Sara came home.

When she did, she didn't look surprised. "I expected you to try that yesterday," she told him, putting her hand on his collar and setting it to let him move again. "Back in the house, Caffrey, thirty seconds."

"Would you really leave me out here all night if I didn't hurry?" he asked, not sure he wanted the answer. The winds that high up whipped through the gaps in the walls of the tower and chilled even in the summer, and it was late fall.

"I might drag you inside. I don't think you'd enjoy that."

Neal jumped backwards up the steps and into the house. "I knew you were a softy at heart."

"If you freeze to death, I don't get my painting." She shut the door and dropped two white paper bags onto the coffee table. "I hope you like sweet and sour pork."

He grabbed one of the bags and broke the chopsticks apart. "So, what's going to happen if I never give you the painting?"

"Why?" she shot back. "Getting ready to cave?"

"No, I mean in a year, five years, ten years, are you going to just give up and sell me off to one of the ozone building crews?"

"If I say yes, will it get me the painting faster?"

He shook his head and pretended to try to smile. "It's just that it's kind of important to me, since I don't have the painting."

She speared a piece of pork with one of her chopsticks. "I would almost believe you if I didn't know how good a liar you are."

Neal's lip twitched ruefully as he turned back to his dinner. It galled him, having her know so much about him already, and knowing nothing about her, leaving her with that kind of advantage, but it didn't matter. It wasn't like there was anything he could do about it.

She followed his gaze down to the floor. "By the way, the chip works vertically to, in case you were planning on drilling through my floors."

"Wouldn't dream of it," he said, trying not to picture himself leaping through a hole in her floor, and falling, frozen, unable even to flail.


After he heard the door to her room close, Neal picked up his blanket and padded out into the living room. He watched the light under her door switch off, and leaned against the wall until he could hear her breathing even out as she drifted off to sleep. Stuffing the blanket underneath her door, he glanced around reflexively, as if there really might have been someone there, as if Sara Ellis had just pretended to go to bed to trick him, and could really be standing right behind him.

But she wasn't. He tiptoed into the kitchen and flipped the light switch scanning the counter top for her purse and if he were lucky, her memglass, but it wasn't in the kitchen, and when he poked around the living room, it wasn't there either.

He had a sudden mental picture of her holding it at her side as she walked into her room before bed, and he bit back a curse.

When he flipped the light switch in the kitchen again, the apartment went dark, and he walked silently back to Sara's door and collected his blanket. He tossed it through the study door, and it landed in a heap on his futon as he slowly, slowly turned her door knob and opened the door.

She slept with her drapes open, the moonlight and the constant yellow glow of the city towers seeping through. Her purse sat next to her on the bedside table. He foiled security guards and alarm systems all the time, he reminded himself, it should be easy to get past one person sound asleep next to his prize. Soundlessly, he moved across the floor and unhooked the magnetic clasp on the purse. Inside was a relatively uninteresting assortment of makeup, sunglasses and headache pills, and her wallet, with a few credit cards and IDs. And her memglass. He lifted it out and darted out of the room and into the study before trying to pull it open. The glass wouldn't move. It remained a dark, clear, little cube, stubbornly unresponsive no matter how he pulled.

Muttering under his breath, he made his way back to her room and forced himself to be silent again. The door slid open easily, and he crossed the distance to her bed without her even twitching in her sleep. Recklessly, he put the memglass in her hands, and when it started to glow, he snatched it back triumphantly.

Her hand latched onto his wrist. He almost dropped the memglass as she opened her eyes and pulled a laser gun out from under her pillow, leveling it at him. "Don't shoot!" he begged quickly.

She held the gun steady as she twisted his arm around behind his back. "What do you think you're doing?"

He swallowed, sweat breaking out on his forehead from the pain in his arm. "You told me if I found anything, I could use it."

"I meant in the study!" She pulled the memglass out of his spasming fingers. "Am I going to have to chain you up at night? Maybe I should just set your collar to the study. You want that?"

"I want to get out of here," he told her, his voice muffled by her mattress as she pressed him into it.

"Then give me the damn painting!"

"So we're back to that, are we?" he grumbled, trying not to drool on her sheets from the way she had his face pressed into them, forcing his lips open.

She let go of his arm and gazed over his head disgustedly as he twisted it out of the joint lock she had put him in, wondering if she had been trying to tie it in a knot, and picked himself up from the bed. "Just go to bed," she said tiredly.

Neal swallowed the saliva that had been building in his mouth and scuttled away.


"So I think I might have miscalculated."

Neal jerked awake. "Wha?"

She loomed over him, lying on his back on the futon. "I think we got off on the wrong foot. In fact, I think we should start over. Hi, my name is Sara Ellis, and you will call me 'Mistress'."

"Not in a million-"

She bent down low, until her face almost touched his. "If you don't I'm going to reset your collar so that you can't leave the bathroom, and I'm going to leave you there until you agree. How do you feel about sleeping in the bathtub?"

He smiled and cupped her face. "How do you feel about me watching you shower?"

She shoved his arms down hard enough to leave bruises. "I'll throw you out first, and you'll stay where I put you until I bother to throw you back inside."

He reached back to touch the chip. It felt warm under his fingers, but the skin around it was healing. "All that just to get me to call you 'Mistress', huh? Well you can forget-"

She held up a hand with a tight smile. "And while we're at it, you're a slave. You don't have a name; you have a number, and I'm going to use it until I figure out what I want to call you."

Neal's lip curled and he let it, sitting up. "You really think calling me some stupid name is going to get me to call you 'Mistress'?"

"This all ends any time you want it to, 00316618525," she said, pulling out her memglass to check the number. "Just give me the Raphael, and I'll let you go."

Neal flopped back down. "I don't have it."

She leaned over him again. "You don't have it, what?"

He closed his eyes and smiled cheerfully. "I don't have it, Sara."

"Okay." She grabbed his arm and braced it against her other arm, forcing it straight and levering him up painfully.

"Easy!" he yelped, and she swung him around, somehow using the motion to twist his arm around so that the pain eased.

She shoved him into the bathroom with one hand and pulled out her memglass with the other. Pulling it open, she brought up a blue and white floor plan of her apartment and traced her finger around the bathroom. It lit up a stark red on the screen as she grabbed him by the collar through the doorway. When she punched in the command, he had the creepy feeling that she was programming him, not his collar, not the chip in the small of his back, but him. He shuddered, trying to shake the feeling off.

"This is for your protection, until you learn how to behave yourself." She closed the door and spoke louder through it. "You're lucky I didn't shoot you last night by mistake."

He sat down against the white tile wall and listened to the sounds of her making coffee and scrambling an egg. Of course he thought, she was rich enough to have eggs for a normal, everyday breakfast. He wondered if she would make him one.

As soon as he heard the front door close, Neal climbed into her very deep tub and filled it almost all the way to the top with very hot water.


Later, when Sara came home, Neal was still soaking. "How many baths?" she asked, irritably.

He forced himself not to curl in on himself and try to shield his naked body from her view. He forced himself to keep his legs just a little spread and his arms draped over the edge of the tub, and he forced himself to beam up at her. "Five."

She rolled up her sleeve and plunged her arm down into the water between his feet, yanking up the drain plug. "I'm setting the water so that it needs my thumbprint to turn it on. Enjoy what's left of your bath. It's the last one you'll have for the foreseeable future."
"What about showers?"


"I'm going to start to smell," he pointed out.

"Stop whining," she growled. "If you start calling me 'Mistress', I'll open the taps back up."

Neal sighed. "And if I give you the painting, I go free."

"There you go," she said, putting a takeout bag down on the bathroom counter.

He sank lower in the water, pretending bliss. "Do I still get to flush the toilet? Because that's going to really stink..."

"Sink and toilet." She turned around and opened the door to leave. "I'm sure you'll find some way to abuse that privilege too."

"Your faith in me is really overwhelming," he called to the closed door and stepped out of the tub. Water dripped off him as he grabbed the takeout bag and pulled the meatball sandwich out of it. The water from his fingers and the steam from the bath made it soggy as he sank back into the disappearing water to enjoy his dinner in relative peace.


She came in late that evening and put him outside the door while she took a quick, perfunctory shower and changed into a tee-shirt and pajama bottoms for bed. He stared helplessly at the wall until she pushed him back through the bathroom door.


The next morning, he watched the door open, and Sara's hand slide a cup of instant coffee and a plate with two pieces of unbuttered toast onto the counter before it closed again.


Kate didn't have to try too hard to charm the guys at the front desk into letting her walk right upstairs. She told them she had a crime to report, and she really hoped that was a lie.

The elevator clicked when it deposited her onto the right floor. She burst out of it, scanning the rows of desks and cubicles for the man she was looking for, and when she saw his glass walled office, old fashioned, normal glass, she marched up to it and jerked the door open. "Where is he?"

Peter Burke looked up from his desk at the woman standing in the doorway. "What?" though he thought he had a pretty good idea.

Kate bared her teeth. "Where's Neal?" she demanded, wide blue eyes boring into him. "You arrested him, and he disappeared! I can't even find arrest records! Tell me what you did with him."

"How did you get in here?" he asked, startled.

Her expression didn't soften. "You think those guys downstairs were going to stop me?"

"You aren't afraid I'm going to arrest you?" he tried to distract her.

"Yeah," she scoffed, striding over to his desk. "If you had anything on me, you would have taken me in when you took Neal."

"Is that an admission of guilt I hear?" He couldn't help himself, trying to drag it out as long as possible. He didn't want to tell her, to have to remember himself what he had helped make happen. He had held onto the vague thoughts about buying Caffrey himself before they told him he had already been sold. "Should I be looking into you?"

"Please, I'm sure you arrest innocent people every day. Like Neal for instance."

He leveled her with an aggravated scowl. "I know the two of you have pulled cons together, aside from whatever you've pulled on your own. You're not going to convince me that you're some naïve little girlfriend who had no idea what was going on. Now get out of here before I find something to arrest you for."

Her eyes narrowed poisonously. "Not until you tell me where Neal is."


Kate stumbled out of the Bureau offices in shock. She wove her way through the planters of leafless trees lining the sidewalks alongside the podlines, trying to swallow down the bile attempting to crawl its way out of her throat. She pulled the memglass out of her pocket, opened it up, and punched in every number she had for Mozzie. "Hey," she said when he answered. "Don't hang up, I need your help. Can you hack into the slave registry database?"


The third day he was in the bathroom was when it all started to wash over him. The white tile walls blurred, the grout mingling with the tile, mingling with the white ceiling paint, mingling with the white porcelain bathtub and white porcelain sink, and white tile counter top, and white faucets, and white trash can, and white takeout bag, and white unwashed plate and mug. There was a brown ring around the inside of the coffee mug. He stared at it for a while before he stood up and washed it out in the sink.


Her hand emerged from the open door and set a new takeout bag on the counter. There was a gyro inside.


He dug his heels in and tried to talk to her when she shoved him out the door, but she just stayed silent and pushed harder.


There was a narrow band of carpeting near the sink, and at night, he rolled under the doors to the built in cabinets and slept on the softest part of the floor he could find.


The next morning, the same hand that shoved his breakfast into the room, more toast and a glass of apple juice, tossed in a tee shirt and brown slacks. He unrolled them. Stitched on both in big red letters were the words "Property of Sara Ellis." He balled them up and threw them in the trash with the takeout bags.


That evening, when she came in to take her shower, she pulled them out of the trash and folded them on the counter.


He threw them away again as soon as the door was closed, making sure to spill the ranch that went with the chicken salad she had got him all over them, and she took them away that evening when she saw them. But the next morning, she left them clean and folded on the counter instead of giving him breakfast.


Neal tried for hours to ignore them, sitting there, color in the colorless room, before shoving them into the cabinet under the sink.


She came in to use the bathroom, and Neal flinched away before she could shove him out the door, and leave him stiff, trapped, and paralyzed on the floor outside the bathroom. He smelled so bad that he couldn't close his mouth and breathe at the same time. He thought he was supposed to get used to that, but... Maybe he was just imagining it, alone in the featureless, cold white room. "How long have I been in here?"

She didn't answer. She wrinkled her nose as she moved towards him, and he darted back again, sick with himself, falling to his knees.
"Here goes nothing," he muttered under his breath, and she glanced down at him suspiciously. "Mistress."

"You know you're going to have to keep calling me that, right?" she said, stepping close, so that the bottom of her jacket brushed across his face. "If you stop you go right back in here."

He nodded, hoping to avoid saying the word again, at least once, but she kept watching him until he opened his mouth. "Yes, Mistress."

She grabbed his collar. It jerked against his throat, cutting off his air as her fingers ghosted over the glass in an arcane dance, widening the territory he could roam. He could see the light the collar gave off as she programmed instructions into it reflected on the walls, and flickering just out of sight under his eyes, but he couldn't see what her fingers were doing, and even if it weren't reading her fingerprints with every touch, he realized, exhausted, that there would have been no way for him to wrest control of it from her, even if she were gone. "Go on, get out of here," she ordered him. "I'll turn the taps back on. When I'm done in here, take a shower. You smell like shit."


When Neal stepped out of the shower, his clothes were gone, and the ones he had hidden under the sink were spread out on the counter for him. He held in his grimace of distaste and put them on.


She put his dinner on the floor next to the kitchen table.

"You expect me to eat on the floor?" He folded his arms, but she just stood there impassively. "Mistress."

"What do you think?" she asked, walking back into the living room.

"How long was I in there?" he called after her.

She turned her head back to him as she kept walking. "Three weeks."

Holding in a shiver, he sat down on the floor..

To be continued...

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