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.

00316618525: Part Six

Sara's fingertip skated across the memglass surface, trailing a swirling line of black behind it. When she was finished, she handed it back to the same woman with the graying ponytail and vaguely menacing manner she had met with before. "Pleasure doing business with you."

"Of course." She didn't bother to hide her boredom or her disbelief. "The money will be transferred to your account by midnight."

Sara gave a satisfied nod, and with one last glance at Neal, she walked away. She wished she hadn't. He was there, standing stiff as stone, face frozen, completely unable to move. She wondered if he had chosen that expression of blank fear and despair, if it was a deliberate facade meant to satisfy Adler and his people, or if it was real, and he wasn't willing, or possible able, to hide it. If maybe this was it, and the cracks in his that had become so obvious to her, had finally widened into chasms that let his real skin show through.

Outside, she waited for an empty pod and stepped inside before opening her memglass. As the door thunked shut behind her, she punched in a number and waited for an answer.

"Hello?"

"Agent Burke?" she said, keeping her voice steady. "Is that offer to buy Neal still on the table?"

o0O0o

There was a part of Neal that always stayed detached from the rest of what he was thinking and feeling, whispering to him that this little office, with its big picture windows looking out over the windmills surrounding the city, and the decorative rugs over decent fake wood floors, was meant to be good enough for the agents of people who could buy slaves, or mid-level corporate employees. That the lack of clutter or personalization to it meant it was probably set aside to be used for just this kind of deal between two independent parties. He had to wonder just how often a big slave dealing firm really needed to use this kind of room. That part of him kept itself busy while the rest of him quietly fought to keep from going to pieces.

In a way, the chip was a mercy. Without it, he never would have been able to stop the shivering he knew his body was just waiting to unleash. This way, he couldn't. This way he got to keep the illusion of a little dignity as two of the firm's hired hands wheeled in a table, picked him up and strapped him to it, and wheeled him out of the office and down a hallway. They passed through an employees only door, and the soft lighting and bland paintings vanished in favor of blank walls and harsh industrial lighting. Paralyzed, Neal waited through the elevator ride, and the trip down another back hallway, the cold from the table seeping into him, until at last they pushed him through a door and hooked a mask to his face, the now-familiar smell of gas carrying him away.

o0O0o

When Neal woke up again, Adler's face floated fuzzily above him. "Hello Neal."

"Adler," he slurred.

Adler smiled at him indulgently. "It's good to have you back with us."

Neal desperately wanted to ask if that was a royal we Adler was using. "Where's Kate?"

"In that plane, behind and to the left." He cocked his head toward the window. When Neal tried to sit up so see, he pushed his new purchase back down onto the plush bench he had been lying on and tucked the blanket up around his chin. Neal's head spun. "I have a residence in town where I've been staying while I arranged your acquisition. We'll be spending the night there. Speaking of which, Neal, I hope you appreciate the sacrifice I made coming to New York to retrieve you myself."

Neal didn't trust himself to answer with the anesthesia still clouding his brain. Instead he shrugged off Adler's hand and stretched, sliding one hand down to scratch his hip, sore where the tracker rested just under the skin. He pressed his thumb into it hard. It stung, but he refused to let himself tense or grit his teeth. Adler might see.

In the back of his mind, he was already picturing exactly where he needed to make the cut to pop the tracker right out.

Adler filled the silence after a thoughtful pause. "You're going to have to accept that you will have a leash now, Neal. If you work with me, that leash can be a lot longer."

Neal's eyes flicked up to him. "Where are my clothes?"

"Gone. Lost during the transfer. I did bring something appropriate for you to wear." There was something a little too knowing, and a little too satisfied in Adler's face when he answered. He gestured to a folding screen, curtaining off a corner of the cabin.

Neal suppressed the sullen glance he wanted to give Adler before snatching up the blanket and wrapping it around himself, throwing it over his shoulders like a cape and scuttling off to hide behind the screen as fast as possible while still, uh, preserving his modesty. On hangers hooked to the top edge of the screen was a pale gray suit, including a waistcoat and white dress shirt. On a shelf sat underwear and socks, and pearl cuff links. Neal scanned all of it with an eye that belonged as much to a slave as to a thief, and no matter how drugged he was, there was no way he could fail to recognize this for what it was, a bribe.

Hr didn't know of it was meant to be a threat too, or if Adler just didn't understand that people found it creepy when people they hadn't seen in years had clothes perfectly tailored to their exact measurements waiting for them. Or that Neal would find it a little unsettling to find a near perfect replica of one of the first suits Adler had ever bought him, altered ti fit his now older, less scrawny frame. Either way, it definitely made it clear just what place Adler envisioned for him.

Neal caught sight of the memglass shackling his left ankle. For a moment, the picture of Adler being forced to kneel down in front of him to program it twisted his mouth into a small bitter smile, until he remembered the far more satisfying fact that if this all went to plan, Adler would spend the rest of his life in prison, never touching another memglass again.

He dressed slowly, his fingers fumbling with buttons and zippers, struggling to pull the fabric straight when his brain wasn't even sure what way he should be pulling it. At last, holding back a groan of frustration, he stepped into the oh-so-expensive-and-understated shoes waiting under the table and walked out from behind the screen.

Adler came forward to unbutton Neal's shirt and put the buttons through the right holes, and tug everything into place. Before he stepped back, he squeezed Neal's shoulders in what was probably intended to be a reassuring way, but even if he had been able to take some comfort from the gesture, it would have been quickly dispersed by the way Adler just stood back and looked at him, like a thing he owned, but more than that. Like a curio piece he had just found the right spot on the shelf for. The rake of Adler's eyes over him was so close to being a tangible thing that Neal couldn't help being surprised that they didn't leave some kind of residue, a clinging, oily something to mark their passage.

Neal swallowed and looked back at him, until he couldn't stand it anymore and too a seat. Adler gave him a last beaming smile before taking his own seat, his bodyguards clustering in around him.

o0O0o

Gradually, the anesthesia fog over his brain began to lift, more gradually than Neal would have liked, still, by the time the plane engaged its landing gear, he had enough of himself back to put on a con face and smile in Adler's general direction. And to plan.

The plane docked into a specially made berth with the kind of smooth motion and gentle landing that spoke of tremendous expense. Behind them, the plane carrying Kate landed just as smoothly, just as effortlessly into the berth as Neal followed Adler and his guards out of the plane.

The hangar itself was less ostentatious, gray concrete floors, gray concrete walls, sloped gray concrete ceiling, and numbered columns of more gray concrete propping up the whole structure, a relatively small and utterly unadorned place to house his expensive toys. Neal surveyed it all, then fixed his gaze on Kate's plane, waiting breathlessly as the wings folded up and back, like a bird coming to roost, and the door opened. Kate stepped down, flanked by two more of Adler's bodyguards, and when she looked up, "Neal!"

She broke away from them and hurtled herself at Neal, grabbing him into the kind of embrace that wasn't do much about showing affection as it was about making sure the person in her arms was real and really there. She held on for a long moment, just looking at him, before leaning in and breathing, almost to soft even for him to hear,"Did you signal the FBI?"

He nodded. He could feel her body relaxing against him.

"He put you in a suit," she said a little louder, faint, desperate laughter creeping into her voice.

"Yep," he told her, trying to keep his voice light. "He did."

"FBI, drop your weapons!"

Neal didn't even have time to register the command before waves of agents seemingly materialized out from behind photoscreens. One of Adler's bodyguards, a broad shouldered woman with gray-blond hair, yanked Kate away, her laser gun pointed straight at the side of her head. Another guard had him, his hands trapped behind his back as the FBI poured into the suddenly cramped hangar.

"Did you do this Neal?" Adler yelled over the clamor. When Neal shrugged, Adler's lips pulled back in an animal expression of fury and hate. "It wouldn't have been so bad, Neal, but you had to try to squirm out, didn't you, you had-"

"Drop your weapons!" Peter Burke shouted through a microphone, but Neal had a feeling they all would have been able to hear him just fine without it. He had a veritable wall of exoskeleton armored agents behind him, thirty or fifty. Neal, who had felt as if there had been an army bearing down on him at his own arrest, but had been taken in by only ten agents, felt almost jealous. "Vincent Adler, you are under arrest. Right now the charges are investment fraud, and we both know you'll get out in a couple years, and then you can go back to enjoying all the wealth you've got hidden away in peace. Or, if you really want us to, we can add kidnap, assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest... What do you say Adler, going to come quietly or not?"

Adler cocked his head and, with a smile that missed easygoing by a mile and landed deep into frightening, said "Neither, I think. I have no indention of being arrested today, and since my getaway vehicle is right here..." He waved back at the planes. "My associates, including Miss Moreau, will be leaving on that plane. Everyone will remain alive, and we will both be only minorly inconvenienced. I hope that's something you can live with."

"This is why you brought me along, isn't it?" Kate demanded. "In case you needed a hostage. You can't use Neal, no one would care if you destroyed your own property."

"Hush, Kate." Adler kept his eyes on Agent Burke. He flicked his hand casually at the guard aiming her gun at Kate's head. She pulled Kate along, up to the door of the plane Neal had ridden in with Adler.

"I called in the FBI," Kate tried distracting him. "I offered to help them find you if they would help me find Neal."

"Oh Kate." Adler didn't even bother to look at her as he pulled out a memglass and pulled it open. "You really shouldn't lie about that kind of thing. Now, agents, I have a small going away present for all of you, in the form of a series of bombs. Th-"

The sizzling snap of two laser gun blasts ripped through the air, cutting off the rest of what he was going to say. Neal's head jerked up to see Kate, slumped in the arms of Adler's guard as Adler himself toppled over, half of the back of his head blown clean off, his hand landing with a smack onto the memglass he had been holding.

The memglass let out an earsplitting siren squeal, which was the only warning they had. The guard holding Neal dropped him and dove for cover. Neal rolled behind the partition wall. The whole hangar seemed to erupt with noise and hot, pounding fire. The walls shook and cracked apart, jolting Neal out of his huddle, and sending bits of concrete and metal bars raining down from the ceiling. As the noise subsided, Neal swore he could hear shouting through the ringing in his ears.

o0O0o

Neal woke up to the sensation of a hand on the side of his neck, the thumb jabbing in. He scrambled away, eyes snapping open. "Moz?"

"Just checking for your pulse." Mozzie wore an FBI jacket and a pair of gloves, and for a moment of fleeting paranoia, Neal wondered if he really was a secret government agent.

"Who'd you swipe the jacket off of?"

A small, almost mean, smirk crept onto Mozzie's face before he waved Neal off nonchalantly. "They keep extras in their fake utility pod."

"Bad policy," Neal panted. He felt as if his chest was being squeezed, like he couldn't breathe. "Someone could just slip right in and take one."

Mozzie held up the chip remover. "You want that thing off?"

Neal untucked his shirt and lifted it and his jacket up to show the chip embedded in the base of his back. Mozzie pressed the chip remover to it and pulled the chip out with a faint pop. "Tracker," Neal rasped. "There's a tracker too."

"Where?"

Neal touched his hip. Mozzie handed him a small utility knife, and he dug it into the skin over the tracker. One sharp squeeze sent blood and the gel tracker pouring out onto the broken concrete ground.

"There is no way that's sanitary," Mozzie grimaced when Neal tried to hand the knife back to him. "We need to get you out of here so we can clean that thing out and you don't die of sepsis."

Neal closed his eyes. "Kate?" he asked, but it wasn't a question, more like a plea, for Mozzie to tell him it wasn't true, for Kate to walk up to meet them.

"I'm sorry, man." Mozzie's arm wrapped around him in an awkward half hug. "I heard them talking, she was right next to the bomb. She was torn to shreds."

"I saw her go down before that," Neal choked out. "Headshot."

"I'm sorry, man," Mozzie repeated. "Look, I know you just fainted, but we got to get out of here. Your pet suit is up and talking, and he's going to start asking about you soon."

Neal nodded, not trusting himself to speak again.

"You know," Mozzie said as he helped Neal to his feet, "That bomb was kind of a good thing for us. Keeps the FBI distracted."

Oh yes, the bomb that had torn Kate to shreds. "Don't, Moz."

Mozzie fell silent and Neal let him lead him out the back of the hangar and out across Adler's small park of garden, and into one of the city tower pillars. Three flights of stairs later, they emerged to the evening, a light fall of drizzle, and Mozzie's waiting public pod. He let Mozzie guide him inside and sat down, closing his eyes.

"I'm all packed up," Mozzie broke the silence. "We can leave tonight, anywhere you want to go. The kids are ready."

"The kids?"

"Your messengers."

"Oh yeah." Neal tried to smile.

"Kate talked about going to Cairo," Mozzie offered tentatively.

"Yeah, Cairo," Neal mumbled. "Sounds great."

The End.

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attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
attackfish

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