sheenianni: (hedgehog)
[personal profile] sheenianni
Title: Dance Around the Flames – Part III
Author’s Name: [livejournal.com profile] sheenianni
Fandom: White Collar
Notes:
See Part I
___________________________________



Part III

She’s pleasantly sore when she gets dressed; still feeling the powerful throbbing in her body and the sweet echo of pain while her hardened nipples begin to soften again.

Caffrey left a bite on her shoulder. Relishing that feeling, Sara knows she did worse, leaving scratches on his back that might take a few days to fade. Glancing back at the bed, she sees him still lying there, naked under the covers. Catching her eyes, Neal gives her a slightly goofy smile, and that look stirs the threads of something tender within Sara’s heart.

She squashes that sentiment with a vengeance.

She knows how this game is played – a hint of weakness, and she will be Caffrey’s mark before she can blink. Hell, she already is his mark, only she uses him right back and they’re both aware of it.

Mutual exploitation with sex and orgasms. It’s the only way a relationship like theirs could ever work.

“I’ll grab some water,” she tells Neal when she straightens her clothes. She pours herself some water from the kitchen sink, and then deciding that Neal is probably thirsty as well, she fills a second glass before heading back.

Neal murmurs a thank you when he accepts the glass from her. Sara smiles at him in return before turning away, the reasons why she came here suddenly back at the front of her mind.

She can’t do it herself, so she needs Caffrey to steal the will.

Manipulation is one thing, but intimacy makes things messy. She shouldn’t have slept with him.

“I’d love to paint you.”

Sara blinks, surprised by the unexpected words. “Excuse me?”

Neal stares at her. “You don’t even realize. You’re so perfect. Beautiful.”

She raises her eyebrows at him. “I think you’ve been watching too much Titanic. Wait. You just want to get me naked again.”

He grins wickedly. “Well, I didn’t mean a nude, but since you mentioned it…”

“In your dreams, art boy. Find another red-head to play your Rose.”

“If we’re really going with that scenario, I sure hope I wouldn’t have to die,” says Neal sarcastically and Sara snorts despite herself. “But I’m serious. Sara…”

She laughs at him. “No deal, Neal.”

She doesn’t have the room for complications.

He shrugs. “Well. Your loss.”

Pushing the covers away, he finally starts getting dressed (and damn, the way he smirks at her, Sara has to look away because she knows she’s being played). She suddenly wishes this was a simpler world, that Caffrey was someone she could trust, and then she curses herself for being so naïve.

If she could find another way…

“Everything okay?” asks Neal suddenly. “You seem a bit distracted…”

Of course he noticed. And she needs to stop screwing this up. Shaking her head, Sara smiles at Neal and motions to the easel a few feet away. “I was just looking at your painting. You’re pretty good at this.” She wonders where he hides his forgeries.

“I didn’t know you were a fan of art.”

“I’m not exactly,” Sara admits. “I like some of it.”

Neal chuckles. “Definitely no green and yellow splotches, though?”

“Well, it brought me to you, so…”

Wait, is she actually flirting with him…?

This has to stop, now.

“I’m glad that you’re here.”

And damn it if Caffrey doesn’t make it all that more difficult.

Looking away to pull herself together, Sara once again remembers why she came here.

She smiles at him. “Tell me, how would you feel about going to a party and stealing something in the process?”

“A party?”

“I’m sure you’ll love it. Lots of champagne, people in dresses, maybe some dancing. One safe to crack.”

Caffrey blinks before grinning in delight. “Wait, are you asking me out on a heist date? I’m so in love with you!”

Wait, a heist date? How is that even a thing? “I can’t go with you. The mark knows me; I’ll be the first suspect once he realizes he’d been robbed.”

“You sure? It could be fun…”

“Fun for you, Neal. Unlike you, some of us live in the real world.” Sara tries to keep the irritation out of her voice. She really needs his help or a young woman goes homeless.

“So basically, you’re asking me for a favor.” His preening voice pisses her off even more.

“It’s just a simple residential robbery. I’m sure you could pull it off in your sleep.”

“Probably,” says Neal with a shrug. “What’s the target anyway? Bonds? Jewelry?”

“Just some documents,” Sara replies, not willing to reveal her weakness. It’s not like Caffrey would care one bit about Danielle and her kid.

“So you want me to steal some dirty photos and do the PI job for you?” Neal frowns at her. “I’m not your tool, Sara.”

“Of course not. You’re a thief and you want a profit. How very opportunist of you.”

“That’s not what I meant. This thing between us always went both ways. What’s going on?”

“That’s not your business,” Sara snaps at him.

“It is when you want to involve me.”

She’s flustered. “You want both ways? Fine. You steal this for me and I don’t turn you in to the FBI.”

Silence.

What…

Before her own words register in her brain, Sara already knows she’s made a terrible mistake.

Did she just…

“So you’re blackmailing me,” says Neal blankly.

He smiles at her, and there’s the pain of betrayal barely concealed in his eyes – he’s a sociopath, a con man, it’s not real

It’s a stab in a heart, because she can’t take the words back, can’t undo them even if she wanted to.

‘You’re blackmailing me.’

But there’s still a kid and a young woman who need her help. “Yes. I am.”

She did this.

For a moment, Caffrey stares at her with that terrible expression. Then he shakes his head and laughs, chuckling as he gives her an amused look. “You’re really quite ruthless, aren’t you? All right, what is it I’m supposed to steal?”

“It’s a will,” says Sara. “My client’s a young woman with a child. There’s a man – Jeremy Stout – he hid the will because it says that there’s a small apartment that belongs to my client. He’s threatening to evict her next week. If I don’t get the will to her–”

“A mom with a kid?”

“Yes.” She chokes on all the unsaid words. “Caffrey…”

“You said there’s a party, right? Do you know where exactly the safe is and what type it is?”

“It’s in his bedroom; I don’t know the exact type.”

“His address? Details?”

Sara clears her throat. “I can get you access to the party–”

“No need,” Neal interrupts her with a smile. “Just give me the information and I’ll get you the will.”

‘I didn’t want to do this.’

But she did.

Reaching into her handbag, Sara pulls out a small envelope. “This is Stout’s address and personal details… I need to have an alibi for the theft itself, but if there’s anything else that–”

“Don’t worry, I can handle it. Anything else?”

Wordlessly, she shakes her head. “I’ll see myself out,” she says at last.

‘Don’t get caught,’ she almost adds – but she knows he’s good, and she doesn’t have the right anymore.

“Good luck,” she says at last.

She closes the door to Neal’s apartment and a chapter of her life ends. She wishes it didn’t hurt that much.

* * *


She has several restless nights.

She wonders if Neal will use the party as a cover for the robbery. She doesn’t doubt he could do it on another day as well, and maybe she should get an alibi for these days too, but instead, she spends those evenings at home, trying and failing to find a distraction.

She throws herself headfirst into another of her cases, and that works a little bit at least. She tries not to think about Danielle or Neal, and instead helps one of her lawyer contacts find some evidence that would help their defendant in an upcoming trial.

It’s not enough.

No matter if he succeeds or not, if he gets caught or brings her the will, Sara knows that her “relationship” with Caffrey is over.

Finally, she comes home one day and finds Neal sitting on a chair in her kitchen.

Sara stills.

“Hey Sara,” says Neal lightly. There are several sheets of papers lying on the table.

Swallowing hard, Sara picks them up, discovering immediately that it’s the will that Jeremy Stout has hidden from Danielle. With this, Danielle actually has a fighting chance at keeping her apartment.

“Is it a forgery?” she blurts out and then wants to kick herself.

Neal shakes his head. “I knew you needed the real thing.” He grins at her. “It was a great party. The champagne was just as good as you told me.”

“I’m so sorry.” The words slip out before she can stop them; worthless, meaningless.

Neal shrugs. “I understand, really. I read the will and looked things up. You wanted to help that woman and the kid.”

You helped them,” says Sara forcefully, because somehow saying it out loud matters. ‘And I stabbed you in the back.’

“Well, you were right. I am a thief.” Neal gives her a small smile. “It was a good thing while it lasted. I had a good time.”

“Me too.” She blinks hard, but she’s not going to cry when she did this herself.

Neal smiles at her. “Goodbye, Sara.”

She doesn’t stop him as he walks out the door.

* * *


She doesn’t call him, and he doesn’t contact her again. He goes to Europe, and she hears the stories about his shenanigans; the daring heists, the ingenuous cons and the incredible tricks that by all means never should have worked.

He’s outrageous, clever, amazing. He’s going to get caught.

It meant nothing. Mutual exploitation with sex and orgasms.

It wasn’t supposed to hurt this much.


Part IV

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