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



PART V

She has always known the day would come.

Caffrey is good, one of the best even. He also had far too many agencies chasing him, and everyone slips at least once, eventually.

It was only a matter of time. And now he will go to prison.

She tells herself it’s because he saved her life; that she owes him to look into things.

It’s a lie.

She remembers how he made her smile, how he didn’t hold it against her even after she tried to stab him in the back.


He’s a thief, forger, a liar, a criminal.

She’s not sure she actually gives a damn.

* * *


She’s got all sorts of acquaintances that owe her favors; lawyers, journalists, even fixers. All of them mean squat when it comes to the fourteen felony charges that Caffrey is facing.

She arranges a meeting with the same lawyer who helped Danielle with her case against Jeremy Stout.

The taxi takes her to a diner where she knows they can talk in private. Resting her crutches in the corner of the booth, Sara lowers herself to the seat opposite of her contact, who is already waiting there for her.

“Hello Lance.”

“Sara,” Lance greets her with concern. “You didn’t tell me you were still injured. How are you doing?”

She waves her hand dismissively. “It’s just one wound and it’s healing well. I’m fine. Now tell me. Do we still have client-attorney privilege?”

Lance frowns. “I’ll keep your secrets, but this isn’t exactly my area of expertise.”

“Maybe not, but you’ve worked criminal law before. Just give me your basic insight.”

She pulls out an envelope and passes him all the information she has amassed.

The waitress interrupts them then, and they both order coffee, with Sara opting for a dessert to go with that. She then sips at her coffee and slowly eats her cake while she patiently waits for Lance to read through her notes.

Finally he closes the file and looks back at her.

“How bad?” Sara asks.

“I don’t have access to what the prosecution has–”

“But if you had to guess?”

Her lawyer frowns. “The racketeering charges and the money laundering are a stretch. Unless they have a hidden ace, the jewelry theft won’t hold either.” He pauses. “The Picasso, the Atlantic bonds and the Monet… they’ll probably get him on at least one of those.”

It’s not the answer she hoped to hear.

There has to be something she can do. “What if I was his character witness?”

Lance raises his eyebrows. “May I ask how do you know Mr. Caffrey?”

“He’s one of my contacts,” says Sara, even if that’s barely the surface of the truth. She clears her throat. “You asked me how I was doing. It’s thanks to Caffrey I’m even here today. I didn’t escape from McCann’s group; he got me out.”

Lance whistles. “So you owe him.”

“Something like that,” says Sara agreeably, because it’s the simplest explanation.

She’s not going to talk about things that she doesn’t yet even understand herself.

“Let’s talk hypothetically,” says Lance at last. “I suppose you and Mr. Caffrey have met somewhere in the past. I assume your association was purely legal and you had no idea he was a fugitive?”

“Exactly…”

“So that means he kept his identity from you. Now, you said Caffrey rescued you from the corrupt cops. Pardon me, but how did he even know you were there?”

“He wasn’t working with them! Lance, I know him–”

“Let’s say you’re right. Let’s even say the prosecution and the jury believe that. From what I understand, Caffrey’s whole defense will be built on the fact that the FBI supposedly made him into some sort of a superman; that he couldn’t have committed those crimes because he’s not capable of it. But if you tell them he rescued you…”

“…it will mean he probably has all those abilities he’s been trying to deny. Damn it.”

She suspects it hurts Caffrey’s pride, to pretend and claim that he isn’t a brilliant thief, forger and everything they say about him. But if she tries to help him, his whole charade will fall apart.

“And if I make something up?” asks Sara challengingly.

“Then as your own lawyer, I’ll remind you that false testimony is a crime.” Lance pauses. “As a friend… don’t. Most likely, you’d only hurt his case even if you didn’t implicate yourself. I’m sorry, Sara, but you can’t help him.”

He’s right.

She can’t help Neal. She can only watch, and then send money to his prison account after they convict him. Hell, maybe she can play Caffrey’s prison widow, drop by for a visit every Thanksgiving and Christmas for the next eight or fifteen years.

The life of her dreams.

Her eyes remain dry when she smiles at her lawyer. “Thank you, Lance.”

She’s learned long ago not to cry for might-have-beens.

* * *


The FBI needs to talk to her about McCann and his group. It’s five days after her meeting with Lance that Sara comes to the White Collar office to give her slightly altered testimony.

She’s happy to have finally gotten rid of the crutches, instead using a rather stylish cane that allows her to walk without looking and feeling like an invalid. The cane makes dull clattering noises that can almost replace the sound of her heels when Peter Burke takes her to the conference room. With her perfect dress and her mask back in place, Sara pulls off the whole calm invincible act.

She’s steady, unfazed, unhurt. She doesn’t need anything or anyone.

They go over the details of her investigation and later her captivity. When talking about her escape, Sara claims her memory has been blurred by the fever. She wonders if she should mention Neal’s name to Peter Burke, but deep down she knows it wouldn’t change anything.

Just like her, Caffrey has always been on his own. He wouldn’t expect anything else.

She’s worked with the FBI before, so when Peter gets an unexpected call and suggests they take a break, the other agents leave Sara unsupervised. Her leg still hurts, but sitting down for too long actually makes it worse, so she decides to take a stroll around the office.

She’s pretty sure she’s not supposed to go anywhere except probably the bathrooms or the break room. In the years to come, she won’t know what led her steps to the undistinguished door of a storage room.

She finds herself alone in a room with several boxes of evidence. Her heart stops when she realizes they all have “Neal Caffrey” written on the tag.

Frozen to a spot, Sara recalls her talk with Lance.

She can’t do anything to help Neal.

She stares at the boxes with documents. Almost immediately, an idea takes shape in her head.

There are no cameras in the room.

Without hesitation, Sara steps forward and opens the first of the boxes. She doesn’t have much time.

The box is filled with files and documents. With only a vague idea of what she’s looking for, Sara quickly scans through the box before moving on to the second.

She only stills for a moment when she finds it. She then filches the whole set of papers, her hands steady as she stuffs them in her purse. Closing the box, Sara picks up her cane and quietly slips out of the room.

She runs into Peter’s new probie just a few steps outside the storage room.

“Diana?”

“Miss Ellis.”

She smiles at her. “Please, call me Sara. Hey, do you think I could get some coffee here?”

The agent smiles at her. “Of course. Follow me, please.”

Drinking coffee, chatting and smiling with Diana, Sara feels the content of her purse burn into her side.

If she’s discovered, she will go to jail.

She has noticed it on her way to the kitchen. Taking advantage of the camera-free spot, Sara takes a few quick steps to the shredder. When she’s sure nobody’s watching her, she turns the machine on and pulls out the content of her purse.

She feeds the forged Atlantic bonds to the shredder and watches until the incriminating evidence turns into a hundred little pieces.

Then she turns it off, grabs her cane and returns to the conference room with her coffee to wait for Peter.

* * *


She dreams about being caught and arrested. She goes to prison, gets her own orange jumpsuit just like what Caffrey will likely be wearing soon. And then the walls of her cell fade away and she’s back in that cellar, but this time when they shoot her, nobody comes for her, and she bleeds and bleeds until she dies, alone…

She wakes up screaming and trembling like a leaf, which is stupid because she’s not some weak flower, she’s stronger than this.

Trying to reach the lamp in the darkness, Sara curses when she knocks down her cane. She eventually hobbles to the bathroom, finds some sleeping pills and swallows two before hobbling back to her bed.

She doesn’t have any more dreams after that.

* * *


The next day, she finally goes back to her PI office. Two days after that, she gets a visit from Peter Burke.

He says some evidence disappeared. The bonds that Caffrey forged have been shredded, ruined so badly there was no way they could be used for the trial. Sara was the one of the few non-FBI people there during those two days. Diana saw her outside the storage room. The only thing Peter doesn’t know is her motive.

Luckily for Sara, he also has no proof.

She’s smart enough not to confirm his accusations. But she also doesn’t deny them.

Peter’s still furious and hurt, and Sara knows if he had any evidence of what she has done, he would charge her without a blink of an eye.

There won’t be any future cooperation between her and the FBI, that is very much clear.

“Why?” asks Peter at last.

He deserves an answer.

“What if I owed him my life?” says Sara.

“What? How?”

Very deliberately, she stands up from her desk and leans against her cane. Peter’s eyes widen in understanding.

“He helped you get away.”

She doesn’t confirm it, but Peter already knows.

And yet she lied to him, Sara thinks when the agent finally leaves. Because she didn’t help Neal out of a sense of obligation.

Besides, none of it will matter if he gets a fifteen-year sentence.

She can’t think about it until the end of the trial.

* * *


Three months after her rescue, Sara reads in the paper that Neal Caffrey has been convicted of Criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Stealing, forging, embezzling – the Monet, Picasso, the Atlantic bonds; on all those accounts, they found him not guilty. The only thing they can pin on him is the grand crime of having a fake ID, a class A misdemeanor for which they sentence him to six months in jail, three of which he has already served while awaiting trial.

It’s ridiculous, and if she’s honest with herself, it’s spitting in the face of law. Neal’s defense team won; his sentence little more than a slap on the wrist. She should really feel guilty for her part in it.

Her conscience never quite followed the letter of the law.

Caffrey’s sentence means nothing to Sara, only they’re square now. She has repaid him for his rescue, and now she’s got her own life, her PI business to run. Things have gotten much more difficult now that she’s sure Diana Berrigan and Peter are watching her like hawks.

It means nothing.

* * *


Three months later, she comes home one afternoon to find Neal waiting for her in her apartment.


Part VI
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