sheenianni: (hedgehog)
[personal profile] sheenianni
Title: The Ordinary Life
Author: [livejournal.com profile] sheenianni
Fandom: White Collar

Characters/Pairings: Kate Moreau, Neal Caffrey
Rating: PG
Spoilers: None
Word Count: 2,200
Summary: Their life in Paris is perfectly normal. However, Kate always knew there were holes in Neal’s story… Canon divergent AU.

A/N: A belated birthday present for [livejournal.com profile] sapphire2309. I tried to tackle one of your prompts from wcpairings… Happy birthday my friend and I hope you had a wonderful day yesterday :)
Thanks [livejournal.com profile] aragarna for the quick beta-read!


___________________________________



In Paris, there is a small restaurant in a walking distance from a famous museum. The few tables outside are half-hidden under the soft green shade of the trees above. In a few weeks, autumn rains will give the place a melancholic look, perfect for the brushes and imagination of Parisian artists. But for now it’s still September and the evenings are warm and beautiful.

Sitting at one of the tables outside, a young couple is enjoying their dinner. Their dinner plates are almost empty and they sip at their wine, waiting for the opportunity to order desert. The sun slowly begins to set as they fall into silence…


“This is nice,” says Kate after taking another sip from her glass.

Neal smiles at her. “By this, you mean the restaurant, the dinner, our anniversary or–”

“Right now? I’m just enjoying having this moment for the two of us. When were we last out together like this?”

“I don’t know, a few weeks before our kid was born?” Neal suggests only half-jokingly.

Kate frowns. “It’s not easy finding a babysitter–”

“-and you worry anyway.”

“Oh really, like you’re the one to talk,” says Kate dryly. She shakes her head. “Enough of that. We still have two hours before we need to get back. We should really make the most of it.”

Whatever that means.

They’ve been married for three years now. Toying with her fork, Kate smiles blankly and once again wonders where the passion between them has disappeared, because surely it can’t be just about getting married and their baby.

Can it?

She remembers the magic and the excitement of coming to Paris, the first few weeks that were crazy and yet so much fun, exactly what both of them needed after the disaster of Vincent Adler’s Ponzi scheme. How did they get to this point?

She loves Neal, there’s no question about that, but lately there seems to be something missing. She would never admit that she finds herself getting bored, that perhaps this life is not exactly what she once dreamed of.

Neal smiles at her. “Well, what would you want to do? I’m sure we could… do something interesting…” Suddenly his voice trails off.

“What is it?” Kate asks. She frowns when she notices Neal staring stiffly at a pair of tourists studying the menu outside the restaurant.

It doesn’t take much smarts to realize that Neal recognizes them somehow. The tourists – Americans, from the sound of it - clearly haven’t noticed them yet, but they seem to have decided to go to the restaurant. Then with a sudden fast move, Neal grabs his fork and disappears under the table, acting as if he dropped the utensil. To Kate’s dismay, he stays there for a while until the duo finally ventures inside.

“What was that about?” asks Kate in disbelief when her husband emerges from under the table and straightens his shirt.

“Did he see me?”

“I don’t think so. Neal, what’s going on?”

“I’ll explain later. We need to leave.”

“I don’t understand–”

“Kate, I need you to trust me. Can you pay the bill?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Okay.” Neal takes a deep breath. “I’ll wait for you by the fountain we passed on our way here.”

“And you will tell me what this was all about,” states Kate firmly.

Neal gives her a tight smile before leaving her alone at the restaurant, and she’s torn between curiosity and worry.

Well, she said she wanted excitement – it looks like some just found them.

Who are the people inside?

* * *


Special Agent Peter Burke, FBI.

“You used to be a thief?” asks Kate in disbelief.

“And a forger. Burke knows me because I forged some bonds. It was shortly before we met.”

They meet by the fountain, just like Neal suggested. The river looks truly beautiful as they walk past its shore, but right now Kate’s thoughts don’t allow her to appreciate its beauty.

A thief and a forger. She stops to lean against a railing, because staring at the changing colors of Seine is easier than looking at her husband.

“Were you ever going to tell me?”

“Honestly? No, probably not.” Neal grimaces. “There were a few times I wanted to, but…”

“Let me guess – it never felt quite the right moment.”

“That too… I’ve left that life behind. The past is in the past. It didn’t feel important anymore.”

“And if it is? Is this Agent Burke here because of you?”

“I don’t think so.” Neal hesitates. “I overreacted because it was a shock to see him there. He’d probably want to arrest me if he knew who I was, but I got out of that life years ago. Besides, he only saw me once back then. He might not even recognize my face now.”

Might and probably.” Kate makes a pause. “You told me before that you used the false name as “Nick Holden” to get a job with Adler. That wasn’t the whole story, was it? What else didn’t you tell me?”

“Are you sure you want to know?”

She laughs mirthlessly before finally looking at him. “There’s nobody here and we’ve got two hours. You’re going to tell me everything.”

* * *


In the end, she thought she would be more upset.

Maybe she should be. Even if his past is “not relevant now”, Neal still kept it from her, lied to her for years. It hurts in a way Kate doesn’t care to examine quite yet, but it’s also less unexpected than she’d ever admit aloud. Even when they first met, there was that air of something evasive around him; a flashy charm that was all too bright not to be fake, especially as the years passed and Kate got to know the real man underneath. Besides, there were always big gaping holes in Neal’s story that anyone with half a brain would notice. But between Adler’s deception and her feelings for Neal, between losing her job and moving to France, she simply decided not to ask.

Neal tells his story with a mixture of pride and regret – pride, because he’s always been pleased and somewhat vain when it came to his accomplishments; regret, because he’s grown over the years and what once sounded like a marvelous adventure had its own victims who weren’t always obvious at first glance.

There are things that he is reluctant to share and Kate has to drag them out of him.

“So our trip to France. I guess the money weren’t from the forgotten uncle who I’ve never met?”

“No. I pulled one more job with Mozzie. My share was enough to buy two flight tickets to Paris and to cover the first few weeks of rent. We split the profits and parted our ways, and I came back to you.”

And then they came to France and started a new life.

Or at least she thought they did. “And after we got here. Did you ever–”

“No. I swear, not since then.” Neal pauses before smirking a little. “Though I was tempted a few times. If I had a huge source of illegal income, we probably wouldn’t be living in a tiny one bedroom apartment on a fourth floor in a building with no elevator…”

He’s joking about it. Kate doesn’t smile back. She also notices that Neal is hiding that vulnerable look in his eyes, telling her that he’s preparing himself for anger and rejection.

She doesn’t want to lash out at him, but she also needs a moment to process things and she can’t do that with Neal next to her.

“I need to think about this,” she says briskly. “Let’s go home.”

* * *


“You can’t be serious,” Kate gasps out, laughing so hard her eyes start tearing up.

“No, I swear. I was standing in that window covered with nothing but that golden tray. The princess was screaming, the guards looked ready to kill me on the spot…”

“And you really escaped butt naked.”

“An accomplice gave me a coat once I climbed out of the window.” Neal grins. “Not one of my shining moments, I’ll admit.”

They’re sitting in the kitchen, talking and drinking wine. Their son is sleeping in the other room so they have to be careful not to be too loud. Even though the wine is not particularly good, Kate still enjoys its taste; a recently rediscovered treat since she only stopped breastfeeding a month ago.

It’s been three weeks since she found out about Neal’s past.

They were both relieved when the news of the FBI and Interpol making an arrest appeared in the newspaper and Agent Burke returned to the States. As for Neal and Kate, there is a lingering hurt that Neal kept that secret from her for so long, and it might not disappear for a while. However, the revelation has also brought up a new spark to their marriage, an effect that is both unexpected and very much welcome.

After they married, their spontaneity slowly disappeared as they remade themselves in misguided efforts to live a “normal” life. The baby, their jobs, taxes, the bills, their savings... all the savings, because they want to buy a bigger apartment eventually and they really needed to plan for that…

Were they really on the way to become one of those couples, too lost in the matters of everyday life to enjoy the world around them?

The change is startling. There is that old-new fire between them, and it’s everywhere – in their touches, in their eyes, in the way they talk and kiss and make love.

Kate sees the air of energy around Neal and wonders what suppressed it before – their everyday existence, the secrets he kept from her, the responsibilities of parenthood? And she finds herself responding to that spark, like a flower awakening after a long winter, and there is some good in solid roots but when did they forget to reach for the sun?

Neal’s lies may have always been a wall between them, but now the dam has broken and Kate finds that there are new layers to their love that they have forgotten.

She knows this is the side of Neal that she first fell in love with; the side that made him a romantic and a criminal, which is probably why he tried to lock it away. Now he shines again and she wonders what dulled that spark, why he thought he had to tame himself to be with her, because she never wanted that, never wanted to put a leash on his spirit.

It’s actually almost painful when she watches Neal draw and paint. Until recently, he hasn’t been doing much of that either. Kate always liked Neal’s art, but now there is real beauty in it, not just a passing shade but some deep emotion that shines strong and true. And he thought she wanted something different…

“You should build me a castle in the clouds.”

Neal looks startled as Kate’s words echo through the silence that has settled between them. “I’m sorry?”

She smiles and shakes her head. “Do you remember our first few dates when we used to fill the expensive bottles with cheap wine?”

Neal winces. “I was hoping you’ve forgotten that?”

“Actually it was sweet.” She pauses. “It’s okay, you know. We can drink cheap wine and live in a small apartment and walk the stairs instead of taking an elevator. I never needed a Richard Gere from Pretty Woman – I knew that when I married you.”

“Kate–”

“No, listen. We have a kid, a family, and we can’t lose you to prison if you went back to that life. But as long as we’re together and have a roof over our heads, I don’t want you to stop dreaming because of us. I don’t want you to stop being you.”

There is a moment of silence, and for a moment Kate wonders if she perhaps misread the situation.

Then Neal smiles brilliantly at her. “Have I told you how much I’m in love with you?”

She laughs. “Say it to me again.”

* * *


From the door, Kate watches Neal crouched on the floor, pushing a toy car and making funny noises as he plays with their son. A few hours later, they put the kid to bed, and Kate settles to watching Neal sketch in the kitchen, the two of them relaxed and open, finally being as they’re supposed to be.

“I loved your last painting,” she tells him when she watches the steady moves of Neal’s pencil, his forehead creased in concentration. “Are you really going to enter it into that competition?”

“I think so,” Neal answers almost absentmindedly. Then he stops to glance at her with a smile. “Who knows, maybe someone will like it and it’ll sell for a lot of money.”

“Maybe they’ll want more,” Kate suggest with a smirk.

“Yeah, and maybe we’ll be rich and buy our villa at Côte d’Azur.”

They both laugh at the absurdity of that statement.

When the holds her, when they kiss each other, it feels raw and honest. There are no more walls, no pretenses between them. For better or worse, they are who they are.

And maybe one day, their dreams will come true.

THE END

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