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Title: "The Widow's Jazz"
Fandom: White Collar
Pairing: June/Byron
Rating: NC-17, explicit sexuality and some dark themes
Summary: June spends an evening with the memory of the love of her life.

AN: Written for the Merry Month of Masturbation challenge. The title is from a poem by Mina Loy.



Between her social calendar, her grandchildren, and her apparently popular tenant, it's rare for June to have a Saturday to herself these days. Rare, and precious. It's a cool spring day, and after a brisk morning walk she spends all of it inside, reading, tidying up the places that the maid always seems to miss, and generally puttering about. After a light dinner, she retires to her bedroom, where she lights her favorite jasmine-scented candle and turns on the record that Neal downloaded for her of a singer called Janelle Monae. He'd said she'd like the music, and he was right -- something about hearing a girl who must have been Cindy's age lending her strong, modern voice to what sounded like classic sixties soul arrangements put her distinctly in mind of Neal wearing Byron's suits.

Mmmm mmm, Neal in Byron's suits.

Not that June has any intentions toward Neal. Even if it didn't seem like the height of tackiness to take advantage of her handsome young tenant, he's simply much too young for her. She has nothing against anyone else getting involved with a younger man -- her dear friend Donna's having a fling with a twenty-four year old off-Broadway actor, and she's never seemed more alive -- but personally, she'd rather be with a more experienced man. Not to mention that the society pages would never be able to resist a lady named June in a May-December romance.

But the real reason she knows she isn't ready to move on, if she's being honest with herself -- and if not now, when? -- is that when she admires the way Byron's silk sport jacket flares out over Neal's slim hips and pert little butt, the way the brim of his trilby casts a flattering shadow over Neal's eyes, all she can think about is Byron.

He was always a snappy dresser. That was the first thing she noticed about him, on the crisp Sunday morning on Park Avenue when they first met. She was used to men who had money and showed it off in their subtle coded way, men who wore good suits and matching hats, but Byron had a grace to him, a personality that showed through in the smallest details, the buckles of his shoes and the pattern of his silk handkerchief. He'd bent his head to kiss her hand when they were introduced, and when he'd raised his eyes to hers they'd seemed to dance with mischief and mystery, like he was sharing a secret. That look -- like he was seeing right through her, but don't worry, he wouldn't tell a soul what he saw -- had gone right to her core, straight through her knee-length skirt and complicated nineteen-fifties underwear, and kept her warm for the rest of the day. Thinking of it even now, she absent-mindedly dips her fingers in the little pot of shea butter lotion on the bedside table, and draws them up under her nightie, chasing that warm little tingle.

A week later, Mr. Healy, the family friend who'd introduced them, had discreetly begun selling off his collection of antique nautical memorabilia, and she heard her older brother commenting that he'd gotten taken to the cleaners on a business deal that was "too good to be true." She'd thought of that shhh, don't tell look flashing in the handsome stranger's eyes, and didn't know whether to be scandalized or just amused. She'd never liked Mr. Healy anyway; he was one of the stuffy white men her father did business with who never quite looked her in the eye or addressed her by name. Still, she had her standards, and it stung a little that the man she'd been daydreaming about for a week, imagining him french-kissing her with that subtly smiling mouth, was a common crook.

They'd met again soon after, again on the street in broad daylight, outside of the post office. She'd been glad for every inch her patent-leather t-strap pumps gave her as she looked him in the eye and confronted him with her suspicions. He'd curved his shoulders to meet her halfway and confessed, hat over his heart, that she was right -- and no, that wasn't his real name, except in the sense that it was the name he'd chosen for himself and he supposed that made it just as real as any other name. Everything about him -- the name, the precise diction that he shared with her family, the impeccable suits -- was part of the illusion that he'd constructed around himself. He told her this matter-of-factly, leaning against the wall and barely hiding his laughter at her indignant expression.

"So, what you're saying is, you're a fraud."

"I guess so. You think Jay Gatsby was a fraud?"

She willed herself not to be impressed by a man who read Fitzgerald. "Yes, he was. Just one who got away with it."

"Well, then. You can think of me as the black Jay Gatsby."

He'd smiled a big, real smile, and she'd found herself angling her body toward him like his smile would warm her, like it was the sun. She kept her eyes on him, not wanting to let him off the hook, because she was a young lady, and he was, apparently, a man who went by a phony name and made his living getting people to invest in phony business deals. But he'd been persistent, and eventually he'd convinced her to let him take her out to dinner and a show. She couldn't help herself, even when her mother gave her that look that always meant "you're making a serious mistake." Something about him made her feel understood, like he could see through the demure attitude she'd learned to perform to something bold and free and frightening inside of her.

The first time they'd made love, he'd been so gentle and hesitant with her that eventually she'd actually laughed at him, asking him what he thought she was, a china doll? His hands had been long and elegant and so warm as they just barely touched her breasts and the insides of her thighs. Technically, it was her first time -- she'd fooled around with her teenage boyfriend, but they'd never gone all the way -- but she didn't want that to be the way he thought of her, as this lost little girl needing to be shown the way. She'd insisted on getting on top of him and showing him what she liked, even if honestly she wasn't sure what that was yet. The memory is so vivid, that youthful pride and insecurity almost drowned out by the sheer excitement of it, the feeling that she was being very bad indeed, and she liked it. It had hurt a little, but she didn't want that to show, so she focused on the pleasure of those beautiful hands on her body, his brilliant fingers teasing her sex, and etched every detail into her memory so deeply that she finds herself tracing his movements even now, remembering the revelation of them, the look of cocky concentration on his face as he'd done things to her that were new and exhilarating.

Only days after that, she'd gotten her acceptance letter to Spelman College, in Atlanta. Her best friend Michelle, to whom she told everything, told her that she was crazy to think Byron would wait for her: "I mean, the man is a professional liar. It isn't even an insult to say he's a liar! It's just a fact." But she'd known, the same way she'd known his secret as soon as she heard what happened to Mr. Healy. She knew from the way he looked at her, from the way he touched her. Maybe nothing he ever said was true, but he'd never said that he loved her, or that he always would, and she knew that those things were true with more certainty than she'd had about anything in her life. So she spent four stimulating years in Georgia, making friends and reading piles of books and considering what she was going to do with her life, and four long, blissful summers in New York, hiding out from the heat in dark movie theaters and under the ceiling fan in Byron's bedroom. He sent her letters while she was away at school, and sometimes gifts -- she could tell how "business" was going by what he sent, whether it was a dried flower or a fur stole -- and it was during those nights, after her roommate had fallen asleep, that she learned to explore her own body, to find in herself all of the exquisite little sensations that Byron's hands and mouth and prick could draw out of her. She'd bite her lip to keep from crying out as she felt around with her fingers in the dark, and thought about what they'd do when she saw him again.

Byron flew down to Atlanta for her graduation, much to the displeasure of her parents. She threw her cap in the air at the customary time and then, along with everyone else, bent down to retrieve it. When she looked up from the ground, she found herself face to face with Byron, on one knee and holding a small velvet box. That night in his hotel room they'd tried a little bit of everything she'd fantasized about while they were apart. After all, they could sleep on the plane the next day.

She'd had to defend him to everyone, but she didn't mind that part -- she enjoyed being a little bit shocking after eighteen years as a perfect daughter, perfect student, and, in a phrase one of Byron's subversive musician friends had taught her, "model minority." Her father was horrified that she'd consider marrying a man who hadn't served in the world war, almost certainly on fraudulent grounds (she wasn't going to tell him that she knew perfectly well what those grounds were, and that she'd seen his very convincing documentation of university student status). She'd shrugged and repeated what he'd told her about the matter, that "I don't know where this Free World is that we're supposed to be defending, anyway." Then she'd pointed out that Byron had spent the war years putting his little brothers through school, and that she thought that said very good things about his potential as a husband. She'd learned by now that her fiance's Jay Gatsby allusion was not entirely accurate. While Gatsby cut off ties to his old identity and ran for his life from the truth about where he'd come from, Byron became more and more rooted in his Harlem birthplace as his cons and schemes became more fabulously ambitious. He'd take the train downtown and spent the day selling every kind of wishful thinking to everyone foolish enough to fall for it, and when he came back -- whether it was hours later, or weeks -- he'd share the fruits of his dishonest day's work with any friends and neighbors who needed it.

So eventually her parents stopped trying to fight a losing battle, and started planning the wedding. Everyone could see how happy she was, how she seemed to glow with a new confidence whose secret sources she'd only hint at with her most mysterious smile. Nobody needed to know that sometimes she helped him out when he needed an extra "man" for one of his schemes, that she'd turned out to be an accomplished card cheat and especially brilliant at getting people to reveal their secrets. And nobody needed to know that he'd eventually learned to afford her the same confidence and respect in the bedroom that he'd always shown in their daytime life, and cheerfully encouraged her to take the lead whenever she felt like it, undressing him as quickly as possibly without damaging his beautiful clothes, and guiding him to his knees to let him know exactly how she wanted to be pleasured. He'd started shaving his head, and she liked the slightly prickly texture of his scalp under her hands, the slickness of his sweat. She felt powerful and glamorous, having this unconquerable, above-the-law man kneeling at her bedside and devoting his full attention to her whims. She felt adored. It's that feeling, just as much as the pressure of his tongue against her clitoris, the heat of his breath on her wet skin, that she recalls as she slips her moistened fingers inside of herself, remembering how lucky she is to have felt that love, to have never forgotten that to him, she was a goddess.

The strength of that conviction -- that and her natural stubborn streak -- had gotten her through times that could have broken a weaker person down. She'll never tell Neal this, but she doesn't think she could ever judge that girlfriend of his for whatever compromise she made in the end. She remembers too clearly what it was like waiting for Byron for the years he spent in prison, worrying about what violence was being done to him, and the violence done to her that she couldn't bring herself to call by that name until much later, the bullying and intimidation she was subjected to by the Federal agents who'd become obsessed with tracking Byron's money, convinced since he'd been convicted of racketeering that they'd found a link between his illegal gambling rings and, of all things, the Black Panthers. Eventually she'd figured out from their questions that they were talking about a donation the couple had made to a charity that ran an after-school music program for children in the Bronx, which must have been six degrees of funding away from the BPP. Of course, she didn't tell them that until they subpoenaed her financial records, at which point she'd sighed, rolled her eyes, and finally hired a lawyer. The bullying just got worse, until the point when she and her lawyer had to prove that her house -- her beautiful, historic house -- had been bought with money she'd inherited from her grandfather, and not with the proceeds of Byron's rackets, to prevent the government from being able to confiscate it. If someone had offered her a deal... she wouldn't have taken it. Not with the memory so fresh in her mind, in her whole body, of Byron making love to her, looking up at her with raw emotion in his eyes and whispering that she was a force of nature, an avatar of divinity. But she would have been tempted, so help her, because he felt so far away, and it wasn't like when she was in college and she could just close her eyes and be with him whenever she needed to. For those years, thinking of him gave her strength, but it didn't give her pleasure. It hurt. She and Neal might get to be close friends one day, but she'll never tell him what that feels like, because she doesn't want him thinking of his Kate feeling that way. She shudders a little to remember, the nights she'd dream of him so vividly that she could hardly bear to wake up and remember that she was alone.

But he'd come back, amazingly, leaner and more cynical but with the same spark of mischief and mystery in his eyes. He'd walked through the house like a somnambulist slowly waking up, complimenting her on how beautifully she'd kept it, how warm and sweet it was to come home to her, and then they'd had sex in every room of the house, taking their time, re-exploring parts of one another that memory had constructed in exquisitely painful detail. The last stop had been the voluminous Victorian bathtub in the master bedroom, both of them almost too worn out to keep going, just lazily slipping their bodies together as the warm water eased the weight of the years.

"You haven't changed," he told her.

"You haven't either," she replied with a wry smile. "You're still a liar."

He studied her body like a map to freedom, whispering to her the whole time about how he'd missed her, the things he'd dreamed and imagined about her while he was gone. She let his voice envelop her like the water, supporting her weight, leading her back to shore after the years she'd spent feeling unmoored, wandering. It was a difficult moment, a moment when part of her wanted to just give in and cry, but it has become one of her favorite memories of him, the gentleness of his touch after so much hardness, the bittersweet realization that they were each strong enough to go without one another, but that it felt like going without their souls. It wasn't until she had him back that she fully understood how much she'd missed him, and that realization had built inside her along with the powerful orgasm that he drew from her body with his slow, gentle movements, until finally she felt the tension break inside of her and could no longer stop herself from crying.

He'd traced her tears with one slender fingertip, and she realizes now how much of her sense of him is still tied to his beautiful hands, every intimate moment between them seeming like an echo of that first meeting when he'd taken her hand in his and kissed it. Every accomplishment of their life together since their reunion felt to her like a direct path from that bathtub, neither of them ever losing sight of that powerful reminder of how much they needed each other. She'd gone from writing and sometimes appearing in plays, to producing them, to owning theaters, turning her natural head for business into a miniature empire. He claimed to have gone straight, in the money side of the local music business. She, of course, was perfectly aware that he was still running high-stakes card games under the table, although they both understood that a polite fiction was necessary in order to keep the heat off of her high profile. They'd hosted glamorous parties and traveled overseas and danced until dawn, and even as the sex eventually tapered to an every-once-in-a-while sort of thing, she still saw that adoration in his eyes and felt the same fascination in his fingertips that had captured her erotic imagination before she even knew how to give herself an orgasm. Right up until the end, he could flash her a look that made her want to close up shop for the rest of the day, even if all they did was hold each other in their arms.

It's that look that she's thinking of now, nothing else, just his almond-shaped eyes, the deep, dark brown of his irises and the smile lines that slowly spread around them. The mischief, the mystery, the absolute and unflagging worship of everything she did. She feels a quiver in her hips and up her spine as she speeds up the rhythm of her fingers, thinking of those eyes that she'd follow anywhere, the way he looked up at her while his tongue traced her inner lips, or when his fingers cupped her breasts as she rode him on his bed those hot summer afternoons with all the lights turned off. She presses down hard against her clit as her hips rise up to meet her fingers, not imagining they're his, but remembering the way his love stretched out to sustain her all the times when she was alone, the way she'd touch herself and know that one day it would be him touching her again. That tension breaks inside of her again, and she rides it out against the flat of her hand until she's too sensitive to touch, bringing herself back to her own bedroom with soul singing on the stereo and her jasmine candle flickering on the vanity table, secure and comfortable in the world that she and Byron built for themselves, outside of the rules and against the odds. As the last song on the record comes to a close, she smiles to herself. She's earned a day off, and she's certainly earned an evening off, every once in a while.

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asimaiyat: If you're in trouble, and no one else can help, and you can find them, maybe you can hire Leverage! (w/ whole team) (Default)
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