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)
[personal profile] asimaiyat
Title: "They're Just Old Light"
Fandom: White Collar
Pairing: Neal/Kate
Rating: mild NC-17, for sex and prison themes
Summary: Neal took one photo of Kate with him to prison.

AN: Written for MMoM, for [personal profile] ashcat's challenge to write about Neal in prison. This is also kind of my take on Elizabeth's advice about love in "Out of the Box."



Neal was never much of a photographer. He can appreciate it as an art form, but he's never liked the way the camera gets between his eyes and the world he's looking at, taking an immediate experience and making it... abstract. Distant. Making it into a memory while it's still happening -- he can't live that way.

Which is to say that he doesn't have many photos of Kate. Endless sketches and watercolor miniatures and cartoons and line drawings, yes. But not many photographs, except for a couple of rolls from that summer when they first got together, when he'd come into possession of an old Leica III more or less by accident, and he'd spent a fair amount of July and August idly snapping at whatever caught his attention, the sizzling afternoons waited out in the School of Visual Arts darkroom their fake student IDs had gotten them into. She liked the process of developing, the slow reveals, the patient technique, the colored lights making everything look like something out of an experimental film. He liked the way she hopped up onto the table next to the chemical baths, her feet dangling above the floor, and let him wrap her in his arms and kiss her just as slowly as her face came into focus on the prints.

Of course, now he can only see most of the images in his memory, snapshots of a time that now seems hopelessly naive -- unbelievable that he never realized how far he was pushing his luck, and in how many directions. There's Alex waving at him, her long legs draped over the marble steps of the Library. Alex stripped down to a t-shirt in bed and rolling her eyes as he insists on pointing the camera at her. A striking work of stenciled graffiti on the street outside his apartment. Alex in a sequined dress, hosting one of her famous rooftop parties... the one where she introduced him to Kate. Mozzie barely ducking out of the side of the frame, over and over, turning the background -- a sidewalk cafe, a crowded street, a hidden-away corner of the Strand -- into the foreground. Kate trying on an outrageous Mae West gown in a vintage shop. Kate holding up a flute of champagne at a party, tucked between the fingers of her satin opera gloves. Kate frowning and twisting her hair as she worked her way through a particularly difficult passage of Le Rouge et le Noir. Kate hailing a cab. Kate on the beach at Montauk, from behind, her hands just reaching back to untie the halter top of her bikini. Kate's face in a close-up, laughing.

He only took one photo with him to prison, needing not just the picture in his mind but the object itself, the actual weight of the paper. It's almost a mistake -- when the image first surfaced in the bath of sulfates and bromides, he cursed under his breath at how it had turned out, the lighting exactly the opposite of the effect he had been going for. He'd wanted Kate walking down the hallway in their apartment, naked with tousled hair, smiling as she approached the sunlit window. But he'd underestimated the brightness of the bathroom light, and it had come out so backlit that she was practically a silhouette, her features just barely visible, her curves outlined in black against the unnaturally pale light, each unruly strand of her hair seeming to glow from within. She'd taken the still-dripping print by the edges -- left a fingerprint in it, actually -- and tilted her head and smiled. "I like it," she'd said. "You know, I think you've really captured me."

He still sees her every week, but now he's the one who's captured, and she is receding, feeling less and less his with every forced smile and sunny anecdote. She's bright and brave and stronger than he'd known, and she dresses in pink and purple silk and breezes in like Holly Golightly visiting Sing Sing, and always knows what to talk about, how to get his mind off his troubles -- "I meant to ask you, I'm trying to remember something I read about Kandinsky being friends with Chagall -- do you think I just made that up in my head?" "I think I'm redecorating the apartment. Want to consult on colors before I do anything drastic?" "You're never going to believe what Inez said at the Costume Institute party." She carries on the illusion with more grace than he thinks he'd be capable of himself. But she can't quite make him believe that nothing has changed.

It's just that, before prison, whether they were bumming around New York or cheerfully on the run across Europe together, their little games and repartee never failed to get him all worked up. He'd make some sarcastic comment and Kate would come back with the perfect retort, and then flash him one of her ironic little winks, and that was pretty much all the foreplay he'd needed. Just the words in her mouth were enough to make him hard. These days, she's more than willing to slip a little dirty talk into her repertoire. He can tell she isn't just taking pity on him; her cheeks flushed and her eyes heavy as she murmurs across the glass that she still remembers what his cock tastes like, that she can't wait to have her mouth all over him again. He plays along, lowering his voice to match hers and letting her know exactly how much he would appreciate that.

And he does appreciate it. It means a lot that she still wants him, that she's still there at all. He can appreciate how gracefully she reassures him, the art of it. But he doesn't feel it. At least, his dick doesn't. At the core, it makes him feel a little bit pathetic, that she even has to go to the effort to not make him feel pathetic. The whole thing is such a mess. In the fantasies she spins for him, rooted in memories of the past and extending into the imagined future, he is the bright, sharp object of her adoration, always in control, always ahead of the game. That's how he wants to think of them together, his strong arms holding her up, her pale eyes widening as he makes her come. And now he's depending on her; he's screwed up and gotten caught -- so stupid, such a stupid damn mistake, underestimating someone who was so obviously different from all the others -- and now she has to get a cab once a week to come out here to the Waste Land and make sure he isn't falling apart. And no matter how valiantly she tries to make him feel like he's still her hero, nothing she could do could make him feel the way he felt the first time he'd shown her how to sneak into the restoration room at a museum, the hot pink blush that had flooded her cheeks when he held up the stolen key and winked at her.

So she tells him: "You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to go home to our apartment and lie down in our bed and take out that big fat purple vibrator and fuck myself pretending it's your gorgeous cock. I'm going to play with my tits and imagine that my wet fingers are your lips nibbling on me. God, I'm never going to forget how you feel, I don't care how long I have to wait. Remember the time we flew to Lisbon first class and after they turned off all the lights you talked me into climbing into your seat with you? And I had to be so quiet when all I wanted to do was scream from how good it felt, so you let me bite down on your shoulder, so damn hard I felt guilty every time I saw the bruise?"

"Yeah, I remember. You were wearing a turquoise wrap dress and little coral earrings. Your lips looked so hot and pink and juicy, I didn't even mind you trying to take a bite out of me."

"I remember like it was this morning. If you took your shirt off, I'd expect to see a fresh bruise on your shoulder." Her eyes are dark and heavy; her knuckles are white wrapped around the phone.

"God, you're so hot."

"Maybe. I know you are." She smiles like she's got a secret. "I don't know how I'm going to make it through the cab ride home without touching myself, thinking about you. I'm already so wet it's a little awkward."

"I'm going to have to take care of myself as soon as I'm alone, too. It's that dirty mind of yours, it does things to me." Neal hopes the lie is convincing. He knows he can fake arousal with a stranger, but Kate has seen the real thing so many times, he's just counting on her wanting to believe it. From the way she smiles, her eyes warm and pleased, he knows she does.

But when she leaves, he doesn't have to wait to stand up, or face whatever horrible combination of the perp walk and the walk of shame that she was probably imagining. He's happy to have seen her, glad that she seems to be doing well, that she still loves him, but here he is in Solitary (such an inappropriately poetic word), with nothing to do but think about her, and he's pretty sure he could walk right out the door if he really wanted to, he could call her from the lobby of their apartment building and hear her heart leap over the phone, but he can't get it up.

That's when he takes the photo out of its shallow little desk drawer, and studies it under the unforgiving florescent light. The curve of Kate's hips stands out sharply in silhouette, the relaxed swing of her shoulders that were so much more often tensed around her bony neck. Her smile is just barely visible, just a shade indulgent, oh god, it's that camera again tempered by damn, that was good sex.

Looking at her through his own younger eyes, he can put himself back in that place just enough to fantasize about it without feeling depressed. As he picks up the tiny bottle of lotion from under the cot and holds the photograph just at the edge of the paper, he remembers one more time how hot that day had been, how long and slow and sunny the morning had felt. He remembers the energy he felt coursing down to his fingers as he woke up to another day with her, and he feels his cock stirring to the memory, and takes it gently in the slick fingers of his right hand.

He woke her up with lazy sex late on a Wednesday morning, sweat making the threadbare sheets cling to her body, her eyes half-closed and heavy-lashed the whole time as she murmured and growled her encouragement. Afterwords she'd rolled over and looked at the clock, and said, "I used to have eight a.m. Spanish on Wednesdays."

At moments like these he could tell that she was wondering if dropping out of Columbia to pursue a life of crime with him had been a totally sound plan. The thought made his breath stick for a second in his chest, but he made himself relax, smiled and smoothed a hand through her messy hair and asked, "Did you actually go?" As he nibbled at her earlobe, he whispered, "Did you learn anything?"

Her eyes widened, playing at innocence. "Um... te quiero?"

"Te quiero tambien," he'd replied, and kissed the strong point of her jaw, and when she'd gotten up to take a shower, he'd watched the gentle sway of her shoulders and the purposeful swing of her hips, and been overwhelmed by the impulse to take a picture.


His balls tighten as he thinks of the heat that had radiated off her body as she slowly woke up, woke up laughing and muttering something from a dream, unconsciously pressing herself against him. So soft and trusting, letting herself be wrapped up in his arms, tangled in the cotton sheet. He lets himself feel that, forgets the distance of the camera and moves in close to the memory as the pad of his thumb circles over his frenulum, coaxing out a first bead of precome, breathing deep and recreating their bedroom in his head, recreating an August morning with nowhere to go, no job to do for the time being, just the two of them enfolded in each other.

He'd been so smug. Slept so soundly on that second-hand bed, just liminally aware that soon he was going to have to give up on the pleasure of oblivion, and start sleeping with one eye open. Putting it off. Putting off thinking about how he was putting it off. Tracing with one finger the swerve of Kate's waist rising up off the bed, the dimples at the small of her back. Treasuring the smallness of her body, the softness of her hair, taking pictures but not stopping there, saving every moment of contact in the nerves of his fingerprints.

She'd pushed her ass back against him, not even awake yet, wanting him before she'd even opened her eyes. He can still feel the roll of her hips against his groin, the firm no-nonsense movement, as he thrusts into his hand, the slow work of his wrist too much of a tease.

He's still holding the photograph in his other hand, and he would swear he can smell the developing chemicals, the stale air of the darkroom as they'd held each others' hands and watched the image come into focus. If he concentrates, he can smell her Chanel No. 5, too, and her Turkish Gold cigarettes, and the warmth of the pulse points of her neck where he kissed her as she stared at the picture of herself darkening and filling out before her eyes.

He lets his fingers trail up the creases between his thighs and torso, relaxing the tensions, letting all his intensity run up between his legs. His head falls back against the bed as he re-creates the way she'd walked as she got up from the bed, loose-limbed and untroubled, effortlessly devastating with messy hair and chapped lips and no makeup. Half of her awash in light, the other half in shadow. Smiling as she stepped just out of sight.

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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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