doctor_fangeek: (Matt TNH 1)
[personal profile] doctor_fangeek
Oh, look! I've actually finished another fill for my drabble and/or timestamp meme (that I started ages ago). This is for [ profile] sheenianni, who prompted Sara, alive. I thought this was going to be the shortest fill so far, but it ended up at ~1800 words.

There was a time, not so terribly long ago, when Sara Ellis would have told you that she’d never felt more alive than when she was chasing down a client’s stolen Faberge egg (or Manet, or Civil War musket, or Roman coin collection, or, well, you get the picture). Sara had a true appreciation for finer things, and – no sense in false modesty – was very, very good at her job (Neal Caffrey and his stolen Rafael notwithstanding).

Of course, there was also a time when Sara Ellis would have laughed in your face if you’d suggested that someday she and the very same Neal Caffrey might be friends, let alone lovers. He was a thief and a sociopath, after all. Or so she’d told the judge and jury at Caffrey’s trial. And showing up at her place in the dark of night, dressed all in black and carrying a gun hadn’t done anything to change her opinion of him (even if it hadn’t been his fault that time, and he’d had no intention of hurting her). Certainly breaking into that very same place to steal the package from the FAA that he’d had sent to her in the first place didn’t help either (even if it turned out he hadn’t actually done the deed himself). Right…a thief and a sociopath.  Except that, well, that wasn’t quite right, was it?  When she’d been a witness at Neal Caffrey’s trial, Sara had been focused on the fact that she had been able to find neither the Rafael nor any solid evidence that he’d stolen it. Oh, she knew he’d done it. And the smug bastard knew she knew, and he loved that, didn’t he? Caffrey had somehow managed to gloat even as he was being taken away in handcuffs, about to be locked up for four years (and of course he was surely guilty of much more than the bond forgery that he’d ultimately been convicted of).

But then Sara had actually listened to the FAA tape. She didn’t know much about Kate beyond that she’d been Neal’s girlfriend before he went to prison – Kate hadn’t figured in the investigation of the missing Rafael, so Sara hadn’t really bothered with her. But she’d meant enough to Neal that he had walked into an FBI trap he probably ought to have seen coming for her, had risked drawing Sara’s own ire to get ahold of that tape and whatever it might reveal about Kate’s last moments. Apparently he’d spent the last year looking, not knowing where Kate was or what had happened to her, and then, just as he’d found her, he’d lost her again, for good. And Sara…Sara knew more than a little about losing a loved one and wondering where they’d gone and why. Then she’d ended up working with Neal (and his strange little friend, and some of Peter’s white collar team) to clear Peter’s name, and she’d seen just how much Neal Caffrey cared about Peter Burke. And, surprisingly, how well she and Neal worked together.

There was a time when Neal Caffrey would have told you that he’d never felt more alive than when he was playing cat and mouse with an intrepid – and unexpectedly smart (and surprisingly resourceful) – FBI agent. Neal had told Peter once that the con was a rush, and it was true. There was something beautiful about a well-planned and well executed con, and pulling it off was exhilarating all on its own. The same with a good heist. But matching wits with FBI Agent Peter Burke had upped the stakes. Peter had kept Neal on his toes in a way that none of the other policemen or agents he’d encountered had been able to do. And the higher the stakes, the bigger the rush.

And then there had been the beautiful, relentless (and, if Neal were honest, just a bit scary) insurance investigator Sara Ellis. Scoring a victory in their little battle had been its own little thrill. Yes, it was muted by the fact that that particular story ended with Neal in an orange jumpsuit, drinking bad instant coffee and staring at bland, institutional gray walls, but the look on Sara Ellis’ face when the jury had acquitted Neal of the theft of the Rafael had given Neal at least some cause to celebrate before the rest of the verdict came down.

Not surprisingly, then, there was a time when Neal Caffrey would have laughed in your face if you’d suggested that someday he and the very same Sara Ellis would be friends, let alone lovers. Okay, the subject wouldn’t have even come up back when they first met – Neal was utterly devoted to Kate. And Sara was trying to get him sent to prison. But years later, when their paths crossed again, Neal would still have been laughing. Not that he didn’t find Sara Ellis attractive – which he did. But every other conversation he had with her ended with her reminding him that she wasn’t going to give up on finding the Rafael. And proving he’d taken it. This obsession wasn’t healthy, for her or for Neal. And bringing the police to June’s to look for the FAA tape? And getting him arrested? She was still relentless. And okay, he had stolen the tape (or rather Mozzie had stolen it for him), but cold as ice Sara Ellis had no interest in understanding why, or just how important that tape was to Neal. Except that turned out, in the end, not to be quite right. She’d listened to Peter when he’d asked her not to press charges against Neal for stealing the tape. And while that was probably mostly about the little boy caught in the crossfire of their latest case, and while Neal wondered just what – and how much – Peter had told Sara, in the end she’d brought the tape back, and there had been real feeling in her voice when she’d told him he needed to hear what was on it, an empathy that had taken Neal by surprise. Sara joining their merry little band to run a con (or, as Peter kept insisting, a sting) to clear Peter’s name had been somewhat less surprising – Neal knew that Sara liked and respected Peter, after all. But then she and Neal were working together, even prank-calling Peter Burke, and who would have seen that coming.

There was a time, quite recently, when Sara Ellis would have told you that she couldn’t wait to go to London. It was a terrific opportunity for her, in an amazing city full of culture and history. And she certainly wasn’t having second thoughts just because of a fake proposal by one Neal Caffrey (with whom she wasn’t even in a relationship anymore).

There was a time, even more recently, that Neal Caffrey would have told you that he’d couldn’t wait for Mozzie to crack Neal’s latest anklet so that the two of them could disappear. He’d had enough of being shot at, had enough of the FBI brass, enough of the “system.” Fowler, Collins, Calloway…. Yes, things were better now with Peter and Elizabeth, and he’d meant it when he’d said he would be the houseguest who didn’t leave. But after hearing the latest from the higher ups, Neal had decided that he was done. And it’s not as if there was anything else to keep him in New York, or anything to look forward to that was incentive enough to put up with this latest disappointment. He certainly wasn’t having any doubts, or spending any time thinking about Sara and the emails and occasional silly little gifts they’d been exchanging since she’d left the country. It’s not like they were even together anymore.

And really, when Neal had told Peter some time ago that you had to hit rock bottom to change, he’d meant it. He’d really believed the words he was saying. And looking at things now, as much as a part of Neal still wanted to stay, and to believe that there might be some motivation beyond hitting that proverbial bottom that was strong enough to get him through, he couldn’t see it.

Until everything changed.

It had started with the slick stranger in the fancy cowboy boots, looking at Neal with cold eyes, the strong hands of unseen men grabbing him, the rough feel of the dark cloth going over his head, and the sudden shock followed by the coil of fear in his gut as he was alternately pushed and dragged along before being dumped into what he assumed was the back of van and bound hand and foot with zip ties.

The fear soon turned into anger, and frustration, and a stubbornness which was bad for both his captors’ patience and Neal’s physical well-being (though they needed him alive, they were rather less concerned with his comfort, and not averse to using pain to get what they wanted). But hours turned into days turned into weeks, and by the time Neal was able to make his escape, all he could think about was getting home, and home, he realized, meant New York, and June, and Peter, and Elizabeth. He didn’t think he was going to make it, was pretty sure he hadn’t made it as injury and exhaustion overtook him, until he woke up to find himself in a hospital bed, Peter Burke dozing nearby in a less than comfortable looking chair.

Looking back on it now, however, Neal realizes that it wasn’t really the shock of the kidnapping, or the growing worry that he might not ever see his friends again that truly changed things for him – though both of those were important. No, it was waking to find Peter there by his bedside, even after everything the two of them had been through that last year. It was Elizabeth facing down a dour-faced US Marshal when Neal was too tired and sore to deal with answering anyone’s questions, even after all the turmoil that had come into her life with Neal’s search for his past. And it was waking up on maybe his third day in the hospital to find not Peter or Elizabeth, but Sara Ellis keeping watch over him, having taken a leave of absence from her job in London.

And if Neal Caffrey had harbored any lingering doubts as to whether the slow rekindling of his relationship with Sara Ellis was enough to make him want to change for good, there are no doubts today. And whatever either he or Sara might have once thought made them feel truly alive, those things pale in comparison as Sara watches her husband hold their newborn son in his arms for the first time.
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