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Fic: WC, "He Who Fights Monsters"

This is a belated Christmas present for zerawolfe7, who is mostly to blame for the idea in the first place. ;) Thanks are also due to dime_for_12, who beta-read for me -- and who wasn't there for SPAG, so any errors and all grammar/punctuation murdering are mine alone.

Title from Nietzsche, of course. Story is pre-series (spoiler-free); AU, bordering on crack; and basically gen (pre-slash if you're wearing your goggles). 1,560 words/4 pages. Enjoy.


He Who Fights Monsters

Peter had been with the Bank Robbery Task Force, before.
 
That also, not so incidentally, was the reason it had happened in the first place. Which was no one’s fault; it was just how things were sometimes. The fugitive they’d been after – a man by the alias of Gerald Hammond – had been dangerous, they’d known that, expected that. But they hadn’t expected what had happened.
 
Afterwards, the decision was made by Peter’s higher-ups (no one specific person, so that the blame would be shared) to transfer him to White Collar Crimes instead.
 
They didn’t say – they didn’t have to – that he would be less of a liability there. He didn’t fight it, supposing he should just be glad to still have his job.
 
Later, when Elaine Griffin (a friendly rival of his since forever; he knew she’d been disappointed when he was picked for the task force over her) came by to visit him in the hospital, she couldn’t bring herself to look happy even when Peter congratulated her on the appointment. Normally, she’d have poked fun: “Now we both get a crack at it,” she’d have said. “Bet I can do it better.” Trying to make light of it, cheer him up. It may even have worked. But things weren’t normal anymore.
 
Gloomy, he wondered if they ever would be again.

---
 
Now, years later, Peter couldn’t imagine being anywhere else besides the White Collar division. More to the point, he couldn’t imagine being anywhere besides on the trail of Neal Caffrey. (What would he do when he finally caught the man?) It felt like he’d been chasing him forever.
 
He almost didn’t mind the feeling. It was comfortable; it gave him a purpose.
 
(What would he do when he finally caught him?)

---

Soon after the transfer, they’d removed from Peter’s file all mention of what had happened before. He was working White Collar now, after all, so these were no technological illiterates, and if they found out – it was too much of a liability, far too much risk. 
The transfer itself, then, sat unexplained in his file, just another thing that had happened, and the agents and officers he’d known from before helped him hide the cause as best they could (he just wanted to move on; didn’t want to be scorned or, worse, pitied, so it had to be a secret).
 
Which lasted maybe a couple of months, because Peter’s coworkers weren’t idiots, either.
 
Well, except for some of those interns from Harvard, but you can’t have everything you want in life. (At least he got to have fun messing with their heads before he finally told them.)
 
That was about when he decided he liked the White Collar guys after all. Because they hadn’t been there, weren’t still feeling guilty wondering what they could’ve done or why they’d gotten out unscathed and not him – so he only got those awful, pitying looks every so often, now. Most of the time, they just treated him like a person.
 
Which he appreciated, because, most of the time, he was.

---
 
The first thing he registered when he woke up was the sound of knocking at the door. It sounded halfhearted, as though whoever was behind it had been at it a while. Peter managed to call, “Yeah,” loudly enough to be heard, his voice hoarse.
 
The knocking stopped immediately, the door opened, and Hughes entered. He tossed Peter a blanket and just started talking, as though this were perfectly normal, as though the moon hadn’t risen and set since their last conversation.
 
Clearly, Peter was back on the clock. Which was fine by him: one more person on the stakeout could be the difference that would lead to them having Caffrey by sunrise.
 
The idea was heady – but Hughes was still talking. Peter tuned back in just in time to hear, “—so we could really use your expertise here, Burke.”
 
Shit. “Excuse me, sir, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch…?”
 
Hughes sighed, but then looked at Peter – very much the worse for wear – and let it pass. “Jones and Cruz had this shift, as you know,” he said.
 
Peter thought about it, and nodded. The room didn’t have a clock – didn’t have much of anything else, either – but he knew it had to be just after six. Their shift would last another hour yet.
 
“About ten minutes ago,” Hughes was saying, “they spotted someone, thought Caffrey’d gotten the jump on them, and gave chase. Needless to say….”
 
“Not him,” Peter finished.
 
“No,” said Hughes, and he offered nothing more, but from how irritated he looked, Peter would have guessed either a mailman or an early-morning jogger. He’d have to ask Jones later.
 
For now, he’d finally caught up to Hughes’s train of thought. “But he had a couple of minutes in which he could have run, and you’re worried he did.”
 
His boss gave a curt nod. Something of Peter’s thoughts must have shown on his face, though. “You don’t think so?”
 
Suddenly, Peter was exhausted. He let his eyes close as he answered. “No, I don’t,” he said. “This is a game for him. And winning isn’t fun if you have to cheat. He wouldn’t break the rules like that.”
 
“Rules?” he heard Hughes say dubiously.
 
“He thinks he’s better than us. He’s proved it for a year now. So it wouldn’t be fair to take advantage of the absence of an adversary.”
 
Hughes was silent for a moment, processing this, then he said, “You think he knows? About you?”
 
His eyes still shut, Peter nodded. “I know he does.” (He thought about the card he’d come home to after work yesterday.) “I mean, I know Neal Caffrey backwards and forwards, sir. It would be underestimating him not to expect him to return the interest.”
 
(Get well soon!, it had said.)
 
“Besides, it would make it too easy for him. The fun is in the challenge.”
 
“Well,” said Hughes, “we’ll give him a challenge, all right. You up for it?”
 
Peter opened his eyes and nodded again. “Just let me put some clothes on.”

---

Peter had gotten home thoroughly drained. It had been a long day, most of it filled with planning for the next night’s inter-agency stakeout of Neal Caffrey. They’d finally found where he was hiding out for the time being, and if they just kept a close enough eye on him, eventually he’d do something they could get him on.

They were sure of it, because hope was important.
 
They hated that it had to be that night, everyone continually reassured him. But some art thing or another was going down in the morning that Caffrey wouldn’t be able to resist – so if they just kept watch, he’d forge something or steal something and they’d have him.

And if Peter couldn’t be there, at least he’d be in on the plan. 

Which was true, and Peter wanted to catch Neal Caffrey as much as anyone, but none of that made trying to strategize while having to deal with inter-agency politics (and particularly that swaggering asshole of a local police chief) any less tiring.
 
But before he could collapse into a chair, he noticed the small stack of mail Elizabeth had brought in that afternoon.
 
It wasn’t Christmas, or his birthday – yet on top, unmistakable, was a card addressed to him.
 
The second he noticed it had no return address, he knew he probably shouldn’t open it. Theoretically, it could be dangerous. Or it could be evidence, and he could be ruining fingerprints that would break some case someday.
 
Even as he thought it, he was sliding a finger under a corner of the flap and tearing it open. He knew who it was from.
 
Peter pulled the card out of the envelope. On the front (hand-painted, from the looks of it) was a wolf, howling at the moon. And on the inside – Peter couldn’t help laughing at the message.
 
From anyone else, it would have been scary. How had he found out? How had he gotten the card to Peter?
 
From Caffrey, it was a taunt, yes, but also honest well-wishes. So, chuckling, he let himself take it in the spirit it was intended, and then went to put it in the drawer with the Christmas card and the birthday card. (He might almost miss these when they finally put Caffrey away.)
 
Peter unlocked the drawer, closing the card as he did so and looking at the picture again. He found himself wishing (not for the first time) that Caffrey had put his talents to better use, on the right side of the law.
 
And he found himself wishing (for the first time) that he could tell him how well he painted.
 
But he’d settle, he decided, for, “I will, thanks,” (he whispered to himself), “and then I’m going to finally catch you.”

---

Peter had been right, in a way. Neal hadn’t run while the moon was up. But he’d disappeared anyway, somehow, that morning. 
It seemed the one thing they always managed to do was underestimate him.
 
They got a search warrant, hoping to find some clue to what he was up to or where he was headed.
 
But the only thing of interest they found were some paints left behind – grey and black and blue, and a silvery yellow, the color of the moon.



ETA: This universe continues here.

Comments

( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
dime_for_12
Jan. 24th, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC)
THE CLUES. OH MY EYES, THE CLUES!

Anyway, I'm glad to see this posted - it's wonderful WC fic. The voices, the atmosphere - *loves*
lonetread
Jan. 24th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
Lol. I do what I can. :D If nothing else, the title ought to help clue people in, too.

Thank you! My self-esteem and I love compliments.
(no subject) - leviathan0999 - Jan. 24th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
jrosemary
Jan. 24th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Lol--I didn't realize just how AU this was! Brilliant job; I didn't see that coming.

I love the fact that Neal hand-painted the card. And I love the fact that he figured out Peter's secret in the first place, and therefore refused to run while his FBI adversary was forced out of the picture. And I really, really love the fact that Peter recognized Neal's sense of good sportsmanship. :)

Thanks for an excellent story!
lonetread
Jan. 25th, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it and that it made sense. I was worried about that.

You're welcome; thanks for the nice comment!
flynn_boyant
Jan. 25th, 2010 12:46 am (UTC)
This is amazing!
All I can think now is.....I hope there's more eventually! I am so intrigued by this AU you've created and it's so well done.
lonetread
Jan. 25th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
Wow, thanks! I seriously cannot stop grinning over here from all these wonderful comments.

I've considered writing more, but the ideas are kind of hazy and may or may not ever solidify into something useful. Which is to say, it's possible but unlikely (multi-chapter stories are not my strong suit). At any rate, if there's more, whitecollarfic'll be the first to know.
(no subject) - lonetread - Jan. 25th, 2010 01:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flynn_boyant - Jan. 25th, 2010 01:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lonetread - Jan. 25th, 2010 02:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flynn_boyant - Jan. 25th, 2010 02:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lonetread - Jan. 25th, 2010 02:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flynn_boyant - Jan. 25th, 2010 02:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lonetread - Jan. 25th, 2010 02:34 am (UTC) - Expand
ursula4x
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
Wow, fascinating and moody piece.

It makes me want to know more about what happened to Peter.

The amusement that Peter feels for Neal's capers is already there.
lonetread
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)
Thanks!

It makes me want to know more about what happened to Peter makes me worried you missed the point. ...Did you, or do you mean what happpened to him afterwards?
zerawolfe7
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:16 am (UTC)
I love it! This is the best Christmas present EVER!

Werewolf stories make me happy...Thanks, man!
lonetread
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
:D And belated presents are awesome because it stretches Christmas out, right? Right? I'm going with that. ;)
(no subject) - zerawolfe7 - Jan. 25th, 2010 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
theflywho
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:28 am (UTC)
Okay, when first I read this, I loved it, even though I didn't catch everything and thought you had managed a very excellent, mysterious story, without the need to waste time on spelling things out. And now because of your response to Ursula, I realize that I did completely miss the point and those odd details now make sense, and the story is even more awesome!

What I thought were merely atmospheric details were very subtely relevant. So excellent! Can't wait to read more from you, be it in this AU or any other in the WC 'verse.
lonetread
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:55 am (UTC)
Thank you, I'm happy to hear this. That was Dime's experience, too, that (general-)you could make it make sense even while completely missing what was going on (which she did initially, so you're far from the only one). I'd hoped the title would help alleviate some of that, but I'm glad it worked out anyway. :D

Thanks very much for the compliments ("subtle", especially; I was so worried the whole time that I was making it too obvious). You will definitely be seeing more WC fic from me in the future. (In fact, I have a transfic posted here that I haven't crossposted yet, if you're interested. The "fic: white collar" tag'll get you there.)
(no subject) - theflywho - Jan. 25th, 2010 11:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lonetread - Jan. 25th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - theflywho - Jan. 25th, 2010 09:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
egalitarianmuse
Jan. 26th, 2010 11:41 pm (UTC)
It took two reads to pick up on it, but I got it and I love it. I wonder what kind of sidekick Neal would make to this particular kind of Peter. Hmmm. It's certainly worth considering. Awesome story. Very subtle. Well, not that subtle; I'm just dim.
lonetread
Jan. 27th, 2010 12:54 am (UTC)
Yay. Glad you enjoyed it. And, y'know, understood it. Heh.

I wonder what kind of sidekick Neal would make to this particular kind of Peter. Hmmm. It's certainly worth considering. Are you trying to bunny me into writing more? Because if you are, that's definitely the way to go about it. :) *obligingly considers* "Hmmm", indeed.

And nah, you're not dim; judging from the reception, it's obviously me and not you/everyone else. That's what I get for being intentionally vague, but at least it appears to have somehow worked out anyway!
giglet
Jan. 31st, 2010 02:14 am (UTC)
Oh, I enjoyed this a lot!

Although I imagine it complicates his and Elizabeth's love life.
lonetread
Jan. 31st, 2010 02:37 am (UTC)
Yay! Thanks!

Probably so. XD And it was kind of painful trying not to laugh as hard as I wanted to at that in the middle of the computer lab.
taylor_serenil
Feb. 1st, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
I got the werewolf thing kind of at the very end with the paints.

But yeah, I'd like to see more in this verse. This was intriguing.
lonetread
Feb. 1st, 2010 01:56 am (UTC)
Oh, I am so glad that the ending was useful and not horrible piles of cheese (or at least, useful while being cheesy). I was worried it was one of those things that sounds better in your head than on paper, but I was so sick of it by then I didn't really care. So, hooray!

So would I, so if the muse comes back, I'm up for it. I don't expect that to happen, but there's always a chance.
jellybgood
Feb. 14th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
OHHH...
I was so confused because I thought the clues were contradicting each other, then reading through the comments and re-reading the fic and it all clicked together properly. Ahah, but my first guess was right at least. xD

Nicely done. That's really tricky hiding all those clues in the story the way you did! =)
lonetread
Feb. 15th, 2010 01:04 am (UTC)
Heh, yay.

Thanks! It just kind of wrote itself that way. I'm still happy to hear it worked well.

(And I like your icon. So true.)
china_shop
Feb. 28th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
Awww! And hee! Love the card and Peter's reaction to it.
lonetread
Feb. 28th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)
deepbluemermaid
Jun. 17th, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)
Belatedly catching up on your other White Collar fics - I seem to have missed this one. It's fabulous! I picked up on the werewolf thing earlier than other readers, it seems, but I really enjoyed how subtle the hints were. I especially like Peter's bosses and co-workers being so accepting (I can see Hughes shrugging, saying "he's fine 29 days out of 30").

If your muse obliges, it'd be great to see Peter and Elizabeth interacting and coping with his condition, plus (of course) how Neal handles it once he and Peter are working together!
lonetread
Jun. 17th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it (and figured out what was going on, lol).

I especially like Peter's bosses and co-workers being so accepting (I can see Hughes shrugging, saying "he's fine 29 days out of 30").
I seem to be completely unable to write a story in which anyone is a jerk; I'm happy no one minds. :) And I can totally see Hughes saying that too, ha.

No promises, but I'll see what I can do -- I'd like to see that too.
( 36 comments — Leave a comment )

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