tinnuial: (Default)
[personal profile] tinnuial
Title: Fragile
Author: [livejournal.com profile] tinnuial 
Rating: PG
Warning: Reference to off-screen violence
Summary: An op goes south. Jones observes the aftermath. My first White Collar fic!

Prequel: Mea Culpa

It had been five weeks since that terrible day when they had found Neal and little Sophie Boudin huddled and chained and bloody in a dark corner of that dreadful, crumbling sub-basement. Six weeks since Neal went missing on that god-awful mission that had gone to hell in a hail of gunfire and incompetence. Neal was now back at work, and while he tried to act like everything was back to normal, Jones could tell it wasn't. When Neal didn't think there were eyes on him, Jones could see the mask drop, leaving behind a tiredness, an emptiness that wasn't there before. Sometimes his hands shook. Sometimes he'd catch Neal staring out the window at nothing, his shadowed eyes seeing things that weren't there, flashing back on some unspeakable horror. His fancy clothes hung on him and Jones could tell he'd yet to regain any of the weight he'd lost. There was still a lingering painfulness to his movements. Peter wasn't saying anything, but Jones knew how to put two and two together. Something bad had happened during that missing week, and Neal had sacrificed himself and buried the hurt so deep to keep that little girl alive and unharmed.

Jones had been wary at first when Peter had taken Neal on as a consultant, and then he'd wondered at how effortlessly Neal had integrated into the team. Slowly, he'd found it impossible not to like Neal as a person. He may have been a convicted felon, and boy did he try Peter's patience sometimes but Neal was just about the most non-violent, fun-loving person he knew. He was interested in everything and anything. He genuinely liked seeing people happy and being the cause of that happiness. It was a strange dichotomy. And the office was never dull with him around. It didn't hurt that Peter's team was pulling in a steady 92% closure rate with Neal there. He'd never liked his job more.

Neal was in Peter's office discussing the latest case of mortgage fraud when Bancroft walked in with the Boudins. Jones saw Peter nod to Neal, as if to say, "We've got visitors." A small, fragile smile appeared on Neal's face as he saw Sophie happily skipping like any four-year-old alongside her grandmother and grandfather. She was wearing a bright red wool coat and pretty pink stockings with a matching hat and scarf, her light auburn baby wispy curls fluttering around her like a halo. The last time Jones had seen her, she'd been in a wan, yellow hospital gown, curled up on Neal's uninjured side in his narrow hospital bed, sobbing in fear and refusing to let go of her only friend and protector, even as he gently soothed her in his pain-fevered state, bruises stark against the white sheets and red soaked bandages.

Neal came out of Peter's office to stand by the stairs, watching the elderly couple and the little girl coming into the bullpen. Peter followed close behind, an uncertain look on his face. They weren't sure what seeing Sophie would do to Neal's carefully constructed facade that he'd been desperately trying to maintain these last few weeks.

Every person in the office seemed to stop and watch as the little girl caught sight of Neal standing by the railing. Her face completely lit up in childish joy as she squealed in surprise, "NEAL!" and let go of her grandmother's hand to run up the passageway between the desks as Neal came down the stairs, a similar smile on his face. Neal leant down with his hands outstretched as the little girl launched herself into his arms with a happy laugh. He straightened up with the child in his arms, as she hugged him for all she was worth. His whole face seemed transformed by the effervescent brightness that had been missing all these miserable weeks. The darkness had lifted away, if just for that moment. Neal held her up, saying something quietly to her in French as she giggled and put her little hands on his smooth, blushing cheeks and laughed some more. The whole office seemed to sigh at the simple tenderness of the moment. Jones caught Peter's eye and they exchanged a look of relief.

Sophie's grandparents walked up to Neal and Sophie with Bancroft just behind them. Pierre Boudin, the one-time French ambassador, took Neal's hand in both of his, shaking it in immense gratitude. He too knew what the young man before him had sacrificed for his only grandchild. Mariette Boudin hugged Neal to her, kissing him on both cheeks, holding his face in her frail hands, nearly in tears, thanking him profusely. Neal's eyes grew suspiciously bright and her husband had to put a hand around her to guide her away before Neal lost his composure in the middle of the office.

Hughes signalled Peter to follow them and with the Boudins, Hughes and Bancroft went into Hughes' office. Neal then proceeded to take Sophie on a grand tour of the office, introducing her to every cooing secretary and friendly agent in the office, all of whom predictably were taken in by Neal's sweet charm and Sophie's guileless curiosity. They petted the child, gave her little lollipops and chocolate raisins and told her how pretty she was, while Neal held her close and translated their questions and her own.

Jones observed silently as Ruiz approached the group and it parted for him. Ruiz had technically been in charge of the disastrous op that had resulted in the kidnappings. He had insisted on using Neal for the undercover op to Peter's objections and Neal's stoic resignation. Jones had never liked the other agent much, and he knew that even before that terrible day, Ruiz had gone out of his way to make his opinion of Neal, his manner of dress, his alleged sexuality, his criminal record and his place in the office loudly known in antagonizing clarity. And after Ruiz and his team's display of utter disregard had led to his friend getting so badly hurt and Sophie losing her parents, he had yet to find it within himself to forgive the man. He watched as Neal turned to look at Ruiz, with Sophie still in his arms. She must have sensed his hesitation, because she seemed to clutch at him tighter. All smiles dropped to the floor.

"Well, aren't you going to introduce me to the little lady, Caffrey?"

Maybe it was something in Ruiz's tone or the undercurrent of hostility she sensed directed at her friend, but before Neal could turn to Sophie, she curled in on herself, burying her little face in Neal's neck, her tiny fingers bunching in his shirt, fear radiating from her as she trembled in his arms like she had all those weeks ago.

Jones saw Neal's mask drop again, like a shadow had fallen across him as he tried to calm the little girl. For Neal, suddenly the room seemed too bright; there were too many eyes on him and the office noise whited out to a blur and it felt like he was trapped and chained back in that dark, mouldy basement boiler room with Sophie crying into his shaking arms. He could hear his heart pounding so fast in his ears like it might burst and he ducked his head down to cradle Sophie closer to him. The room and the people and the lights seemed to spin and he felt his throat constrict and the cold tendrils of dread crept up his spine as he tried to find a way out of the turmoil.

Jones instinctively knew that Neal was having a flashback and was up from his desk, striding across the bullpen to protect his friend.

Neal was blinking in confusion, staring blindly around him, as though trying to find his bearings, still gently stroking Sophie's trembling little back, his breaths coming short, fast and ragged. Ruiz's mouth lifted in a sneer. The secretaries and other agents looked up at Jones as he approached, mostly worried and concerned. Neal was well-liked by most in the White Collar division, having proven himself over and over in the last few years. He moved to stand in front of Neal, his gestures slow, as he leaned forward and down to try and catch Neal's darting, unseeing gaze. He didn't dare touch him yet.

"Neal," he whispered softly. "Neal, it's Jones. Neal?"

A moment, then two. You could hear a pin drop.

Neal stilled. And looked up at him.

"Jones," he whispered.

"Neal. You're ok. You're safe now. Everything's ok."

Jones felt his heart clench and release, as those pale blue eyes fluttered closed in relief. He put a supporting arm around Neal's narrow shoulders which were shaking again through the thin cotton shirt, and guided them up to Peter's office where there was a couch. Diana followed quickly behind him. Sophie hadn't moved at all, still shuddering and safely clutched in Neal's arms. He sat them on the soft cushions and Diana draped Peter's coat over the both of them, running a gentle hand over Neal's dark curls. One of the secretaries came to the door carrying two cups of hot chocolate, bless her kind heart. For not the first time, Jones wished there were blinds in Peter's office as he felt every eye in the bullpen focused on the four of them inside. He shifted to the side and as much as he could, he blocked Neal from view. Peter would come find them soon, and he'd know what to do.

Fragile

Date: 2010-09-05 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pingback-bot.livejournal.com
User [livejournal.com profile] tinnuial referenced to your post from Fragile (http://community.livejournal.com/whitecollarfic/274104.html) saying: [...] e to off-screen violence Summary: An op goes south. Jones observes the aftermath. A/N: My first White Collar fic! Enjoy! Peter wasn't saying anything, but Jones knew how to put two and two together. [...]

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-05 09:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daniel-shadow.livejournal.com
I like this story!!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-05 10:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] photoash.livejournal.com
I like how different your fic is :) Taking on the difficult subject matter of PTSD and using Jones as our pov character were bold moves and they paid off well here <3

I really liked how you kept the drama understated and that Jones never knew exactly what had happened to Neal :)

Thanks for sharing!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm a huge fan of your "Secrets" series and it made my day to see your comment in my inbox :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-05 10:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deepbluemermaid.livejournal.com
Ohh, my heart. Poor Neal! I like Jones' POV on the situation, and his concerned but careful approach to Neal during a flashback. This is very well done :) I hope you write more White Collar fic...

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thank you! I really like the character of Jones and there just isn't enough fic with him in it. I'd love to write more WC fic...but it's been years since I wrote anything and I'm very much out of practice. We'll see how it goes :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-05 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] talitha78.livejournal.com
Great story!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thank you! :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 01:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bdizzle316.livejournal.com
I agree with the rest of them, I like reading this from Jones' point of view! Is this complete? You could go on!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 08:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
I had initially planned for this to be longer but it's been so long since I wrote anything and I chickened out :P ...though I have vacation coming up, so I might give it a go!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daria234.livejournal.com
Great fic - I love that everyone rallies behind Neal, and that he keeps his experiences private when he can but sometimes he can't. I like that someone besides Peter got to be protective and also that glance between Peter and him that was relieved that Neal was okay for that moment. The imagery of what they looked like in the hospital was really well-written too, it was so disturbing.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-08 01:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading! :) Neal does seem to bring out everyone's protective instincts doesn't he?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 02:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] damietta.livejournal.com
I, too, like that the story is from Jones' POV. Very different.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-08 01:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading! :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] luvspnl.livejournal.com
What a great Jones' POV! I don't think I've read a Jones' POV yet, and this one certainly touched a sensitive topic. I certainly liked how Jones describes how he went from not liking the idea of Neal joining their team, to seeing him as a friend and protecting him after such an event.

Thanks for sharing!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-08 01:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Aww, thanks for the lovely review. Glad you enjoyed this!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jane-eyre.livejournal.com
This was very interesting seeing the events from Jones' perspective. Have you considered writing more of this because it was very well done.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-08 01:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thank you! This really was a bit of an experiment because I haven't written anything in ages. I had wanted it to be longer but I wimped out on writing the missing week. Everyone seems so supportive in this fandom, so I might give it a try!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 01:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] christikat.livejournal.com
Like the others, I really enjoyed that this story was told from Jones' POV. It was a very intense story and will go straight into my memories.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-08 01:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Aww thanks :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 08:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kriadydragon.livejournal.com
Aw, poor Neal *hugz him* Loved that Jones was there for him.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-08 01:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
I actually felt kinda bad for traumatizing poor Neal. Besides being out of practice for doing any sort of writing, that is the biggest (irrational) reason I haven't yet written the backstory to this little scene. Hopefully I'll get over it soon :P I've only recently gotten into this series and it seems he gets whumped a lot in this fandom, doesn't he? Thanks for reading! :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-07 01:49 am (UTC)
ext_118102: (Matt Bomer)
From: [identity profile] gnome781.livejournal.com
This is wonderful! Thank you for sharing it. I loved Jone's reaction and faith that Peter will know how to handle it.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-08 01:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a review :) So glad you enjoyed it!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-09 01:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] afiawri.livejournal.com
I love this. Jones as the observer with little action was good- it was like watching the show, except he had personality. ;) I love the effect of choosing to give Neal so little stated dialogue has, how it heightens our sense of his pain and fear.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-10 11:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Awww thank you! It's sad we only get tiny glimpses of Jones on the show. He should get more moments to shine :D Thanks again for reading!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-10 02:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bprice6.livejournal.com
What a heart wrenching story! You've captured the characters so beautifully. I read this yesterday and searched it out again today to re-read, it's just so touching. I love this show and can totally see Neal sacrificing himself to save a child. Good job - now - more, more!!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-10 11:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thank you for your very kind words :) I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I'm still debating whether I'm up to the task of writing the lead up to this scene and if I want to traumatize poor Neal further. It's been waaay too long since I wrote anything! Thanks again for dropping by...

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-11 01:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] secretsolitaire.livejournal.com
I like this very much. There should be more Jones in fic. *nods* I loved Neal's happiness at seeing Sophie again. Lovely.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-21 09:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Sorry for the late reply! I've been away for a bit ;) So glad you enjoyed the little fic. Thanks for taking the time to review!

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] arsenicjade.livejournal.com - Date: 2010-10-05 05:47 am (UTC) - Expand

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From: [identity profile] arsenicjade.livejournal.com - Date: 2010-10-17 06:02 am (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2010-10-08 08:51 pm (UTC)
yamx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yamx
I liked this a lot. It's great to see agents other than Peter being protective of Neal, and his interactions with the girl are just precious.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-17 05:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Aww thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-17 01:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rabidchild67.livejournal.com
What a great story - well-imagined and well-paced. I read your prequel first, then this, and they are both wonderful. I look forward to reading more of your fics. *goes off to explore*

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-17 05:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thanks for the kidn review! I'm so glad you enjoyed the two stories :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-17 09:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] freshwatertears.livejournal.com
I loved this. Now we must have Peter come in and save the day! I'll pay you back in much good karma!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-18 03:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. You know, when I thought about expanding on this ficlet, I had planned the third part of the series to be from Peter's POV (picking up the pieces) but for some reason, I find him the hardest to write. It may still happen if I get my act together.
Cheers! :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-13 11:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] crism79.livejournal.com
I really loved this, it was a great story and I loved Jones' POV :D thank you!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-18 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-15 01:57 am (UTC)
china_shop: Neal, Peter and Elizabeth smiling (Default)
From: [personal profile] china_shop
Aww, I love seeing Jones so protective. This is great!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-18 06:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by! :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-21 07:39 pm (UTC)
saphirablue: (Default)
From: [personal profile] saphirablue
Awesome fic(s)!

I love traumatised!hurt!Neal! =)

Thank you!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-21 08:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thank you for the lovely review :)
Cheers!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-22 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dwelian.livejournal.com
Both this and Mea Culpa are lovely, lovely stories. Now I just want Ruiz to get what's coming to him! Grr!

Thank you so much for sharing this fabulous gem with us!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-23 01:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinnuial.livejournal.com
Thank you very much for taking the time to leave a message. So glad you enjoyed the two stories! :)
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