s2309: (Sara 2)
[personal profile] s2309
Title: She's Just Like The Weather, Can't Hold Her Together.
Characters (Pairings) Sara Ellis, Neal Caffrey (Sara/Neal)
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 1465
Disclaimer: White Collar is Jeff Eastin's brainchild. Not mine.
Summary: It's mildly alarming, really, how badly Sara's dealt with Neal's death.
Content Notes: Anorexia. Reference to suicide. Hallucinations.
Author's Note: Title from Landscape by Florence + the Machine.
For the mini fest at [livejournal.com profile] wc_women_fest. S6 finale tag.
It's past midnight, and I'm not in a good headspace. Proceed with caution. (There is light, though.)

Sara doesn't breathe. Not till she's out of range of the (delicious, tempting, forbidden) scent of warm tomato sauce and pasta that her favourite cafe exudes by the bucketload. She passes it everyday. Most times, she breathes in the scent as though it's the hearty meal her body needs (and her mind will not stand for) makes a feast out of the scent if not the taste, if not the heady feeling of warm food down her throat. But today, even the whiff she got before she stopped is far too tempting.

It's mildly alarming, really, how badly she's dealt with Neal's death. She thought she'd buried it, hidden it away with Emily's disappearance, Dad's death, Mom's.

Turns out? There's only so much space underground. Everything's sticking out now, like hideous, warped treasures that refuse to stay hidden under the X. Too much. Far too much.

She misses the days when having absolute control over her work was enough to distract her. But the hunger sharpens her edges to the point where she's all knives, and she needs that if she's going to lie sleepless at night, to avoid thinking of... to avoid thinking. (She left behind a living, breathing person and he turned into a corpse.) (She could have stayed, could have made a difference, could have stopped the train that ended with Neal under its wheels.) (She could have stayed with Mom for at least a little longer after Dad died, seen the signs, hidden the knives and the razors and other sharp things.) (She should have told Dad to lay off the red meat.) (She could have loved Emily better, made her feel loved, made her want to stay so much that it outweighed everything else.) (She shouldn't have driven people away, there are three bodies and a question mark and she is the common denominator) (Should have-)

Her body jerks her back to the present with a sharp pain in her gut. Her stomach, poor thing, doesn't even bother with rumbling anymore. It knows it's out of luck.

She lets the hunger slice through her and scoop all the thoughts out of her brain with an easy flick. (Is she the knife or is she julienned meat? Is there really a difference?)

Her ghosts still swarm her, nothing can stop that anymore, but at least they're a few steps behind her.

Also, apparently, one of them's taken to waiting on her doorstep.

(Now they decide to be civilised.)

Neal's wearing a coat like hers, black, button down, warm. He isn't also wearing a jacket and a scarf (he isn't cold to the bone, he doesn't need a scarf in summer). He's looking at the pavement, following patterns in the cracks? Losing himself in time? He looks grief-stricken. (He looks alive.) (He can't be. He's dead.)

"I'm sorry," he says, when she stops in front of him, looking at him with more curiosity than anything else. "I know I said I'd wait for your answer, but I couldn't-"

"What are you talking about?" she asks. This is the first time she's seen him. Or, well, hallucinated him. It?

"The postcard. Did I address it wrong? I'm so sorry."

Ah. The one with Raphael's St. George and the Dragon. She'd thought it was some sort of cruel joke, hadn't even read it before shoving it off the table. "That was you?"

"Yeah."

"So my hallucinations are in league with one another. Okay. I can deal with that."

If it was mildly alarming, how she took Neal's death, then the way she's taking the fact that she's gone crazy is downright disquieting. Even to her hallucinations.

"Sara?" he says, his eyes wide with alarm, maybe, or concern, damn it, she doesn't know how to parse feelings in other people's faces anymore. Or maybe the rules are different when it's all in her head.

But then he touches her arm. Touches it. Doesn't hover near it, doesn't slip through it like a ghost, touches it.

Maybe hallucinations can do that, she tries half heartedly. Maybe they feel that real.

The rest of her brain is far more certain than that. No. Nuh-uh. Nope.

She yanks her arm away, hisses, "Get out," through gritted teeth and sets to work keying open her front door.

That hallucination, bless his non-corporeal heart, doesn't listen. Waits anxiously by her side as she struggles with her bunch of keys, follows her in once she gets the door open, stands next to her as she tries to choose between a table piled high with files and a sofa piled high with cushions (anything but the kitchen, which is sparsely stocked anyway).

"Sara-"

"Nope. I may be on my way to crazytown, but I am not driving. Or giving directions. Or helping out in any way, shape or form."

Screw etiquette. She dumps her coat on the floor, leaves the sweater and scarf on, adds a throw from the couch, and settles at the table with her files.

"Sara, please-"

"If you're going to stick around, be useful," she snaps. She meant it when she said she wasn't helping this shit along. "A coffee would be nice. Or hot chocolate. Anything warm, really. Soothes the throat." She pauses, curious again. "Would a hallucination know that? What aggregate of human experience are you familiar with? Are you a you, or an it?"

She waits, chin in hand, for an answer that doesn't come. Apparently, hallucinations aren't used to being interrogated. Or maybe they never just thought of it before. Wait-

"Do you think? I'm going to call you you, for convenience's sake."

He looks at her skeptically. "How about I make you a coffee?"

"Okay! I mean, you can try. I don't know what the rules are with hallucinations and corporeal objects, but if you think you can, go for it. I won't stop you."

She turns to a file, opens it, and starts reading. It's mind numbing, with a side of grammatical errors. Perfect.

-:-

She's brought back to Earth by the sound of a coffee mug being set down next to her.

"Thank you," she says absently as she picks it up and takes a sip.

Oh, it's good.

She sighs happily, sets the mug down, and turns to her hallucination, who's equipped with a coffee mug of his own. "You're a good egg," she tells him. "For a hallucination."

He looks so impossibly sad. He rests one of his hands on her shoulder and says, "I'm real."

She snorts. "I'm not stupid, Neal. You're dead. Besides, I bet that's what all the hallucinations say."

He shakes his head mournfully.

This is starting to grow old. If there was a hallucination bank, she would trade him in for a more cheerful model.

Or can she fix this one? If he can make coffee, and drink it...

"I'm going to try something," she informs him. "And if you don't like it, say so."

In one smooth move, she straddles him where he sits. "Sara..." he says again, like a lamb bleating sadly over and over, his eyes wide, concern still rooted firmly in the lines of his face.

She brushes a stray lock of hair off his forehead and leans in till she's almost kissing him. Till they're breathing the same air. (Assuming that he breathes air.)

Finally, finally, he closes the gap between them by turning his head. And it's... oh. It's wonderful, she makes sure of that, she takes control after he lets their lips meet, she kisses him softly and gently and deeply. It's like being given a tank full of air after a year of being trapped underwater.

If this is what crazy feels like, she's okay with it.

She breaks the kiss even as she's savouring it. She pulls away, eyes shut, and sighs comfortably at the memory.

"Sara, I'm real," he says urgently.

God, even as a hallucination, he's a fool. She opens her eyes and gives him a pointed glare.

"If you're real, that means you faked your death, and I'll have to kick your ass. Maybe break out my contraband baton. And when I kick ass, it hurts. Piece of advice? Stay a hallucination."

"Sara, I'm serious."

"Shhh." She holds a finger to her lips, to demonstrate.

"But-"

"No buts. Let's order Chinese," she tells her hallucination as she dismounts. "Lots of Chinese. I haven't eaten well in so long, it's entirely possible that I could make my way through most of their menu."

He looks thoroughly confused, and also worried. She just smiles, peaceful after a long time. She can fix the expression on his face later.

It's been a really long while, but she feels good. Really good. And she'll do what she has to so she can hold on to the feeling.
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