s2309: (Neal&Sara 2)
[personal profile] s2309
Title: Rust Or Gold, You Decide, What You See, What You Hold.
Characters (Pairings) Neal Caffrey, Sara Ellis (Neal/Sara)
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 606
Disclaimer: White Collar is Jeff Eastin's brainchild. Not mine.
Summary: She decides what happens now. Not him.
Content Notes: Anorexia. Hallucinations.
Author's Note: Title from Rust Or Gold by Jill Andrews. S6 finale tag.
This is for my Music Is My Girlfriend meme (which is still open to prompts!), for the prompt Rust Or Gold - Neal, for [livejournal.com profile] treonb. My headspace is still shit. There is light in this story, though. (Let's not talk too much about the headspace.)
This is a sequel to She's Just Like The Weather, Can't Hold Her Together, and is set shortly after that (a hour at the very most, in fic-time).

Neal spears a piece of chicken on the end of his fork, fidgets with it till it falls off, then picks on another. Again, and again, and again.

Sara is leaning against his chest, chewing thoughtfully on the edge of her fork, the noodles that were carefully wrapped around it disappearing into her mouth almost by coincidence. She's leaning against him, a far too gentle but very welcome weight, peaceful and serene, as though she wasn't calling him a hallucination fifteen minutes ago. As if the next time he tries to tell her he's real, she won't shut it down.

This has to be a dream. It must be. There's no way that Sara, bold, sharp, vibrant Sara, could become so... small.

That's the only word that fits. She feels small, curled into his side with her take-out container of noodles. Small and delicate and fragile as a skeleton. (Her shoulderblade is digging viciously into his chest, he doesn't say a word, he won't, he did this.)

All he wants is to hold her together. Just stay there and hang on till she's warmer, more whole.

But if she knew he was here, really here, she would never allow it.

Should he stay, knowing that? Can he?

No. He made a decision for everyone when he faked his death and left. He didn't give them a say. Sara decides now. It's her call.

"Do you want me to leave?" he asks. Maybe that's best. She decides.

"Does my answer matter? I mean, I say yes, you go poof, I turn around and see a pillow. I say no, same thing. Brains are tricky things. You never know what shit they'll pull next."

Neal exhales slowly, and does not scream, which he is proud of. "If I was real-"

"Here he goes again," Sara mutters.

"-If I was. Would you want me to stay?"

"No," Sara says, after a moment of chewing on her lip.

That casual word lands like a sucker punch, leaves a phantom ache in his chest. He breathes through it, and stands to leave.

"Where are you going?" Sara asks.

"I'm... not sure."

"Then sit," she says. "And help me get away from the food, or I'll overeat and my stomach will explode from too much attention. And considering that this is my first real meal in a week, that's not exactly ideal." She leaves her carton of food on the table and pushes it as far away as she can. "Sit, Neal."

He sits before she can ask him whether or not it's okay to call him Neal. You know, since he's a hallucination with the same face. Maybe she thinks he wants a different name.

(He wants Neal Caffrey, he wants New York and his friends and family and home, he wants his goddamned criminal record back, he wants.)

"Can I?" Sara says tentatively before slowly leaning in, pulling him into her arms, and resting her head on his shoulder. "So warm..." she murmurs as her eyes close, a soft, blissful expression on her face, as though she isn't finding comfort in the very person who hurt her.

He wishes for the constant pain in his chest to go away.

Then he wonders if he even deserves it. Especially when Sara's holding him like a nugget of gold when he can so clearly feel his own rusted, dangerous edges. Especially when her grief is written on her bones, and her bones are all too visible. Especially when everything is so horribly wrong. Because of him.

(He doesn't deserve it.)

(He stays. It stays. The pain and him. Him and the pain.)
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