sam_storyteller: (White Collar)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-20 05:20 am
Entry tags:

Jeffrey Nullier's "Man With Fedora" 1/2

Title: Jeffrey Nullier's "Man With Fedora"
Part: 1/2
Rating: PG (Language)
Warnings: None.
Summary: A routine investigation into an art theft turns up Neal's fingerprints on a stolen painting. Neal swears he's never stolen a Nullier painting, but that's only half the truth...
Betas: [livejournal.com profile] spiderine, [livejournal.com profile] neifile7, [personal profile] girlpearl, [livejournal.com profile] tzikeh

This is now a podfic by [personal profile] lunate8 and [livejournal.com profile] martinius! Also, the lovely [personal profile] cephei has done a rendition of Field #2, linked here. It's also been translated into Russian, which inspired some lovely art.

Also available At AO3.

Originally Posted 9.20.10

***

"Art heist," Peter announced that morning in the conference room, and the entire team turned to look at Neal.

"Hey, what, I didn't do it," Neal said, holding up his hands. "Innocent, innocent."

"How do you know?" Jones asked.

"I've never stolen any art," Neal replied calmly, but he shot a grin at Peter, who sighed.

"Neal's not our guy," Peter said, passing a stack of folders to Diana. She took one and passed it on.

"Of course I'm -- how do you know?" Neal turned to Peter, intrigued more than anything.

"Checked your tracker," Peter said with a grin. Neal groaned and leaned back in the chair as Jones tossed a folder on his lap. "Hey, you should be happy, that thing's an ironclad alibi."

"In English, an invasion of privacy," Neal replied.

"Says the man who used to break into peoples' homes for fun. Don't dish it out if you can't take it," Peter said, which neatly shut Neal up. "Meanwhile, back at the FBI, we have an art heist."

"Huh," Diana said, studying the case file. "A Degas, two minor Picassos, and three by someone named Jeffrey Nullier."

"Nullier?" Neal asked, opening his own copy of the file. "Really."

"Now you're interested," Peter observed. "So, smash and grab in the upper West Side. NYPD's already pulled the forensics but there's not much to go on. They're passing it off to us because one of the Nullier paintings turned up out of state. Its new owner in Boston says he bought in New York, so we're looking for a fence hawking Degas, Picasso, or Nullier."

"Interesting trio," Neal said. "I'd like to meet the original collector."

"Which is good, because that's where we're headed," Peter said. "Diana, I want you and Jones talking to local galleries. See if anyone's been asking about our artists. Shake down a couple of fences."

"I can ask around," Neal offered.

"First things first, let's talk to the owner. Make sure this isn't an insurance fraud," Peter said.

"We're on the case," Neal said with a grin, flipping his hat onto his head.

***

The collector, Richard Trumbull, was a middle-aged stockbroker, an early retiree who'd made his money in the dot-com boom. When Peter and Neal walked into his living room, he greeted them with a spark of enthusiasm that quickly dropped into something approaching confusion. Peter wrote it off as the usual reaction to an FBI agent dragging a consultant along, and asked to be shown the gallery.

"I have two," Trumbull explained, leading them through the spacious, tidily kept house. "The sculpture gallery facing north and the painting gallery leading to it. The light in the painting gallery in the evenings is superb."

"None of the sculptures were targeted?" Peter asked.

"Too heavy for smash and grab," Neal put in.

"That would seem to be a factor," Trumbull said. "The Picassos were both small studies, and the Degas was cut out of its frame. Two of the Nullier paintings were new works, not yet framed."

"But they were insured," Peter said.

"Oh yes. For considerably less than the Picassos and the Degas, but Nullier's work has risen sharply in value over the past five years."

"He disappeared, didn't he?" Neal asked.

"For nearly five years, yes. He's only just begun selling again. As a rule I don't collect living artists, but Nullier has a certain appeal I find irresistible," Trumbull said, giving Peter another slightly confused look. Peter glanced at Neal and saw an odd grin on his face. He looked like he wanted to ask another question but was restraining himself. Peter wondered if Neal had ever forged a Nullier. Forging living artists was unusual, but then so was Neal.

"Here we are," Trumbull added sadly, gesturing at a bare wall with a couple of hooks at eye-level. "My ravished gallery."

"Neal?" Peter said.

"I'm going to prowl," Neal told him. "Check out approaches. They broke this window?" he asked, pointing to a window at the far end.

"Yes," Trumbull said. Neal hurried off to investigate it, while Peter stood and studied the hooks as if they'd provide inspiration.

"Was there anything particularly special about these six paintings?" he asked. "Were they linked in any way?"

"Not that I can think of -- well, Nullier is heavily influenced by Degas. That's why we put them near each other. There were certain color echoes between the Picassos and the Degas, but they weren't purchased from the same dealers or auctions. They weren't even insured by the same company."

"Why Nullier?" Neal called, leaning out the open window, looking down at the lawn a few feet below.

"Sorry?" Trumbull asked. Neal leaned back in.

"Well, he's easier to sell, but he's less valuable. Why take Degas and Picasso -- tough to fence -- and then Nullier?"

"Startup capital," Peter said. "Fence the Nullier paintings, live on that till the heat dies down, then try putting out feelers for the more valuable paintings."

"Which explains why the Nullier turned up first," Neal agreed, thoughtfully. "Diana and Jones should focus on people hawking Nullier. We should contact other collectors who own him, too."

"Get a list, start making calls," Peter said, but Neal was already on the phone. "Mr. Trumbull, do you have photographs of the paintings?"

"Of course, the insurance files will," Trumbull said. He gave Peter a last peculiar look before hurrying off to find the files. Peter took out his phone and called Diana.

"Boss," Diana said, when she answered. "Good timing. I think you better get down here."

"What's going on?" Peter asked.

"Jones found an auction house with two Nullier paintings for sale. Neither of them are the ones we're after, but both paintings are confirmed to already be in private ownership. The ones at the auction house are probably fake."

"Forgeries now?" Peter asked. "What the hell is going on? Who is this Nullier guy?"

"Good question. He's a recluse, maybe some kind of performance artist. His paintings are dropped off at gallery loading docks and the money goes into Swiss bank accounts. We're trying to get information out of the Swiss about who may have accessed them -- "

"Good luck," Peter sighed.

"I know. I want to have Neal take a look at the forgeries, confirm they're fakes and the real ones are still hanging where they belong."

Peter glanced at Neal, who was going over the photographs with Trumbull. "We're on our way."

***

"Forging Nullier," Neal said, almost admiringly, his nose two inches from the painting on the display easel. It was one of a pair of night scenes; shadowy hints at houses and trees in the foreground, red-gold sunsets in the background, the whole thing Impressionist-blurry. "That's ballsy. They did a good job, but these are definitely fakes."

"How can you tell?" Jones asked. Neal was silent. "Caffrey?"

"You know...brushstrokes, shadowing, hesitation marks," Neal said vaguely.

"Neal," Peter prompted, because he knew Neal's I'm hiding something from you for your own good voice.

"I swear to you, Peter, I've never forged a Nullier," Neal said, not looking away from the painting. "The person selling these, can we get in touch with them?"

"The auction house bought them," the attendant said, looking embarrassed. "It was transacted almost entirely online."

"Smart kid," Neal said softly. "Did they sell you anything else?"

"Just the Nullier paintings."

Neal straightened and turned to Peter.

"Someone's going after Nullier," he said.

"New theory," Peter said thoughtfully. "The Degas and Picassos?"

"Smokescreen. Extra bonus, maybe. But then..." Neal frowned. "Why sell a painting if you're going after paintings for a collection?"

"We'll figure that out. Okay," Peter said, handing the attendant a business card. "Get in touch with my office about the investigation. We'll keep you up to date. In the meantime, file a claim with your insurance."

The attendant nodded and looked sadly at the card. "We were so excited to have them," she said.

"Well, at least he's alive," Neal told her. "You never know. You might get some more, sometime."

***

Back at the Bureau, Neal excused himself to his desk to make calls, and Peter met with Diana and Jones in his office.

"So we're investigating theft, forgery, and possibly some form of very obscure stalking," he said, paging through the file. "What do we know about Nullier?"

"Jeffrey Nullier," Diana told him, passing him a printout. "Not much. He's shy."

"Shy is an understatement," Jones said. "Never gives interviews, never been seen. Just drops off the paintings and leaves."

"His first work was exhibited and sold at the Monmount Gallery in El Paso," Diana continued. "The McNay Museum in San Antonio has two of his works. The rest are presumably in private hands."

"Presumably?" Peter asked.

"He doesn't go through an agent. His work's popular but hard to track. We don't know what galleries have had them, so it's difficult to say who they sold them to," Diana said. She spread out a series of photographs: Trumbull's two new portraits and a landscape he'd bought years ago. "Almost five years ago, Nullier dropped out of view completely; as far as we know he didn't sell anything or produce any new work. In the last six months he's done three canvases. Trumbull had two," she said, setting out another landscape. "This one's on the wall at the Met."

"They snapped that up," Peter said, studying the portraits that had been stolen from Trumbull. One was a young redheaded woman, set against smooth, swirling green; the other was a man with a fedora tipped down over his eyes, smiling enigmatically.

"It's a loan from a private collector," Diana said. "We're working on getting the name now."

Peter paused, looking over her shoulder at where Neal was talking on the phone, grinning wide, laughing occasionally.

"If nobody knows where they were sold, or who they were sold to," he said, "then who is Neal calling?"

"He's looking into who owns the paintings?" Jones asked, not turning around.

"You think he's in on this somehow?" Diana added.

"Could just be he has connections, but I think there's something deeper here," Peter said. Neal hung up and almost ran across the room and up the stairs, arriving in the doorway with a legal pad covered in handwriting.

"I got fifteen Nulliers accounted for," he said, beaming. "I told the owners to watch their security. The McNay's taking theirs down and storing them in their secure archives. There's an auction house in Jersey that says they've already had calls about the one they have. It's skyrocketing in value, they'll keep it safe."

"Neal," Peter said, calmly, "how many paintings did Nullier do?"

"Including the three this year? Twenty-five," Neal said.

"How do you know?" Peter asked.

"It's just a thing you know," Neal replied easily. "So that's fifteen accounted for, two in storage at the McNay, the one at the Met, the one at the auction house, the three stolen from Trumbull, leaves three in the wind. Want me to chase them?"

"I'm shocked you haven't already caught them," Peter drawled. Neal frowned.

"What'd I do?" he asked.

"Nothing," Peter said, shaking his head. "Okay. Let's work on the assumption that someone's trying to draw Nullier out. You're them. What's your next move?"

"The Met," Neal said promptly. "Their gallery security's terrible -- not that I've been looking into it," he added hastily. "If I were trying to piss off an artist I'd steal the one that's the most well-known. Gotta be the one at the Met."

"Stakeout?" Diana asked.

"Not the van," Neal moaned.

"Stakeout," Peter said.

"Please, please don't make me," Neal said.

"He whines," Jones put in.

"See? Jones says I whine. You haven't even heard whining," Neal added.

"It's like being a kindergarten teacher," Peter sighed. "Fine. Diana, Jones, stake out the Met. Find out who owns that damn painting. Neal, go home and think about what a good person I am for not making you sit in the van tonight."

"Already done," Neal said with a grin.

Peter watched him go, speculatively.

"Jones?" he said.

"Tail Caffrey?"

"You read my mind."

***

Neal didn't go anywhere that night -- Jones kept a close watch, and the tracking data proved it. In the morning, the painting at the Met was still right where it was supposed to be.

Unfortunately, Neal wasn't, exactly.

Peter got the call at six a.m., fumbling for the phone by his bedside. "What?" he asked, when he finally managed to pick up.

"Neal's being arrested," Jones said.

"Again?" Peter groaned. "What did he do now?"

"Forensics just got done with the recovered Nullier painting. They found his fingerprints on it," Jones said.

"Neal," Peter sighed. "Okay, is it NYPD or the Marshals?"

"NYPD."

"Stall them. Flash your badge, do a little chest-pounding. Tell them Neal's not going anywhere until his custodial agent has had a chance to examine the evidence. June's?"

"June's," Jones confirmed, and Peter heard Neal in the background yell, "Is that Peter? Tell him this isn't what it looks like!"

***

"This isn't what it looks like," Neal blurted, when Peter arrived in his dining room. Peter glanced around. There were half a dozen uniform cops and two detectives standing by.

"It looks like you being arrested for grand theft," he said. "Guys, I need a word in private."

Neal, a little wild-eyed, let himself be drawn out onto the terrace, where Peter pushed him down into a chair.

"Did you steal, or arrange to have stolen, the Nullier paintings?" he demanded.

"No," Neal said emphatically.

"Did you forge any?"

"I've never forged a Nullier," Neal protested.

"Can you explain how your fingerprints got on one of the stolen paintings?" Peter asked.

Neal stared at him. "Is that why they put me in cuffs?"

"NYPD's forensic lab found your prints on the recovered painting," Peter said. Neal kept staring and then burst out laughing. "Neal, this isn't a joke!"

"Oh, my god, I know, but it's funny," Neal said, around snorts of laughter. "This is funny and I am so screwed."

"What did you do, Neal?" Peter demanded.

Neal shook his head, grinning. "A long con just bit me on the ass, Peter. I didn't steal the Nullier paintings. I painted them."

"You said you didn't forge -- "

"I didn't! They're mine. Jeffrey Nullier is an alias," Neal told him.

Peter felt his brain whirr to a sharp halt. This invalidated everything, and he hated how Neal could just do that -- say something, do something that changed all the rules of the game in an instant. Basic assumptions no longer seemed basic. Everything had to be rewritten.

Neal gave him a nervous look.

"Look, they're just bullshit paintings I did when I got bored," he added.

Peter ran through his list of default things he could say to Neal when situations like this arose, and found an appropriate one.

"If you're lying to me -- " he started, and Neal shook his head.

"I'm not, I swear I'm not. My prints are on the painting because I painted it. That's how I knew the two at the auction house were forgeries. It's how I knew who owned the paintings. I keep track."

"You're Jeffrey Nullier."

Neal beamed. "In the flesh."

Peter hesitated again, and then gave in to impulse and demanded, "What the hell kind of stupid con is that?"

"Look, I sold two paintings from a gallery in El Paso. They sold well, so I did a few more when I had the spare time. Things just kind of...got out of hand. When I got bored I'd do a Nullier, toss it to some gallery, tell them to sell it and transfer the money to my account. I can't touch the Swiss account because Mozzie locked it down when I was arrested..." Neal waggled his ankle with the tracker on it, "...and I can't exactly go visit, can I? So the money's just there. A nest egg. Safety net. Whatever, the money doesn't matter. It's all about the con, Peter. Selling my own work. The Mysterious Jeffrey Nullier."

"I cannot believe you," Peter said.

"I can prove it," Neal said.

"How?" Peter asked.

"I signed them with my own name," Neal told him. "Get the cuffs off and I'll show you."

***

Peter didn't take the cuffs off until they were in the curator's office at the Met, with the Met's loaned Nullier painting in front of them. Objectively, it was a pretty good painting of a winter scene, with a bonfire burning in one corner and smoke rising up against a dark sky.

"So, who owns this?" Peter asked as he unlocked the cuffs.

"June," Neal replied. "I gave it to her. I told her I knew Nullier. I think she suspects it was me."

"June's not an idiot, so probably," Peter agreed. He glanced at the curator for confirmation of ownership, and she gave him a small nod. Neal rubbed his wrists and then picked up the painting by its frame, leaning it against a window. He studied it from the side and top, adjusting it slightly.

"Every Nullier has his name in the corner," he said, pointing to the lower-right-hand corner where J. Nullier was visible. "But I put my name in all of them too."

"Safeguard?" Peter asked.

"Vanity," Neal replied. He pulled Peter over to stand with a shoulder against the wall, looking sidelong at the painting. "You can't see it unless you turn the painting almost oblique and get some good downward light going..."

Peter squinted at the painting. At this angle nothing made sense in perspective, but the tendrils of rising smoke from the bonfire seemed to sprawl out across the whole painting...

Forming the words "Neal Caffrey".

"Pretty cool, huh?" Neal said, leaning cockily against the wall on the other side of the painting.

"Well, it clears up a few things," Peter replied. "But it doesn't help us catch our bad guy."

"That depends on your point of view," Neal said. Peter waited for him to continue. "The goal is to lure Nullier out of hiding, right? We think? So if Nullier had, say, a retrospective at the Met, where he planned to unveil his latest work..."

"That'd draw the thieves," Diana finished. "How do we catch them?"

"Bait," Neal said. "We make one of the paintings attractive and stealable. Look, I can set this up, I know where the paintings are. I can weasel them out of the owners for a show."

"That's putting a lot of, and it pains me deeply to say this, valuable art, in peril," Peter said. "Which one do we put up as bait?"

"I'm the artist," Neal said, as if Peter were being a little slow. "I can paint you one."

***

When they were in the car again, on the way to the office, Neal glanced at Peter carefully.

"Nothing about this is illegal," he pointed out. "It's not illegal to sign a fake name to a painting unless the painting's a forgery. Mine are originals, sold by legitimate galleries, taxes paid and everything."

"You've done twenty-five original paintings in the last, what, ten years?" Peter asked.

"More like twelve. Really more like eight years, before I was arrested," Neal said.

"You started when you were seventeen?"

Neal hedged. "A lot of great painters started young."

"A lot of great painters weren't recognized in their own lifetime," Peter shot back.

"So you're agreeing I'm a great painter?"

"So you're agreeing I have good taste in art?"

"You don't like anything painted after the eighteenth century," Neal complained. "You think pop art is a con game. You called Haustenberg cartooney."

"Pop art is a con game. The only difference is I can't arrest anyone for committing it," Peter said. He glanced at Neal. "So. Are you going to come out?"

"What?" Neal asked, turning to him.

"Come out. Are you going to take credit for the paintings?"

"Why?" Neal asked. "I've already been paid for them."

"Reputation. Fame. Both things you're very fond of," Peter pointed out.

"Yeah, I really want the whole New York art scene to know that Jeffrey Nullier is a convicted felon working for the FBI," Neal said. "Pass. What makes you think I'm so interested in fame?"

"Come on, Neal. You like attention. You live for attention. When I was chasing you, you did everything short of turning yourself in to get attention."

"Attention from you," Neal said. "Yeah, I like it when people notice me. I don't like it when people can't help noticing me. There's an art to blending in, Peter, and part of that is not, you know, being a famous artist."

Peter made a wry face, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. "Seventy grand. That early Nullier they stole from Trumbull is worth seventy grand. How much did you make off the other two?"

"I don't know," Neal said, and Peter cast a stern look his way. "I don't. I left them at the gallery with my routing number, I didn't look up what they sold for. If it's in the file, deduct forty percent for gallery fees and handling, and that's my cut. I told you, it's not about the money."

"What's it about? Don't say the con, don't say boredom, don't waste my time," Peter said. Neal closed his mouth, considered it, then spoke.

"Once in a while I...find something I want to paint. I'm a forger, I'm not an artist, but I see something that strikes me. I paint it, it's over, and I can sell the painting. That's all," he said. "It's a purge."

"You are such a tortured genius," Peter told him.

"You injure my soul," Neal replied, and then laughed. "Come on, Peter, this is a little funny."

"It'll be a little funny once we catch whoever's stealing and forging your work," Peter said. "Right now it's a case. You're going to go to your desk, start setting up the fake retrospective, and when you're done I'm taking you home to paint a Nullier."

"I need to stop at the art store first."

***

"I don't understand why you're still here," Neal said, four hours later, standing in front of his easel with his arms crossed. Peter was setting out takeaway containers on his table.

"I want to see you work," Peter said, opening one container and fishing out a piece of chicken, popping it in his mouth. "I can go over files here as easily as I can at home, and Elizabeth's not at home tonight anyway."

"You want to see me work," Neal repeated flatly.

"Everything you do fascinates me," Peter informed him, faux-somber. "I have made you my life's work. Years of study -- "

"Fine, fine, Diderot, I get it," Neal said, sorting his brushes and rummaging in a box for paints, unpacking the ones he'd picked up at the art store. He'd changed into a pair of track pants and a t-shirt, and he looked like he was stalling.

"Self-conscious, Caffrey?" Peter asked, spooning fried rice out onto a plate.

"Just deciding what to paint," Neal replied, accepting the challenge. "My work has been described as a love letter to the eerie," he said, fingering a piece of charcoal in his right hand. "You know Ilya Repin?"

Peter grinned over his food. "He painted Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan."

"He was a master of understatement," Neal said, beginning to sketch lightly on the canvas. "Ever seen it?"

"I've seen pictures," Peter said.

"Ivan Vasilyevich," Neal said thoughtfully, arm still moving as he sketched. "The first Tsar of Russia, cradling his dead son."

"Yeah, the son he murdered," Peter added.

"Do you know what happened to it?"

Peter leaned back. "Some. Abram Balashev was so unbalanced by the painting that he tried to destroy it. He slashed the faces a few times before they got to him."

"Abram Balashev was unbalanced by mental illness," Neal corrected. "But he did pick an especially gruesome painting to focus his delusions on. There are persistent rumors that people have killed themselves after seeing it."

"You can't forge Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan," Peter said.

"Well, I can. I'm just not allowed to," Neal grinned at him over his shoulder. A form was appearing on the canvas, a head with the center line canted slightly to the right. "But imagine having that kind of power. Being able to paint something that drove people insane." He stepped back and tossed the charcoal up and down in his hand, thinking. "Imagine if you could paint something that would reach right down into the hindbrain and trigger a reaction."

"Is that what you're going for?" Peter asked.

"Maybe I just want to scare the crap out of whoever's gunning for me," Neal replied, and then set his charcoal down. He picked up a tray and began mixing paints; Peter took one of the files he'd brought with him out of the box and tried not to get fried rice on it while he reviewed it.

He looked up every once in a while to check on Neal's progress; the head was definitely taking form, a masculine face with a lantern jaw on a light blue background. At one point Neal stepped back to study it, and Peter caught a glimpse of one staring blue eye. He looked away hurriedly, glad that for the most part Neal's body blocked the image.

He was in the middle of reviewing a cold case when Neal thumped down in the chair next to him, pulled one of the cartons of food towards him, and started eating.

"So?" he asked, gesturing over his shoulder at the painting.

"You work fast," Peter said, reluctant to look up.

"Sometimes I have to. Had to," Neal corrected. "Allegedly. Check it out, Diderot, I want your thoughts."

Peter dragged his eyes up to the painting reluctantly --

And found himself looking into the stern, furious face of Neal Caffrey.

"Jesus," he said, startled. "That's creepy as hell, Neal."

"Is it?" Neal asked, pleased, and turned back to look at it. "I'm not objective about my own face. How are the eyes?"

The eyes were a starker blue than the background, luminous with controlled anger. Peter glanced from the painting to Neal's face and back, wondering if he had, for nine years, drastically underestimated how dangerous Neal could be.

"They work," Peter said, turning away from the painting's glare. "I thought you'd already done a self-portrait, though."

Neal frowned, puzzled. "No. What made you think that?"

Peter reached for the Trumbull investigation file, pulling out one of the photographs. "This one. Isn't that you?" he asked, tapping Man With Fedora.

Neal looked at it and laughed. "That's not me. I don't wear brims that wide. Kills my cheekbones."

"Oh, of course," Peter rolled his eyes. Neal cocked his head.

"Give me your certification," he said, holding out his hand.

"What?"

"Let me have your ID."

Peter frowned, digging his FBI wallet out of his pocket. He hesitated, and Neal raised an eyebrow.

"What am I going to do, convince you I'm Peter Burke?" he asked, taking it out of Peter's fingers. "Now, pay attention. Me," he said, gesturing to his face. "Painting," he continued, holding up the photo of Man With Fedora. "You," he finished, waving the ID.

Peter looked from Neal's face to the photograph, then down to his ID and back. The man's eyes and most of his nose were obscured by the hat, and his smile was curled up in a smug, almost menacing way, but the pull of skin across the cheek and the shape of the mouth were familiar. Very, very familiar.

"You painted me?" Peter asked. Neal set the photo down and offered him his wallet back. Peter ignored it, still staring. "You painted me in a painting?" he demanded, and then he blurted the first thing that came into his head: "I don't wear hats!"

Neal sighed. "That's why they call it artistic license."

"You painted me!"

"What? You should be flattered, your mouth's worth like ninety grand. Wait, not like that," Neal added hurriedly.

"You took my face!" Peter said, taking his wallet back.

"Borrowed, for a painting. Nobody knows it's -- "

"Trumbull does," Peter said, as information began to slot into place. "He kept looking at me weird. Neal, you stole my face."

"It's not like it's a nude or something," Neal said carefully. "Come on, Peter, how many people can say a portrait of them sold for major money in the art world? Nullier is famous. Man With Fedora was his re-emergence after five years of silence."

"Fedora," Peter repeated, horrified realization dawning. "Fedora."

Neal couldn't quite contain the smile playing around his lips.

"You think you're pretty smart," Peter said. "You put a pun in a painting of me?"

"Fedora," Neal said, and started to laugh -- quietly, obviously trying not to and unable to avoid it. He kept struggling to keep a lid on it, and then he snorted and Peter lost it and put his head in his arms, laughing as well.

"I swear to god, I'm going to kill you as soon as this stops being funny," Peter gasped.

"I think I'm pretty safe then," Neal replied, snorting again. "I'm really sorry, Peter, I'm so -- ho -- " he didn't manage to get the word out a second time around the laughter. Peter wiped his eyes and sat back, staring at the photo.

"You got my chin wrong," he said finally, when Neal had subsided.

"I -- !" Neal looked outraged. "That chin is a work of art, don't tell me I got it wrong. The photo doesn't do the painting justice."

"Yeah, we'll see when we recover it," Peter said, tucking the photo away. "This doesn't get you off the hook for painting me without my permission."

"What are you going to do, arrest me for having good taste?" Neal asked.

"I'll think of something," Peter said darkly.

"Do I get points for telling you it's you?" Neal offered.

"Has that ever worked with me in the past?"

"No," Neal admitted.

Peter had almost forgotten the portrait in the room, Neal's face and the column of his throat and those furious ice-blue eyes, but Neal stood up and wandered back over to it, rubbing at a patch of paint on his hand as he studied it.

"It's going to be a quick and dirty varnish," Neal said, finally. "I have ten paintings coming in for the retrospective, plus the two forgeries we confiscated from the auction house, just to thicken the mix. Everything should be here by Thursday. If you give me Jones and a couple of the field guys I can have everything hung by Friday, and we'll do a preview on Friday night. Opening on Saturday. I gave them Elizabeth's card for the catering."

"Thanks. You think our thief will come to the preview?" Peter asked.

"I don't know. I can't think of any reason someone would be tracking me down. Why steal a painting if you're going to sell it? Why forge two paintings you didn't steal? I don't like being messed with." Neal stopped rubbing the paint on his hands. "Should I even ask why we're not putting me out there as bait, or just feel lucky?"

"Whoever's doing this, it's probably what they want," Peter said. "I don't like giving people what they want."

"When what they want is me," Neal said.

"That's part of it, but not all of it. We don't even need to use you, if we go that route, if this retrospective idea doesn't work. Nobody knows what Jeffrey Nullier looks like. We could put Jones up as Nullier. Hell, we could put Diana up as Nullier."

"She'd play me better," Neal said absently. "But I'll be at the showing, right? You're not going to make me sit in the van while people admire my work, are you?"

Peter sighed. "If you promise not to draw too much attention or stand too close to that," he said, pointing at the portrait, "you can go to the preview. And I," he added, "am going home. Try not to stay up too late basking in your fame, Nullier."

"Seeya tomorrow, Diderot," Neal replied.

***

Neal spent the next morning at his desk, distractedly waving Peter away every time he stopped to check in, apparently dealing with details of the retrospective. Peter privately thought it couldn't possibly be that complicated just to hang a bunch of pictures on a wall, but apparently there were mystic rituals artists had to go through to prep a show.

Jones had a report for him to read that morning, a listing of schools that taught art courses involving Jeffrey Nullier (Neal was going to need a whole new page for his scrapbook of morally ambiguous activity) and a couple of research pages about him that had turned up on Google. Someone in El Paso had done a graduate thesis on Nullier -- the date indicated it must have been written while Neal was serving his third year in supermax. He skimmed it, but art academia bored him. More interesting were the printouts from the McNay in San Antonio, little digital images of each painting and descriptions beneath. One of them was the first painting the El Paso gallery had received; the other was more recent, probably one of the last Neal had done before prison.

Jeffrey Nullier had bolted out of nowhere in the middle of West Texas in 1998, right around the time Peter was entering Quantico. His earlier work was described as immature but promising, and was increasing in value not so much because it was any good but because it was the early work of Jeffrey Nullier.

Jones had managed to wrangle photographs of most of Neal's paintings out of the owners, working off the list Neal had made. There was one that had been left with a gallery in Los Angeles which Peter immediately identified as having been painted while Neal was on the Blevins scam. Peter was willing to bet if he cross-referenced his file on Neal with the other galleries that had received Nullier paintings he could match each painting to the con Neal had been running at the time.

None of them were violent or overtly frightening, but Peter decided whoever had described them as "love letters to the eerie" wasn't wrong. The later ones, especially, were...strange. Even Man With Fedora's smile was near to menacing. Peter had looked closely at the landscape from the Met and noticed the bonfire, idyllic on the surface, was shaped very much like a funeral pyre. Both had been painted during Neal's time with the Bureau, and there was probably some kind of hidden psychological message in that, but Peter really didn't have time for art-analysis bullcrap.

Just past eleven, Peter got a call from the Portland office at the same time Neal answered a call at his desk. Peter saw Neal stand up and gesture for him to come down, but the agent on the other end of his line was saying that a Nullier, the second half of a set of paintings, had been stolen from a private house in Portland. Peter shook his head at Neal and crooked his fingers. Neal looked down at his phone, said a few words, hung up, and was already redialing on his cell by the time he reached Peter's office.

"Portland," Neal mouthed, muttering reassurances into the phone.

"Me too," Peter replied, covering his receiver. "Investigating agent."

"Victim." Neal pointed at his phone, then answered, "No, ma'am, I think you must agree at this point it's safer to move the remaining Nullier painting to New York. The Met has excellent security."

"I don't think we need to confiscate the second painting," Peter said, following Neal's lead. "Tell you what, can you convince the owner to get it out of the house? I don't want a repeat break-in."

They talked over and around each other for another few minutes before Neal hung up. He listened as Peter made arrangements to have the necessary investigation documents sent over.

"It's getting shipped out today," Neal said. "The Met can take delivery and store it securely. It'll come in with the others."

"Another smash and grab," Peter replied. "He gets around, huh? Paperwork's on its way, including photographs."

"I know what they look like," Neal said. "Here's my question: why steal only one?"

"Didn't like the other one?" Peter asked. Neal shook his head.

"Field #1 and Field #2 were a matched set. They don't make sense without each other," he said.

"What do you mean, don't make sense?" Peter asked.

"They're not supposed to be separated. Anyone who knows my work would know that the Field paintings go together. If you split them up, their value drops. Intrinsically and monetarily. Unless he's just screwing with me, but that's a lot of risk to take to piss me off," Neal said. "He took Field #2, right?"

"Describe them for me," Peter said. "How do they go together?"

Neal blew out a breath, rubbing a hand through his hair. "Field #1 was -- okay, laugh -- a field, in Oregon. We were down in the Willamette Valley, just outside Salem, really pretty. We had a place there for a few months. Kate and me," he added. "We were allegedly waiting on some supplies for something I can't talk about, so I painted. Field #1 is the field out behind the place we were staying, with a woman sitting in one corner of it. Field #2 is a close-up of her in the same place, a portrait."

"Kate," Peter said. Neal nodded. "You did a painting of Kate and just...sold it?"

"I sold a painting of you, remember?"

"I'm not your girlfriend," Peter pointed out.

"Thanks for reminding me," Neal drawled. "The painting isn't the point. The process is the point, the painting is just a byproduct most of the time. I asked Kate, she said sell them; by then we knew a Nullier would get at least twenty or thirty thousand. So I sold them and moved some cash around and we went to Seattle and I showed her a good time."

"You blew thirty grand in Seattle?" Peter asked, eyebrow raising.

"I blew ten grand in Seattle. I'm a sybarite, not a hedonist," Neal said.

"You ever think about buying the portrait back?" Peter asked.

"I didn't have someone steal Field #2, Peter. I wouldn't break up the set."

Peter sighed. "Okay, I get it." He was silent for a moment. "Neal, you were making good money. As a legitimate artist. You could have -- "

"Come on, don't waste my time," Neal said. "I told you. It's not about the money, it's never about the money. It was about the work. Now -- " he cut off sharply, and Peter fixed him with a curious stare.

"Now?" Peter prompted.

"Now it's about seeing if you're going to catch me again," Neal said, with an elegant shrug and a grin. "You always do."

"What happens the first time I don't?"

"I don't know," Neal answered, leaning forward. "Let me get away with something sometime, and we'll find out."

"Not gonna happen, Neal," Peter warned.

"See? That's the fun of it. Consequences are for lesser men, Peter. We just have the endless game," Neal said.

Peter tapped his pen against his desk, grinning. "Did you seriously think I would buy that? 'Consequences are for lesser men'? I bet honesty is a more challenging game, too."

"Can't blame a guy for trying," Neal replied, unrepentant. "Listen, if they hit Portland this morning they might try to hit the other collectors on the west coast. I'll make a few calls. If they do get through and grab another painting, I'll make sure they see an ad for the retrospective on the way out."

"Why are these people talking to you?" Peter asked. Neal turned and flicked a bit of white card through the air; it spun and landed neatly on Peter's desk.

"I'm Jeffrey's new agent," he said, as Peter studied the business card.

Nick Halden
Art Management & Consulting


***

Either the rest of the Nullier owners were tighter on security, or their thief had what they wanted. No more paintings went missing -- at least, not from their owners.

The photographs of the stolen paintings hung in the conference room: Man With Fedora and the redhead, Robbing Titian, at the top, separated a little from Field #2. The landscape they'd recovered was beneath those two, and the two forged landscapes beneath that. Neal did confirm that one of the three paintings he hadn't been able to locate had been stolen from a minor gallery in Tennessee, so it went up next to Field #2: Keystone, the only nude that Jeffrey Nullier had painted, a naked woman reaching for a book on the top shelf of a bookcase. She looked suspiciously like Alex, but Peter carefully didn't ask. Jones and Diana both liked that painting best.

Off to one side, as if they weren't even important, sat images of Trumbull's two Picassos and his Degas. At the moment they were simply involuntary casualties of the assault on Neal's body of work.

Thursday night, Peter came home with the Nullier file to find Elizabeth on the phone with the Met, soothing someone's frazzled nerves. He kissed her hello on the cheek, set the file aside, and went to poke around and see if anything was already cooking for dinner. He was deciding between sandwiches and ordering in when Elizabeth pushed through the door and slid her arms around his hips, peering past him into the fridge briefly.

"Long day?" he asked, as she rested her chin against his spine, up near his shoulder, digging it in a little.

"Could have been longer," she replied. "Indian?"

"Thai?" he counter-suggested, straightening slowly so she could let him go, let him turn and get his arms around her. "Or I could go for a steak."

"Hmm, we could go out," she said. "Get changed."

"Yes'm," he answered, heading up the stairs for the bedroom. "How's the last-minute stuff for the show tomorrow?"

"Pretty smooth, considering," she called back, halfway up the stairs. "Neal's not half the diva he pretends to be."

"He'd better not be," Peter growled.

"Relax. He gave me carte blanche for the preview, within the Met's budget, which is generous," she told him, moving past him in the bedroom to toss him a t-shirt. He watched her take her earrings out, her fingers drifting over the jumble of jewelery on the dresser before picking a necklace to wear. He came up behind her and took it, fastening it for her while she held her hair up.

"Then I think we deserve a night out," he said. "No Caffrey, no Nullier, no Met."

Which naturally meant that they got halfway through dinner before Peter's phone rang, Neal's number on the Caller ID. He sighed and answered it.

"I swear to god, unless this is an emergency -- " he started.

"Pursuit is gone," Neal said. "It went missing from the Met's loading dock. They found out ten minutes ago."

Peter bit down on the urge to swear. They were in a nice restaurant, after all; no need to disturb everyone else just because he was going to have to leave his dinner and his wife and go chase bad guys.

"Anything else?" he asked.

"Nope. I went through the rest, they're all accounted for. Pursuit wasn't in the secure safe with the rest, it was still in its crate on the dock. Field #1 was too, but it's still there."

"You're at the Met? Is anyone with you?"

"Jones is on his way," Neal said. "The NYPD's here now. They're making noise about shutting down the show." Neal paused briefly. "Are you having dinner?"

"I was," Peter replied. "I'm out with El, I can be there in half an hour."

"Look, if you can get the NYPD off our ass I can handle this," Neal said. "Just get them to stop growling long enough for Jones to get here. We'll fill you in tomorrow."

"Neal, what are you planning?" Peter asked.

"Nothing. Jesus, I just want you to have a nice dinner," Neal replied, sounding annoyed enough that Peter believed him.

Well, maybe 85% believed him.

"Jones and I can handle this, but I wanted you in the loop. Tell Elizabeth she owes me one."

"I'll call Captain Shattuck and have him get his dogs off you," Peter said, hanging up and redialing. Elizabeth watched, half-perplexed, half-expectant, as he pulled a few strings and hopefully got everything calmed down a little. When he hung up, she frowned.

"Do you need to go?" she asked. Peter thought about saying yes; part of him wanted to go.

"No," he said instead. "Neal and Jones are handling it. Another painting was stolen. Right off the damn dock," he added, stabbing his steak with maybe more vigor than the meat required. "Neal says you owe him one for keeping me here."

"I'll send him cookies," Elizabeth said, touching his hand. "Sweetie, breathe. Can you do anything? Really? Other than try to catch them at the show tomorrow?"

"No," Peter said, relaxing a little. "We can process the scene, but they don't need me there for that. Jones can handle chain of custody."

"So. No work, no Caffrey, no Nullier, remember?" She leaned across the table and kissed him.

"Yeah. Okay," he agreed, and was rewarded with her smile.

***

The evidence van was leaving and Neal was sitting on the edge of the loading dock, elbows propped on the guardrail, when Jones stepped out through the side door for a smoke. He gave Neal a nod.

"Hey, can I bum one?" Neal asked, holding out a hand.

"You don't smoke," Jones said automatically.

"Well, I won't tell Dad if you won't," Neal replied. Jones grinned and passed him one, offering up the lighter. Neal lit the cigarette, passed the light back, and exhaled through his nose.

"How is this my life?" he asked. "Seriously. Any other artist, the night before a show, you lose a painting, that's a total pass for nervous breakdown. What do I do? I call my boss and help process the crime scene. I miss out on all the fun parts." He flicked ash off the end of the smoke. "I'm not a normal artist. I work for the Eff Bee Eye," he said, drawing the letters out slowly. Jones laughed.

"You really want a pass for a breakdown?" he asked. Neal shook his head.

"I want someone to stop stealing my paintings. And forging them."

"You don't think that's a little hypocritical?"

"It's really, really hypocritical." Neal laughed, coughing a little on the smoke. He ducked his head. "It'll be nice to see some of them again, though, when we hang them tomorrow. Especially Baptism, it's one of my favorites. When I was painting it, Mozzie used to call it Christ's Wet T-Shirt Contest. Apparently people think it's a sublime commentary on sexuality and the Church."

"You a religious man?" Jones asked, grinning. Neal grinned back.

"No, but I once allegedly impersonated a priest," he said. He leaned back a little, thoughtfully. "You know whoever it is, they now own more original Nullier paintings than anyone else in the world. They have half my portraits, unless they fenced everything and we just haven't caught up yet. They fenced the landscape. I don't know what they thought they were doing with the forged pieces."

"They like portraits," Jones offered.

"Yeah, so why forge landscapes? It can't just be for the -- " Neal paused, then laughed.

"What?"

"Well, I know why I'd forge something like that. To see if it was good enough. Get it past the authenticators. Nullier has to be easy to pass off, because nobody knew where his paintings were. Nobody had a catalogue of them but me until now. But his style's pretty distinct, so the actual brushwork takes a lot of skill."

He caught Jones watching him. "What?"

Jones shrugged. "Met's been getting calls about your catalogue, that's all. People want to know how they found so many Nullier paintings. We're recording them all and checking against known offenders, but most of them are collectors or galleries. You might have more people at the preview tomorrow than you expect."

"Yeah?" Neal felt unaccountably pleased. "I gave June a bunch of invites, she said she'd bring some friends. I thought without any advance notice things might be kind of thin. You know they're massively overvalued, right?" he asked. "Inflated by demand and reputation. People aren't paying for the art, they're paying for the cachet. Or the investment. I think the only one who probably gets the value right is June, and she likes hers because I painted it."

"Hey, whatever gets you paid," Jones said with a shrug. "You liked painting 'em, right?"

"Pretty much. I didn't like painting Pursuit, I was pissed as hell when I did that one. But mostly."

"And people like owning 'em, and can afford to drop the money the galleries are asking for. So everyone's happy," Jones said, as a young woman approached them at the edge of the dock.

"Mr. Caffrey," she said, hesitant. "The curator would like to know if you'd like to look over the final draft of the release for the press packet."

"An artist's work is never done," Neal told Jones, stubbing out his cigarette on the metal edge and flicking it absently into the ashtray twenty feet away. He pulled himself up by the railing. "Sure, let's have a look."

***

Part 2: Portrait Of The Artist As A Con Man

Ivan The Terrible And His Son Ivan On November 16, 1851 by Ilya Repin.
Detail of the damage inflicted by Abram Balashev.
sethrak: Lil Mittens being adorable (Lil' Mittens)

[personal profile] sethrak 2010-09-20 07:52 pm (UTC)(link)
I could tell a few paragraphs in who Nullier was going to turn out to be. ^_^ Awesome story, and I can't wait to read part 2.
nakki: (nakki - ampharos)

[personal profile] nakki 2010-09-20 08:03 pm (UTC)(link)
just a quick correction: This invalidated everything, and he hated now Neal could just do that

should be "...how Neal..."

I love your White Collar fic. It's filled with so much awesome art! =)

[personal profile] adina 2010-09-20 08:35 pm (UTC)(link)
Favorite line so far:

"I swear to god, I'm going to kill you as soon as this stops being funny," Peter gasped.

Somehow that just sums up their entire relationship for me. Peter knows that he should be pissed, disapproving, the bad cop, but Neal is too damn much fun. The Peter we met at the start of the pilot never had much fun.

[personal profile] twitchy 2010-09-20 09:39 pm (UTC)(link)
I blame you entirely for my white collar addiction. Mostly because I started with your fanfic, and decided I needed to watch a buddy cop show about a con artist and Fed together.

I do have one tiny nitpick, that really isn't that important to the story as a whole:

deduct fifteen percent for gallery fees and handling,

If it's a New York gallery, the gallery will probably take somewhere between 40-60 percent. Most other major city galleries on the North east coast take a cut between 25-40 percent (depending on how fancy and expensive the gallery is, where it's located in the city, and who their clientèle are), and I have no idea about galleries else where in the USA.
mermaid: mermaid swimming (Default)

[personal profile] mermaid 2010-09-20 10:57 pm (UTC)(link)
May I please jump in here, and ask you a question?

I'm writing my own White Collar story, revolving around an art auction at a reputable and reasonably high-class Manhattan gallery. The gallery owner / art dealer bought the paintings off the original owners, and is now auctioning them - so he will receive all the proceeds.

Does that scenario make any sense to you? I can handwave it in the author's notes, if necessary, but I'd like to know in advance if I'm going to annoy knowledgeable people like your good self.

Alternatively: if the gallery owner were just auctioning the paintings on behalf of the original owners, what cut would he receive of each sale?

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

[personal profile] twitchy 2010-09-21 03:55 am (UTC)(link)
Second question first! Any fancy and reputable New York gallery is probably going to take 50 or 60 percent of the sale, because they are like that. And I don't think the commission from auctioning off a work would be any different than the usual display of artwork. I could be wrong though.

First question!
I would say that usually this is not the case, since most gallery owners are unwilling to invest in an expensive piece of work that they don't know if they can sell again for greater value than what they paid. However, it is not totally unheard of for gallery owners/art dealers to buy the work off of the artist/whoever owns it if they are confident to resell for a greater value because the current owner is undervaluing the work.

Basically, the gallery owner/art dealer is going to do whatever they think will make them the most amount of money.

Though, at an art auction, the auctioneer would receive all the proceeds and then dish out the appropriate amount of money to the owners minus their fees and all.

I look forward to your story! Hope I could help, I don't think I'm far off the mark (I just know some gallery stuff because I was friends with painting majors and other fine artists. Commercial art is way cooler)
le_mousquetaire: (Default)

[personal profile] le_mousquetaire 2010-09-20 10:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Is it so terrible that I want you to write about the alleged personification of Neal as a priest?


le_mousquetaire: (Default)

[personal profile] le_mousquetaire 2010-09-20 11:19 pm (UTC)(link)
And that is a much better idea
bimini_road: (Default)

[personal profile] bimini_road 2010-09-25 12:33 am (UTC)(link)
I'd love to see that!
eccentrikita: Softly colored drawing of Hermione from Harry Potter, sitting in a chair in a library reading a book. (Default)

[personal profile] eccentrikita 2010-09-21 01:12 am (UTC)(link)
BRILLIANCE.


And I feel pretty proud of myself that I immediately called Neal as Nullier. But the rest of this is just a damn fun caper, with some really interesting stuff about money and legitimacy and identity.

Reading on now!
ursula4x: Neal Caffrey (Default)

[personal profile] ursula4x 2010-09-21 02:41 am (UTC)(link)
I love Neal the artist. Great story to date.
azurelunatic: "Fangirl": <user name="azurelunatic"> and a folding fan.  (fangirl)

[personal profile] azurelunatic 2010-09-21 05:37 am (UTC)(link)
I thought the artist was him! Hee! I'm very glad to be correct.
arsenicjade: (kiwi)

[personal profile] arsenicjade 2010-09-22 05:54 am (UTC)(link)
Evidently, we're in a fandom at the same time again. It's pretty nice.
bimini_road: (Default)

[personal profile] bimini_road 2010-09-25 12:01 am (UTC)(link)
Dude, this is just awesomeness.
secretsolitaire: (white collar neal)

[personal profile] secretsolitaire 2010-09-25 11:01 pm (UTC)(link)
I laughed out loud in delight at the pun in that fedora painting's title. :-D Onward!

[identity profile] cleversimon.livejournal.com 2010-09-27 01:02 am (UTC)(link)
"Imagine if you could paint something that would reach right down into the hindbrain and trigger a reaction."

Zdzisław Beksiński (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_vE2OPRLqyB8/SxESGCryqDI/AAAAAAAAAWA/IhRJnSjJePs/s1600/zbeksinski.jpg) does that to me.

(Anonymous) 2010-09-29 06:59 am (UTC)(link)
This is BRILLIANT. SO well written and has so much undertone that you're like, "Oh! Go back to that! Dammit, plot moves on. We better get some explanation later!" I love this story. It's so nice to see something about Neal's original work and what's behind them. I know there are a few out there, but I haven't come across one as well written, insightful, and as capturing as this. Can't wait to read the rest. ^_^
changeling: (writing)

[personal profile] changeling 2011-01-14 11:54 am (UTC)(link)
Just noticed this on the reread:

And people like owning 'em, and can afford to drop the money the galleries are asking for. So everyone's happy," Jones said, as a young woman approached them at the edge of the dock.

"Mr. Caffrey," she said, hesitant. "The curator would like to know if you'd like to look over the final draft of the release for the press packet."


Is the Mr. Caffrey deliberate? I wasn't sure if the Met would have known him as Neal Caffrey, FBI Consultant, or Nick Halden, Art Dealer.
hebethen: (Default)

[personal profile] hebethen 2011-01-29 05:58 am (UTC)(link)
Oh gods, I laughed for a full twenty seconds at the fedora pun.
aron_kristina: Garbo being fab! (Default)

[personal profile] aron_kristina 2011-02-08 02:22 am (UTC)(link)
"You painted me in a painting?"

That has got to be one of the funniest things ever :D

(Anonymous) 2011-04-15 11:33 am (UTC)(link)
I am really enjoying this story. And 'Man with Fedora' pun is so Neal. (The Greatest Cake, lol.) I love how fast paced and active this story is. You balance the rush of whats going on so well with details. Thank you for writing this story. Its been a pleasure to read.

[personal profile] devo79 2011-05-21 03:29 am (UTC)(link)
I haven't seen more than three episodes of the series so I don't know that much about the canon.

But I still feel that this could have happened on the show :)

Very well written.
cephei: laughing in dead silence (Default)

finally getting around to it...

[personal profile] cephei 2011-10-02 04:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Color study of promised image. Enjoy.

http://cephei.dreamwidth.org/3295.html
cephei: laughing in dead silence (Default)

Re: finally getting around to it...

[personal profile] cephei 2011-10-03 08:10 pm (UTC)(link)
Link away.

Also, I think when I was working on keystone I somehow meshed it with titan in my head (so I decided to add the green). The color study of whatever it ended up as is now added to the entry I sent you.

(Anonymous) 2012-01-08 08:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Hi! I come here from LJ, where I just today listened to the podfic of your story. And I wanted to tell you that I really like the story in general, too! Very cool and I didn't expect anything that happened to happen. ;)
killerkaleidoscope: close-up centered on a violet daisy on diagonally-cracked gray pavement (Default)

[personal profile] killerkaleidoscope 2012-02-08 04:53 am (UTC)(link)
"What? You should be flattered, your mouth's worth like ninety grand. Wait, not like that,"

Jesus Christ I nearly swallowed a lung trying to suppress the cackling. NEAL, BAD BOY. This is like the fifth time I've read this fic but, y'know, caught up in the plot, didn't notice 'til now.
droodlebug: (Default)

[personal profile] droodlebug 2014-07-06 09:36 am (UTC)(link)
That was a pleasure to read. Thanks.