Title: they’ll fall to ruin one day (for making us part)
Author: Flora
Characters/Pairings: June/Byron, Elizabeth/Peter, Mozzie, Ford
Rating: PG
Word Count: 5700
Warnings/Spoilers: Spoilers through 4.16 “In the Wind”
Summary: Some who’ve heard her sing have called June an angel, but she’s never tried to be a saint.
A/N: Written for [community profile] month_of_june. Huge thanks to [personal profile] frith_in_thorns for feedback and encouragement and to [livejournal.com profile] neontiger55 for betaing this! The title is from the Pretenders, “Back on the Chain Gang”.

Byron was arrested on a Sunday.

June sang her last set just before one that morning. She sat in a darkened booth beside the bar for another half hour, listening to his trumpet; warm round notes followed her as she blew him a kiss and slipped away to nap on a couch behind the stage.

She couldn’t know that was goodbye.

“He went out to meet someone at two,” the club owner told her, shaking her out of sleep hours later.

It should have been Byron waking her, a light hand on her shoulder and a gentle whisper in the dark. He should be wrapping her in his coat, bundling her into a cab to take her home.

“Where is he now?”

The catch in her voice could be blamed on a long night’s singing; the words tangled in her throat, raw and scratchy as rough wool. Grey dawn light crept through gaps in the curtains, long fingers picking out stains on the carpet and burn scars on the wood of the bar. They spun a kind of magic in the shadows, she and Byron, but it evaporated with the sunrise like the smell of stale cigar smoke.

“I don’t know, but there’s cops out front and they’ve got a search warrant,” the owner said, and it wasn’t morning sickness twisting a knot in her gut as someone pounded on the door. “What the hell have you two brought down on me now?”

She pulled the worn canvas satchel from the hidden compartment under the bar, the one with the poker chips and the weighted dice and the engraving plate Byron thought she didn’t know about, the one for the ‘54 hundred dollar bill. There was no cash in it; the owner had already paid Byron for last night’s gig, and whatever the take was from the poker room Byron had that on him, too, when he disappeared.

Last night’s gig was supposed to let them make rent comfortably, for once.

She was twenty-four years old and three months pregnant and she was alone; she didn’t know where her husband was but the cops were onto him. She picked up his trumpet case left beside the stage, walked out the back door into the weak light and the smell of snow and car exhaust, with her head up and the satchel under her coat and the sour taste of fear in her mouth.

The streets were nearly empty, save for a pair of grey-green pigeons chasing each other behind a dumpster. Over the idling engine of a patrol car out front she heard church bells, ringing high and cold and distant. The tune was a hymn she half-remembered, but she had no voice left.


Her front door shuts behind Bennett with a sharp slam, alerting her even in the back parlor.

Neal isn’t far behind; he meets her by the stairs, messenger bag over his shoulder. The story comes out in a rush.

Pratt is dead. Bennett is a murderer twice over and he’s left Peter to take the fall.

“I have to find him,” Neal says. She’d ask what he’s thinking, following a killer without weapons or backup; she’d ask what he imagines he can say to change his father’s mind but she sees the hard, desperate light in his eyes and she knows he won’t hear her. “He has to confess.”

This time she knows it’s goodbye.

A breath of spring brightens the dark-paneled foyer as the door opens; tiny yellow-green buds are opening on the trees lining the road, and a thin film of pollen drapes a veil over her front steps and along the parked cars at the curb. She’d say God go with you if she still believed in such things; she’d say it will all be all right but that’s a lie.

In the end she says nothing at all, only hugs him hard and holds on for three seconds, maybe four.

By the time the feds arrive she’s tucked the papers back inside the evidence box and hidden it in the hollow space under her vanity table. Calloway’s agents search the house thoroughly, leaving drawers pulled out and overturned from Neal’s loft to the master bedroom and all her closets undone in between, but they’re not thorough enough.

She tells them she has no idea where Neal is, and it’s the truth.

The sun is sinking by the time they leave, a mess of red light staining the skyline. She’s barely started tidying up when the second wave hits, Agents Barrigan and Jones followed closely by Mozzie and Elizabeth.

“Where’s Caffrey?” Barrigan doesn’t bother with a greeting.

“He’s tailing Bennett.” June can’t say more than that, and Barrigan shakes her head in frustration.

“Or he ran.” Elizabeth’s voice is hard. “Do you really think he’s coming back?”

June has spent the last four hours imagining Neal bleeding out in an alley somewhere with his father’s bullet in his lung. She almost snaps: he’s unarmed and he’s alone and Bennett has already killed twice; no, I don’t think he’s coming back.

Instead she calls for coffee and scones, because they’ll likely be up all night and someone has to make sure they all eat something, and retrieves the box from its hiding spot. They turn Neal’s loft into a war room, sifting through the papers together while the sun fades, searching for some hint of a lead as the city lights grow and spread like stars below the balcony.

The housekeeper has long since gone by midnight, so June makes more coffee after the third pot is empty. While it perks she tells Elizabeth, quietly, “There’s whiskey, if you’d rather.”

That wins her a red-eyed attempt at a smile.

It isn’t right and it isn’t fair for Elizabeth to blame Neal for what’s happened - Neal is as much a victim in this as any of them - but there’s something fragile and scared behind the fury in her eyes. It’s not right and it’s not fair but it’s only too human, and June has been where she is.


It took her barely an hour to tidy up their apartment, despite the best efforts of the two detectives who’d searched the place.

She and Byron didn’t have much.

They were holding him at Rikers, the officer in charge told her. He gave her a phone number to call about visiting procedures and said a court date hadn’t been set, yet. He said they’d be in touch with more questions for her later.

Her dishes were set neatly in rows on the kitchen counter, with no new cracks or chips in any of them; the detectives hadn’t been careless. She found only a few scratches inside her cabinets where they’d pried at the boards, searching for a false floor.

The mattress and both of the pillows had been opened with long, deliberate knife slashes. Ragged white feathers drifted back and forth across the brown carpet in the bedroom as a breeze stirred the faded yellow curtains.

She refolded the clothes emptied beside the wardrobe, picked up the drawers and slid them back into the battered armoire. When she’d finished straightening the kitchen she put on a pot of tea. Water for two, as if she still expected Byron might come home with that wide grin saying he’d pulled one over on the police yet again. Then she opened the canvas satchel and pulled out the engraving plate, slid down the wall and sat on the scuffed floor and stared at Franklin’s face.

The plate was useless without paper to print the bills on; Byron had got hold of enough to print nearly a hundred thousand, but he’d hidden it inside that mattress and it’s gone now.

He’d hidden cash there, too. The cops told her she might get it back in a few weeks, if they could determine it was neither counterfeit nor stolen.

Rent was due in three days.

You’ll find nothing but trouble, down at those bars, Mama used to say. June could close her eyes and see sorrow and disappointment in her mother’s face, sitting up late waiting for her to come home from a night out dancing.

Mama told her Byron was no good.

She ran her fingers over the plate, along the border and over the seal. Mama told her it would come to this. Mama would remind her, repeatedly, but she wouldn’t turn June away. You don’t turn your back on family.

She could close her eyes and feel the burn of cheap whiskey in her throat and smoke in her eyes, the way the cards came alive and danced in her hands. But it was the music that had drawn her back to the clubs, night after night, the clear notes of Byron’s trumpet and his rich baritone singing.

She stayed there, sitting on the floor and staring at the glass diamond on her hand, until the battered aluminum kettle startled her with a shriek like a siren bearing down.


“Well, the caterer decided to be reasonable.” Elizabeth hangs up and drops the cell phone on the coffee table before burying her face in her hands.

Peter has been behind bars for a day and a half. His association with Neal, according to the judge, makes him a flight risk. But the world has not stopped and Elizabeth still has a business to run. Brides who’ve spent nine months and six figures planning a spring wedding aren’t about to delay their big moment because the wedding planner’s entire world fell down around her ears.

The florist for tomorrow’s event had a last-minute scheduling conflict so they’re tying the flower arrangements themselves, Elizabeth and June and Mozzie sitting on the Burkes’ living room floor wrapping white roses and baby’s breath in pink silk ribbons. Place cards for the reception are clustered on an end table, rows of cream-colored linen tents labeled with each guest’s name in flowing calligraphy and embossed with tiny violets.

“Hughes is meeting with someone from NSA this afternoon,” Mozzie says, tucking his own phone back in his pocket. “And he talked to somebody who knows somebody at Metropolitan Correctional, says he’ll keep an eye on the Suit and make sure he’s safe.”

His eyes meet June’s and he shakes his head slightly, a silent message: no word yet from Neal.

Elizabeth’s kettle whistles, high and sharp. Satchmo whines from the kitchen, where he’s been banished until they finish with the flowers. June stands stiffly and slips past the gate across the kitchen door, patting the dog’s head before tearing open three tea bags and pouring water into brightly glazed mugs. The crisp smell of mint fills the kitchen, rising on ribbons of steam; she adds milk to Elizabeth’s mug, stirs a spoonful of honey into her own and two into Mozzie’s.

Elizabeth is gone by the time June returns, but reappears from the powder room off the front hall after a moment with her makeup carefully redone.

June recognizes the armor for what it is.

“Leave your phone,” she says, as Elizabeth is about to tuck it into her purse. And then, “Leave the purse, it’ll be quicker going through security.”

Elizabeth slips her driver’s license into a pocket and glances at Mozzie. “You’ll make sure -”

“I’ll finish up here,” Mozzie assures her, and she squeezes his arm gratefully before following June outside.

The Jag idles at the curb, waiting. Hughes pulled more than a few strings to expedite the visitor paperwork; they’re expected downtown. Still, it’s a Byzantine and frightening procedure to navigate alone when one isn’t used to it.

The sky is banded grey and gold, low slate-dark clouds hanging heavy over the horizon, but the sun steals yellow through a thin patch and blazes diamond-bright on the raindrops sliding down the windshield. Streaks of pollen flow in rippling folds with the rainwater along the street like wet crinkled green gauze trailing into the storm drains.

Elizabeth offered to go with her the last time June made the trip up to Sing Sing; it was a well-intentioned and magnanimous gesture, one June had felt would be unwise to refuse.

She remembers grey sleet and dirty snow lying like ash along the highway, the thump of the wipers beating time through an uncomfortable silence; she remembers the burned-out, dead look in Neal’s eyes, the reflections like a thousand whispering ghosts haunting the glass between them, and the way his hands wouldn’t stop shaking.


“You know Byron loves you.” Ford came around three days later, crumpling his hat brim in one hand, awkwardly patting her shoulder with the other. “He wanted to take care of you like you deserve.”

He was trying to soften a blow, was working up to something so June decided to cut him off and save them both time. “You’re trying to say whatever they’re charging him with, he’s probably guilty.”

She didn’t tell Ford she’d stood in the rain outside the public defender’s office for thirty minutes, twisting the ring on her hand, waiting for the cross-town bus to take her to her mother’s.

“He had a lot of things going,” Ford admitted.

“And they’ve got enough to prove at least some of it.” Check fraud, multiple counts of grand larceny, operating an illegal gambling establishment and the beginnings of a counterfeiting scheme; these were only the things she knew about. “I know.”

Byron had tried to shield her but she’d kept her eyes open.

She didn’t tell Ford she’d watched that bus pull up to the curb, watched the passengers file off, umbrellas opening one by one like wet new butterfly wings spreading for a first flight.

She had a choice now.

She could go home and forget she had a husband; she could retreat, chastened, and let everything Byron had tried to build for their family collapse; she could accept the place society said was hers, on her knees scrubbing some white woman’s floors.

She’d have a few years, yet, to come up with an answer before the baby would be old enough to ask where’s Daddy?

“What don’t the cops know about?” she asked Ford. There was little use in counting damage already done. “Besides this?” She laid the engraving plate on the counter beside the yellow flowers Byron had picked for her four days ago, now sad and drooping in their coffee can.

She’d watched that bus pull away again, stood on the sidewalk clutching her own umbrella as the tail lights merged into the line of traffic, letting the rain hide her tears. All that glitters, Mama used to say, but there was love in the painted jewels Byron gave her that June wouldn’t trade for any gold.

You don’t turn your back on family.

“Byron didn’t marry a fool.” Ford’s eyes lit and he traced one finger along the border, soft and admiring. And then, mournful, “They took the paper?”

“We’ll have to get more,” she said, surprised at her own determination. “Let me run the poker room next weekend.”

Ford looked up, skepticism and concern and something else calculating in his eyes, like Byron working out a heist. They wove magic out of music every week at the Lenox Lounge, but it was the clandestine game in the back room that brought the real money; she’d sat in once or twice but Byron always ran the table.

“June, you’re -”

“A distraught young woman in a delicate condition who hasn’t slept since her husband was arrested? That’s what they’ll all be counting on.” She lifted both eyebrows, waiting for a flash of Ford’s wide, mischievous grin, so much like Byron’s it made her chest ache. “Easy money, they’ll think. We’ll have a crowd to play on Saturday.”


“Keep your head down,” she tells Elizabeth, after a guard waves them on into the general waiting area. She’s heard that gate slam behind her too many times to flinch at the sound now.

The crowd isn’t large today, but noise ricochets off the hard tile walls all the same. She puts a light hand on Elizabeth’s elbow and steers her toward the edge of the room where they can stand with their backs against the wall.

Elizabeth’s face is blank; only her eyes move, watching the other visitors pacing or clustered together in weary knots. A few heads turn, close by, watching her.

June watches the guards. The buzzer sounds again and a child wails in response. She remembers the first time she brought Cindy up to Sing Sing, some two months into Byron’s second stint there; they were both older, by then.

She remembers going over the rules, holding a small cold hand in hers as they walked across the parking lot, don’t talk to anyone and stay close to Mom and Grandma and don’t look at the guards.

Elizabeth is not six years old.

The others can tell she’s new here; they all recognize the combination of pride and fear and the conviction, desperately held, that she doesn’t belong here. That she is too good for this place, that she is better than these people. It’s a conviction everyone clings to, at first; June remembers that, too. Everyone gets over it within the first six months. Or they stop visiting and move on with their lives.

Time alone will tell which group Elizabeth belongs to.

June follows her when they call Peter’s name, into a booth barely bigger than a closet. His eyes light when he sees his wife; they reach for each other and June closes her eyes. The sound of their hands striking glass is enough to make her gut clench.

“Hey, hon.”

Peter’s voice is warm, though hoarse and sleepless; Elizabeth’s face crumples for half a second and she looks away, pressing a fist against her mouth.

“Hey, hon.”

The smiles they trade are brave and fake and only a little bit shaky.

“I talked to the lawyer again yesterday,” Peter says, after they’ve stared at each other for a long moment and tried to start speaking at the same time twice. “He says Hughes has a couple leads. No miracles coming tomorrow, he says, but he’s making steady progress.”

“We’re going to get through this.” Elizabeth lays her hand flat against the glass, deliberately this time.

“I know. It’s just going to take a little while, maybe.” Peter matches the gesture, their fingers pressed together, but June knows the glass allows no warmth to penetrate. “How’s Neal?”

“You’re worried about him now?” Elizabeth demands; the mask cracks, frustrated rage flashing through, hot and choked. “He’s the reason -” She takes a breath, lets it out slowly and swallows the rest of that sentence. “Honey, will you please worry about yourself for once in your life?”

“They didn’t arrest him,” June breaks in quietly. “He’s helping chase down leads to find Bennett.” It’s the truth - several truths, told slantwise and strung together crookedly, and several more left out. “He’s worried about you.”

Peter’s face smoothes in relief and Elizabeth gives June a grateful look. He likely suspects Neal is quietly pursuing his own leads, but he doesn’t need to know Neal is a fugitive, pursuing Bennett without backup while dodging the feds.

“Tell me about your day,” Peter says at last. He reaches for her hand and runs into the glass again. “We’ve got an hour, right?”

June steps outside to give them privacy. Leaning against the wall outside the booth, she offers a smile with as much warmth as she can find for a frightened-looking young mother waiting on a nearby bench, whispering softly in Spanish to a toddler hiccupping against her shoulder.

It isn’t right and it isn’t fair for Elizabeth to hate Neal, but June knows she has to hate someone. Hating this place is like shouting into a well or pounding your fists on solid iron; it will absorb all the rage you can throw at it, and you’ll leave no scar and no mark but your own blood behind.

It’s not right and it’s not fair but it’s only human to direct that rage at a soft target, instead, deserving or not.


June pulled her coat closer around her, settling into her seat as the bus to Rikers Island pulled away from the terminal, the acrid smell of exhaust smoke from the laboring motor mingling with the salt wind over the bridge.

Four years, the judge had said. She heard the sound of his gavel coming down, each time the tires thumped over a pothole.

They called it the longest bridge in the world for a reason.

She was showing enough by now to attract a few pitying glances from the older women seated behind her, but their concern only made her feel vulnerable.

Forty-eight months. It had been nearly a week since she’d seen Byron, save for a glimpse across the courtroom. Six days out of one thousand four hundred and sixty; she’d got through them telling herself once she saw him everything would be all right.

Two hundred and eight weeks. Two hundred and eight one-hour visits, out of nearly thirty-five thousand hours apart.

The baby would be walking when he got out.

“Your mama was right,” Byron said when they brought him in. The glass between them was smudged and dirty, but not enough to hide his red-eyed exhaustion.

“If I thought she was right I wouldn’t be here.”

For better or for worse, she’d said, and she’d meant it. Words were their tools, slick and smooth and sharp, bright lies that cut like knives and dissolved like silver mist. But all lies fell apart without some truth at the core, and some promises had to mean something.

“I never wanted to -”

“I know.” She put a hand on her belly without thinking and his eyes followed the motion. “We’ll be all right.”

She didn’t tell him she’d had to beg the owner of the Lenox Lounge to let her pay three months’ rent up front before he’d agree to let her keep the poker room; she didn’t know where Ford found the money and she didn’t ask.

She didn’t tell him the game was still on for Saturday night, or that Ford was looking into another supplier for paper to print the ‘54 hundred.

“Someday it won’t be like this.” He leaned forward, holding her eyes. “It’ll be all right. I’ll make it all right. Someday -”

“I know,” she said again. She didn’t tell him one of the clubs where she used to sing told her to get lost when she showed up last night; the night before, another paid her half what they used to. A third waited until she finished her set before throwing her out without paying her, because they could and they knew they could and what was she going to do, call the cops?

It was the shame in his eyes that she couldn’t take, at the thought of letting her down; if he said he was sorry she knew she’d start crying and she wouldn’t be able to stop.


The driver takes her home after dropping off Elizabeth. It’s three in the afternoon but it might as well be near sundown. The traffic lights are out at the end of Riverside and the rain is coming down harder now, as frayed ropes of lightning spark along the horizon; by the time they reach the house all the windows are dark.

June clicks the light switch in the front hall up and down to no effect; the storm has knocked out the power, but she follows a flickering light to the back parlor. Mozzie sits in the nearest leather armchair, his face half in shadow. Two taper candles throw amber light into the cold fireplace, casting wavering reflections in the silver tea service on the end table.

The grate is dark, swept out for the summer. Thunder whispers threats from the open window, breathes wet and heavy against her lace curtains; the low shapes of pink azaleas huddle against the outside wall below, blurred and colorless in the rain.

“Anything from Neal?”

Mozzie shakes his head. Two teacups sit clean and empty on the tray with a plate of untouched shortbread cookies; the tea in the pot will be dark and bitter, steeped too long and gone cold, but he has a bottle of Neal’s fake Shackleton open beside it.

“I told him -” he says, and stops, looking down and muttering something that sounds like, “The one time he actually listens to me -”

He shakes his head, pours two shots and offers one to her as she sits in the other armchair.

“I told him he should give his father a chance,” he says. “Hear him out.”

“We all saw what we wanted to see.” June thinks of Ford, and all the ways they all try to rewrite or recapture the past. James Bennett’s betrayal has hit Mozzie almost as hard as Neal; as much as he’s always believed Neal’s dream of home is a mirage, she knows this time he wanted to be wrong.

You can’t con a mark who doesn’t want to believe you.

“Talked to the Suit’s lawyer,” he says at last. “Seems nobody at the DOJ wants to charge a federal agent with murdering a US senator. They’re ready to give Bennett a really good deal in exchange for clearing Peter and saving them that kind of embarrassment, but that still doesn’t do us any good unless we find him.”

The whiskey is smooth and warm and bright; it’s Neal’s work and as fake as the paste jewels Byron gave her.

She wonders where Ford is tonight.

“How’s he holding up?” Mozzie asks, after another beat.

“As well as can be expected.”

Mozzie sighs. “This could drag out for a while.”

He’s right; federal bureaucracy being what it is, even a best-case scenario won’t see Peter home for a while. (It took them two months to let Neal out again, after that plane went up.)

Bugsy snuffles beside her feet, worrying a toy with focused determination; he misses Neal, too, she can tell. Shadows move against the window, wet lilac branches heavy with tiny flowers. A breeze stirs the curtain, rippling like a flag, and one of the candles gutters and goes dark.

“I want him to know how it felt.”

The words fall, soft and flat, and in the silence that follows she’s aware of the ticking of the clock in the corner, and of Mozzie’s head lifting. He doesn’t speak, only picks up the bottle and pours another shot for each of them.

She will do what is expected of her; she’ll offer what resources she has for his defense, though she knows this time it will (has already) cost her more than a song or a few pink and blue diamonds. She knows he loves Neal; some days, she can almost forget that Peter’s a cop.

But some nights she misses her husband so much it hurts to breathe, and all she can think of are those long years they spent apart. And now they have no more years left.

“I want them all to know how it felt.” The guards and the parole officers and all these agents who walk in and out of her home, now, like they own it; everyone who’s ever put cuffs on someone she loves. She wants them to know what a cage feels like; she wants their families to know the fear and the choking helplessness she knew.

It’s an ugly thing, this rage smothered too long, and she isn’t proud of it; some who’ve heard her sing have called her an angel, but she’s never tried to be a saint. “How we felt.”


She started her set at ten and sang until midnight.

She’d never been on this stage without Byron. Ford could make a piano cry, but it felt like flying without a net without the trumpet backing her. She couldn’t think about that; she couldn’t hold the tune or hit the high notes with tears clogging her throat.

All the regulars showed up to play cards at midnight. The cops didn’t know about the poker room; still they were careful, she and Ford, and they didn’t let in anyone they didn’t know.

She waited until everyone was seated, an irregular chorus of metal chairs scraping the wood floor, and shuffled the deck. Cut it, and shuffled again. Ford patted her hand with a reassuring smile and went back out to the stage.

The piano’s voice was a muted whisper, back here with the door shut. It was a delicate dance, guessing how much they’d let her win out of sympathy, and when to lose before any suspected she was better than she let on. It helped that the few tears she let slip weren’t faked.

Don’t let the young men see you’re smart, Mama used to say. You’ll scare them off.

Byron loved her sharp wit, but she’d learned that sometimes it paid to keep your cards close.

She had a lot to learn, still. Byron had taught her the basics of forging signatures, but she knew next to nothing about the sort of paper and ink and presses required to print money, even if they made enough here to pursue them.

But she was stronger than he knew, and she could keep the house while he was gone. She would keep the house, and make sure the house always won. And she would not be broken.

This wasn’t a game anymore.


Mozzie and Elizabeth stop by the house at 7:15 the next morning, to pick up boxes of candles and a few of her silk table runners before heading to the reception hall.

June invites them to sit in the breakfast nook, but instead they all stand around the little table, breathing in the smell of strong coffee and watching the wet streets. Elizabeth is elegantly dressed, and only a practiced eye can tell she hasn’t slept.

Mozzie’s concerned eyes shift back and forth between the two of them. He’s harder to read, but June can guess he hasn’t slept either.

At 7:18 the carved wooden cuckoo clock above the sideboard startles them with a bright chime; Elizabeth glances at her watch and June smiles.

“It’s not accurate,” she says; the painted clock face reads 3:44. She’s tried to set it properly more than once, over the years, but within a month it ends up hours ahead or behind. “Byron built that for Cindy, about twenty years ago, now.”

She pours coffee for each of them and sips hers slowly; it’s warm and smooth and comforting.

“She was convinced he’d hidden stolen jewels in the back of it, somewhere. Took it apart enough times, looking for a hidden compartment, that it stopped working eventually.”

Byron had laughed, she remembered, and said Cindy was persistent; some of the scratches are still visible, too deep to be sanded down completely.

“It’s beautiful,” Elizabeth says, tilting her head back to look more closely. “He was very talented.”

“He was a good man.”

The silence is awkward and there’s a line, hardening, between them; June has stepped too close to it, and now she steps back, stands on tiptoe to take the clock down and wind it with a rueful smile.

Elizabeth has no malice in her, but she’s too honest to pretend she doesn’t think jewel thieves and card sharks deserve to go to prison, no matter how much they love their grandchildren.

June is just dishonest enough to pretend she doesn’t mind.

“You’ve been very kind,” Elizabeth says, when Mozzie leaves to take Bugsy outside. “I know -” She lets out a slow breath and there’s steel and sadness, both, behind the half smile she offers. “It’s been hard. I don’t know what I would have done without your help.”

She would have done all right, June thinks. She’s stronger than she looks, stronger than she knows, and she won’t let this break her.

“Peter has a lot of people pulling for him, right now.” June sets her mug down and pours more coffee for both of them. “A lot of people at Justice and inside the Bureau who respect him, and care about him, and they’re not going to let him go down for this.” She keeps her voice kind but firm. “You’ll see.”

She doesn’t say I know how hard this is, though it’s the truth; she doesn’t say I’m always glad to help.

She doesn’t say I didn’t have a choice.

The terms of Neal’s housing arrangement are no longer in force, now that he’s on the run; she would be within her rights to throw Elizabeth and all the feds out, wash her hands of them and change all her locks.

Neal is never coming back to New York either way. The FBI has forgiven much, but they won’t forgive this latest flight; he’ll spend the rest of his life in prison if they catch him now.

But Elizabeth has connections inside the Bureau. Some of those connections are in a position to influence how hard the feds hunt for Neal, or whether and how soon they decide the Bureau’s resources are better spent elsewhere. Elizabeth can still hurt Neal, and June cannot afford to antagonize her.

“If there’s anything else I can do, you’ll let me know?” June says, and she means it; for Neal’s sake she’ll do whatever she can.

It isn’t right and it isn’t fair for June to hate Elizabeth, for all the things she has right now that June didn’t have, in 1959 when she was young and frightened and alone, and first learning what it meant to be an inmate’s wife.

It’s not right and it’s not fair but her husband is dead, and she may never see Neal again, and at the end of the day June is as human as any of them.

Current Mood: accomplished
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veleda_k: White Collar: Neal & June 2[personal profile] veleda_k on June 2nd, 2013 01:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is beautiful, and sad, and sharp. It's not an simple story; it doesn't take the easy road. You're unflinching when it comes to portraying people's reactions to trauma and grief. All that anger may not be fair, but it's very human. And, of course, your June reminds the best.

I may need to go read something fluffy now, though.
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florafic[personal profile] florafic on July 16th, 2013 03:02 pm (UTC)
Eeeeeee, I am so so glad you like it, thank you! (And I am terribly behind at responding to comments - sorry!) I wanted them all to come across as sympathetic, and human, even if they're not being fair, so I'm glad that worked. *hugs all of them*
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leonie_alastair[personal profile] leonie_alastair on June 2nd, 2013 03:12 pm (UTC)
I love the way you write about these characters. June is so gorgeous. Talented, capable, caring and so angry at the core. This is a sharp look at the fallout from season 4 - and a brilliant exploration of June's backstory.
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florafic[personal profile] florafic on July 16th, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I love June - she has depths that are fascinating to explore, and I think the post-S4 fallout would definitely bring back unpleasant memories for her. I'm so glad you liked it!
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teaotter[personal profile] teaotter on June 2nd, 2013 05:51 pm (UTC)
This is gorgeously written. I love the pacing, and the way the scenes shift back and forth between the present and the past. I love the way you've built an image of June, here, and the difference between what she shows and how she feels and *why*. This hurts, but it feels exactly right.
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florafic[personal profile] florafic on July 16th, 2013 03:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I love June so much, and I think she would feel a lot that she wouldn't show, especially here. I'm so glad you liked it!
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mergatrude[personal profile] mergatrude on June 3rd, 2013 01:26 am (UTC)
Wow! This is incredibly moving and powerful. I love the comparisons you drew between June's experiences and what El's going through: both the similarities and the differences. I love that June gets to feel angry, and yet how graceful she is. Wonderful!
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florafic[personal profile] florafic on July 16th, 2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I think of everyone, June would understand El's feelings the best - but June's memories and experiences create a distance between them, as well. I think June does still have a lot of anger, and this situation is going to bring back those feelings for her. I'm so glad you liked it!
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[personal profile] treonb on June 3rd, 2013 10:37 am (UTC)
This is so beautiful! I started reading and couldn't stop. I just love how you portray both June and Elizabeth and the tension between them. It's just them. And your June is already my head cannon June :-). I love your descriptive turns too.. they make every story of yours really come alive.
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florafic[personal profile] florafic on July 16th, 2013 03:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I love exploring the parallels between the two of them - the ways their feelings are similar and the difference between them. I'm so glad you liked it!
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elrhiarhodan[personal profile] elrhiarhodan on June 4th, 2013 01:23 am (UTC)
This is so perfectly painful, and so beautifully written. Your talent amazes me at every story.

Thank you for writing this, for sharing it.
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florafic[personal profile] florafic on July 16th, 2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! They all need hugs, poor characters. I'm so glad you liked it!
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magibrain[personal profile] magibrain on June 4th, 2013 06:02 pm (UTC)
Oh, ouch. What an effective, complex, and tangled-up knot of a story.
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florafic[personal profile] florafic on July 16th, 2013 03:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! It's a difficult situation, and I imagine June's feelings about the whole thing would be - very complicated. I'm so glad you liked it!
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