Fandom: White Collar
Characters/Pairings: Neal Caffrey, Kate Moreau, Mozzie; Neal Caffrey/Kate Moreau
Genre: Drama, Angst
Word Count: 3,500
Summary: Neal plans to steal the music box. Kate has some news for him. Pre-series, AU.
Beta credit: reve_silencieux
A/N: Written for my “Let’s Remove Writer’s block” meme, for aragarna’s prompt (n.30, “Shock/surprise”). This also fills the “Difficult/Unexpected Pregnancy” on my H/C Bingo card.
Their latest job went off without a hitch; all that’s left is to split the profit once Hale gets back to them. With a smile, Neal pours them both a glass of champagne and sits on the couch next to Kate.
“To a job well-done,” he smiles as he hands Kate her glass.
She smiles back at him. “To us.”
After they clink glasses, Neal leans back on the couch and just lets himself enjoy the moment. Tasting his champagne, he tries to come up with a way to persuade Kate to go to Copenhagen with him. He wonders how she’ll react once she hears that Alex is involved – maybe it would be the best to tell her after they got to Europe. He makes up some arguments that sound reasonable and opens his mouth to tell her when he notices Kate staring at the table, her glass set down without her actually taking a sip.
“Something wrong?” he asks curiously.
When she looks up at him, Kate’s expression is unusually grave. “We have to talk.”
Did Alex contact her? Deny and claim ignorance. “What is it, babe?” asks Neal lightly. He smiles at her and pushes away a lock of her hair, gently touching her face with his free hand.
“Stop it, this is serious.” She swats away his hand, then takes away his glass and sets it on the table. “I took a test yesterday. Neal… I’m pregnant.”
“Pregnant. Expecting. With a child. Take your pick.”
“Pregnant,” Neal repeats numbly.
He stares at the table for a moment. Then he picks up his glass and downs the champagne in one big gulp. The world sways around him, but the alcohol has nothing to do with it.
Kate takes a deep breath. “Look…”
“You’re pregnant. Are you sure? No, of course you’re sure,” Neal answers his own question before Kate even opens her mouth. He pauses. “How long?”
“A couple months, I think,” says Kate. “It’s still pretty early. I haven’t even been to a doctor yet...”
“But how? You were on the pill…”
“I don’t know. You were the one who said we should forego condoms.”
He did say that, back when he thought the pill would prevent this exact kind of situation. Doesn’t matter – there’s no point in trying to assign blame.
“So what do you want to do?” Neal asks at last.
“Neal, I’m not trying to pressure you into anything. I know we didn’t plan this–” Kate takes a deep breath. “I think I want to keep it. What about you?”
That’s right, there are options. A discreet doctor, a relatively simple surgery and in a few days it could be like this never happened. A thought flashes through his head –
“I guess this means you won’t be going to Copenhagen with me,” he blurts without thinking.
Kate frowns. “What about Copenhagen?”
What – damn. “Alex called – the music box is there. Anyway, it’s not important.”
“If it’s a job, why shouldn’t I come with you? I’m pregnant, not incapacitated. I won’t even start showing for at least a month or two. I mean, if we keep the baby.”
“Right,” says Neal with a weak smile.
He’s often been careless with his life and freedom; sometimes when he took a particularly bad risk, he did fleetingly think about the chances of getting caught, hurt or killed. On the other hand, getting a girl pregnant was so trivial that it never really occurred to him.
And now Kate is pregnant with his baby and he is supposed to be a parent.
Neal tries and fails to imagine it. He’s not “settle down” type yet – sure, he pictured himself with a family and the white picket fence, but only way down the road, like when they’re forty. By then, he and Kate would (mostly) retire on their wealth; they’d build a mansion, have two kids and live happily ever after. If they have the abortion, it could still happen like this.
A baby. His, Kate’s baby. Neal almost asks if it’s a boy or girl before realizing that Kate hasn’t had an ultrasound yet – so she probably doesn’t know. While Kate asked him about his opinion, it’s clear that she has pretty much made her choice. He recalls her once telling him about how her mother had trouble conceiving, and he wonders if that is affecting her decision.
As he thinks about it, he realizes that there’s a part of him that wants this too. He almost sees them – the baby with blue eyes, dark hair and a charming toothless grin. He imagines walking next to Kate pushing the stroller; then as the baby grew up, building blocks with it; going to the ZOO, the cinema, to museums and amusement parks – he’d teach the kid to paint, Neal thinks, and watch out for him or her so nothing ever hurt them –
He sees all the ways it could go wrong. His mother who was never really there, his father who was in prison somewhere while he was growing up – is he really willing to risk his kid going through the same thing?
“Neal?” says Kate when the silence takes too long.
Neal looks into her face, and he loves her but he’s not ready for a baby. What happens to them if she says yes and he says no?
“I – wow, that’s… In seven months?” he tries to stall for time.
Kate must see something in his face, because she sighs and stands up. “Look, it’s fine. I have an aunt upstate; she’ll probably let me stay with her for a few weeks before I get a regular job–”
“No! I mean – it was just a shock.” He chokes with panic; he can’t lose her. He pauses before laughing and hugging her. “We’re going to have a baby!”
Kate frowns. “You don’t have to con me. I’m a big girl; I can take care of myself–”
Neal kisses her on the mouth to silence her. He hugs her tighter and fervently runs his brain through platitudes and phrases – he has to sell it, he has to make her believe him –
“It’s the happiest moment of my life,” he says and even manages a few fake tears as they break away. “We should get married,” he adds joyfully, and then immediately feels terror and nausea at the thought – it’s too fast, what’s he doing, how’s this happening –
“Married? Whoa, slow down,” says Kate with an uncertain smile. “Let’s talk about that later, okay?”
It takes all of Neal’s skills not to breathe out in relief. “Okay.”
Kate looks at him with lingering doubt. “Are you sure this is what you want?”
“Absolutely,” says Neal confidently. “I’ve always wanted to have kids with you,” which isn’t even a lie.
He and Kate smile at each other, and he feels a bit sick and a lot like running away.
He grins at her. “This is going to be great!”
“This is a disaster,” states Neal surprisingly clearly a few hours later.
Eventually he’d made some excuses to Kate and then called his friend at his safehouse. After Neal told him about the situation, Moz first asked if the baby was his, then gave him a highly inappropriate, brutal and terrifying speech on safe sex; the only mercy being the fact that it was short. Finally he pulled out a bottle of Scotch and patted Neal awkwardly on the back. By now, Neal has already had three shots and is staring at the almost empty fourth glass, trying to figure out how this suddenly became his life.
Mozzie gives him a non-committal grunt.
“I mean it, Moz,” says Neal with a slight slur. “I’m a thief. Look at me, I do… stuff. Baad stuff, like… acquisitions. I’m great at acquisitions,” he says with a small smile before frowning. “I’m not good as a father, though. I’m upfit. Un-fit. You’re s’pposed to be a role-model. … My father left my mom in prison,” he proclaims suddenly.
“Your father did what?” asks Mozzie sharply.
“M’father went to prison and left my mom,” Neal repeats with a shiver. “What if I get caught and leave Kate? ‘S in my blood,” he says and stands up to pour himself another shot.
A real traitor, Mozzie removes the bottle from his reach. “All right, I think you’ve had enough,” he says despite Neal’s moan.
“You’re heartless. You have no heart.”
“I’m twenty-three,” he says self-pityingly, because it’s not fair. “I don-t want to be resosible – respo– reposible.”
“Try impossible,” Mozzie mutters under his breath. “Look, as much as it pains me, maybe you should talk to Kate. You know, have an actual, honest conversation?”
“…They always leave me. ‘R you going to leave me?”
Raising his eyebrows, Mozzie gives him a concerned look before glancing back at the bottle. “You didn’t have that much… Did they drug you? Or – wait, have you drunk something else? When did you last eat?”
“Peanut butter toes. You don-t understand, I can’t lose her. She’s the one, Moz–”
“Toast? That was at breakfast – shit.”
Blinking slowly, Neal watches Moz as he stands up and leaves. Don’t go, but the words don’t come out. Heartbroken and exhausted, he puts his arm on the table and lays his head down. Jus’ for a moment…
“… Neal? Neal. Don’t sleep yet. Come on, have some water…”
“You’re bad,” Neal mutters a few moments later when his friend tries to feed him some cheese and bread. “You’re bad.”
“Drink. Slowly,” Mozzie presses the glass against his lips again. “Okay, let’s get you to bed,” he says a few minutes later.
“Bathroom,” says Neal through his muddled thoughts.
Mozzie sighs. “Fine.”
Later, when he’s lying down and covered with a blanket, Neal overhears Mozzie calling Kate before he falls asleep.
The next morning, he wakes up on the mat in Mozzie’s dojo. He pushes the covers away and manages to sit up. With confusion, Neal tries to recall what happened last night… and then he feels slightly nauseous as the memories come back.
A shower washes away the stench of sweat and makes him feel more focused. His head is throbbing a bit and he’s thirsty, but not as badly as he’d expect after yesterday. As he dries himself with one of the towels in Mozzie’s bathroom, Neal cringes when he recalls some of the things he said to Moz.
Not to mention that he slipped away from Kate the first moment it was possible. He has to get back to her and do… something…
But before he can beeline out of the door, Moz stops him and forces him to have breakfast. He then waits until Neal is halfway through his toast before bringing up the topic from last night. “So. You’re going to be a father.”
Neal draws a shaky breath. “It’s not… I don’t know if I can do this, Moz.”
“That kid is not going into the system,” says Mozzie firmly.
“I don’t think–”
“Then you should start, Neal! If Kate’s decided on keeping it, you have to take care of them. You can’t abandon your kid.”
“No! You’d really walk away from them? Your own family? Do you know how precious that is?”
“I won’t leave them,” says Neal defensively, surprised by Mozzie’s apparent anger. The thought had admittedly crossed his mind – he’d make sure that neither the baby nor Kate wanted for anything, that his offspring had a better childhood than him – he considered it for about thirty seconds and then cast it aside. He’s not leaving Kate, so for better or worse, they’re in this together. Besides, it’s his kid.
It takes all his willpower not to run away.
Mozzie still eyes him with suspicion, which is ironic, given the somewhat volatile relationship between him and Kate. Somehow, Neal expected him to be more upset about possibly losing Neal as his front man, but Moz has yet to even mention it. Wasn’t Moz supposed to be on his side?
“She’s going to need a doctor,” he says eventually. “Not just you or some mob vet from a backdoor way alley; a specialist.”
“I’ll have you know that I’ve delivered two babies,” says Mozzie with a small grumble. He presses his lips together. “Medical records are traceable. We’ll set her up with a new alias.”
“Insurance?” It’s kind of a stab in the dark – Neal knows that most people have those, but he has never bothered with one; the no hospitals rule and all that.
“I’ll look into it.”
“Thanks, Moz. You’re the best. ”
Mozzie frowns at him. “Look, it’s – you’ll figure it out, okay?”
Neal smiles a little, and feels somewhat better for the first time since this thing started. “Okay.”
And so Neal and Kate go to Denmark. They steal the music box with Moz and Alex, then change their identities and use their share to buy a lovely old house like they always wanted. They’re in love, they have everything they wanted, it should be paradise…
‘You’re the worst mistake that I’ve ever made!’
‘Same here, babe. We’re through.’
Slamming the front door, Neal adjusts his backpack and then takes a deep breath, determined to return to Paris and run away from this whole fiasco.
Chance, fate or coincidence stop him – he has just missed his bus, a taxi won’t arrive for at least half an hour and stealing a car feels wrong when he probably knows its owner – the town is pretty small, and besides it’s the middle of the day anyway. Angry, hurt and restless, Neal briefly pauses with indecision, until he makes his mind and starts walking to the seashore. He keeps going to the end of the road and then later follows a narrow, barely visible pathway; when even that disappears, he makes his own way over rocks and sand, until he comes to a familiar small beach. He tosses his bag on the ground and sits down on a nearby rock, burying his face in his hands.
Three months ago, he and Kate were still happy back in New York. Now, it seems like a distant memory. Is it just because things have changed so much or has it all been a lie?
Try as he may, Neal’s thoughts circle back to their argument – the worst that he and Kate have ever had. How did it come to this?
Last week, Kate had encouraged him to take the job; told him there was no reason why he shouldn’t have fun just because she was no longer able to break into places due to her condition. And then today she suddenly exploded at him, accused him of being self-centered and of playing cat burglar with Alex while she was stuck at home with his baby. Some sharp words later, Neal told her that she was the one who decided to have the kid. Kate told him she left her job to be a thief with him, Neal accused her of intentionally trapping him, and Kate retaliated by calling him a liar who had ruined her life. After that, things only got uglier until Neal finally packed his bag and walked out of the door.
The memory fills Neal with a new wave of bitterness. It was ridiculous – their whole argument was ridiculous and painful as hell. They were in love, but lately it seemed they only kept hurting each other. Despite the things he told her, he doesn’t really want them to be over – but he doesn’t have a clue how to even begin addressing all the problems in their relationship. Glaring at the ground, Neal picks up a stone and tosses it in the sea. What does Kate want from him?
The stone makes a nice splash. Neal picks up another, realizing that this one feels flat in his hand. Pausing for a moment, he considers the angle before throwing it at the water. The stone makes two jumps before sinking underwater.
He must have spent an hour just thinking and skipping stones when he finally realizes that it’s getting dark. Staring at his bag on the ground, Neal feels empty and almost ill as he recalls the last time he ran out of the doors…
Struck with a thought, Neal picks up his bag and starts rummaging through it. He’s relieved when he pulls out the pager and realizes that there is still signal despite the remote location. As in a trance, he dials the familiar number and waits for the other person to pick up.
“Ellen. Hey, it’s me.”
Hours later, Neal returns to their house and finds Kate sleeping in the armchair. His heart aches when he sees her cheeks still damp from tears, and he recalls the words of wisdom that Ellen has passed on to him. Quietly, he pulls the other armchair close and sits down to watch Kate, until he falls asleep himself.
The next morning, they apologize to each other and then they finally have the talk that has been brewing between them for months.
Six months after they left New York, Neal is standing at the French coast, watching the sea and pondering the strange turns that his life has taken since Kate dropped the bombshell on him.
They’ve had their share of ups and downs. True, they had been dating and even living together for a while, but a baby took it to a completely new level. Even now, Neal winces as he recalls the way they blew up some three months back…
Looking back, it’s easy to see the mistakes they’ve both made. However, that horrible argument and Neal’s subsequent call with Ellen has eventually become the turning point for them.
The following morning, Kate told Neal about the Interpol Notice on their old names, although that in itself had only been the last drop to the unsaid words, blame and insecurities. There was so much – Neal’s restlessness, Kate feeling lonely and struggling with her changing body, the shared fear about becoming parents that they were trying to hide from each other… The talk was painful and angsty, but in the end there was an overwhelming relief to have it all in the open.
These days, Neal calls Ellen’s pager at least once a week, even when things are going well – she’s always been like a mother to him, and it’s a huge weight off his back not to be alone in this, even if she is on the other side of the ocean. He also knows that thanks to Moz, Kate now holds similar conversations with her aunt on their own set of burner phones. While Kate has found a job in their little town, Neal has immersed himself in renovating their house, trying to make sure that everything is ready before the baby is born. It’s turned out to be an interesting challenge – for all his skills, Neal knows next to nothing about plumbing, masonry and the more complex carpentry, and there are things (like building the secret room in the library) that he is simply not willing to leave to hired workers.
He misses the thrill of the con, but not as much as he thought he would – it’s less risky this way, and it didn’t feel completely right without Kate anyway. Instead, Neal relishes in different moments – talking about names with Kate, massaging her back after a tiring day, looking at the ultrasound with her. Planning their future.
He hears someone’s steps approaching.
“I thought I’d find you here,” says a familiar voice.
“Hey,” says Neal with a small smile.
Stepping next to him, Kate smiles back at him. “I saw you finished painting the baby’s room. It’s beautiful.”
“It’s for our baby,” says Neal as he intertwines his hand with Kate’s. “Kate–”
“There’s nobody here to hear us.”
“Maybe not today. You’re betting our freedom on that?”
Biting his tongue, Neal nods as he acknowledges her point.
They might not be very high on the Interpol or FBI list, but that doesn’t change the fact there are people looking for them. They’ve talked about the possibility and they would deal with it if someone found them, but there is no reason to make it easier for them.
Pulling Kate closer, Neal touches her stomach and feels a rare mixture of pride and peace. “I love you, you know?”
“I know.” Smiling at him, Kate places her hand over Neal’s at her stomach. “I love you too.”
There are still bumps in the road. They argue sometimes; even now, they’re still adjusting to their new life, and with the baby due in just two months…. But they’re getting better, and whatever issues life throws their way, they’re going to deal with it.
Neal places a loving kiss on Kate’s cheek. This is his home, his family, and nothing is going to take that from him if he can help it.
Their daughter is three years old when Agent Peter Burke comes knocking on their door.