Title: I Depend on Me
Fandom: White Collar
Characters: Kate, Keller
Pairing(s): Kate/Neal, Kate/Keller
Notes: Written for sheenianni for fandom_stocking.
Summary: After Neal leaves her to go to Copenhagen, Kate has to figure out how to make it on her own. And she knows she'll have to do it fast if she wants to keep her New York apartment.
The truth was, Kate hadn’t actually expected Neal to leave. She had made it so clear how she felt about his effort to con her into going to Copenhagen, she had assumed he would retreat for now and apologize. Kate didn’t object to a heist in Copenhagen. She simply didn’t want to be conned into it.
Staying and making up with her definitely would have been the decent thing to do, and crime aside, Kate had thought of Neal as a decent person. And beyond that, Kate had come to assume, deep down, that Neal would put her first. And then he didn’t. Whether the score in Copenhagen was just too good, or whether he had been that angry at her, Neal was gone.
Between the Adler debacle and this, Kate was beginning to suspect she was shit at reading people, particularly for a con artist.
The immediate problem was that she had a New York apartment to pay rent on, and her partner in literal crime had just walked out on her. Which, come to think of, needing to support herself after Adler fled had been one of the reasons the took up with Neal in the first place, so embarrassing history really was repeating itself.
What she had learned after the truth came out about Adler was that no one respectable wanted to hire the disgraced PA of the decade’s most notorious financial criminals. Even her old references had equivocated and made excuses when she called. Even if memories had faded, Kate had no interest in begging for scraps from hypocrites like that. At least she was willing to admit she was a thief.
She could wait tables or temp, but even if she didn’t go crazy from boredom, that sort of life would only allow her to barely scrape by. Kate had gotten used to a certain way of living, and no way in hell was she going to give it up, just because her boyfriend wasn’t dependable. Besides, while Neal was a manipulative liar, he had at least taught her that she shouldn’t be ashamed of getting what she wanted.
So, okay. She had been a criminal with Neal, and she could be a criminal without him. There was no way in hell she was calling Mozzie (who never would have helped her anyway). Even if she had been willing to call Alex, Alex was in Copenhagen. But she could go to Hale. He liked her.
“A job?” Hale said when she called. “I can see what I have, but I thought you were in Copenhagen.”
“No, I’m not,” Kate said calmly. “I’m on my own right now.”
“All right,” Hale replied, mercifully not asking for any information. “Looks like I have a contract job. Theft for hire. Some hot shot wants to embarrass a rival. Something like that. You know I don’t ask questions.”
“Of course.” Kate, Neal, and Mozzie had tried to avoid contract jobs like this. What was the point of being a criminal if you still had to answer to a boss? But Kate wasn’t looking to be choosy right now. “I’ll take it. Thanks, Hale.”
“Any time.” Kate could guess he wanted to ask her what was going on, but as he said, Hale didn’t ask questions.
She met with Hale once to pick up all the relevant details, and Kate was able to lose herself in planning for a few days. Unfortunately what became increasingly apparent the more she went over her options was that the heist simply wasn’t a one person job. She had already established that her old partners weren’t an option. She loathed the idea of trying to find someone new and working with a stranger. But she couldn’t afford to bail on this job. Not only did she need the money, but she didn’t want Hale to think of her as unreliable.
That was when Kate had a very bad idea. Not all of her old partners were out of reach. She dashed off a quick email before she could come to her senses. She didn’t have to wait long for a reply.
Two days later, Kate walked into a small, derelict diner. It was nearly empty, but far in the back corner sat Matthew Keller. Damn. Kate was early, but Keller had been earlier still.
He smiled at her, showing far too many teeth for Kate’s liking. “Katie! How nice to see you.”
Kate slid into the opposite booth, keeping her expression neutral. Mockingly friendly Keller was better than hostile Keller, but she still had every reason to be wary. “Keller.”
“Imagine my surprise, hearing from you. I could have sworn you’d be in Copenhagen.”
Kate was beginning to get the urge to hit the next person who said the word Copenhagen. She tried not to react, but Keller must have seen something in her expression, because his smile turned sharp and unpleasant.
“Does this mean that the fairy tale is over between you and Caffrey? That’s a real shame.”
“I didn’t call you here to talk about my love life. Do you want to hear about the job or not?” Kate asked, voice hard. Keller didn’t stop smiling, but he waved his hand as if to dismiss the topic. Kate slid a file over to Keller. It didn’t contain nearly all of the important information, just enough to give him a rough idea and get him interested.
“Okay, Katie, you’ve got my attention,” he told her once he had finished reading.
“Are you in?”
“All right,” Kate said. “This my job. It came to me first, so we’ll do a sixty/forty split.”
Keller let out a rough bark of laughter. “Sure, except I’ll be taking sixty. You wouldn’t have reached out to me unless you were out of options.”
Kate grit her teeth. “Even split,” she declared. “Or I’ll walk out of here and take my chances.”
Keller thought for a moment, then nodded casually. “All right.”
Kate darted a quick look around. They were the only ones currently in the diner, and the waitress was nowhere to be seen. Thank god for bad food and worse service. “One more thing. If all goes well, we won’t run anyone while we do this. But if we do, then I want to make it very clear that no one is going to die on this job. If you hurt anyone, I’ll make you regret it.”
Keller snorted and grinned at her nastily. “I doubt that.”
Kate met his eyes and held them. “I am not Neal. Don’t assume I share his limits. If I say I’ll make you regret it, then I mean it.”
They stared each other down, until Keller’s grin morphed into something less ugly and he shook his head. “Okay, Katie. You can be the boss on this one.”
“One more thing,” Kate told him.
“Don’t call me Katie.”
Kate had no intention of letting Keller into her home, and meeting in public, while sometimes necessary, always carried an element of risk. So, she and Keller kept in touch via encrypted email. As the date of the heist grew near, Kate try to banish her nervousness. It wasn’t just working with Keller. Much of it was that this was the first job Kate would be working with none of her usual team in sight. No Mozzie, no Alex. No Neal.
Well, she couldn’t have been dependent on them forever, anyway. And if she could pull this off, and the next job, and the next, at least then no one would ever look at her like she was nothing more than Neal’s arm candy ever again.
The actual heist went so well that Kate was almost unnerved. She had been good with alarm systems from the start, and Keller managed to behave like a consummate professional. The safe was a little tricky—safes had been Neal’s thing—but they got it open without disaster. The two of them worked well together, something that might disturb Kate later, but not at the moment. Because right now she was riding the post-heist high. The thrill that came with getting away with something, with doing the wrong thing so well. Often it did more than excite her, it aroused her. Neal had been the same way. She’d lost count of the number of times they’d come back from job and thrown themselves into bed, tearing their clothes off, intentionally deaf to Mozzie’s complaints.
Of course, Neal wasn’t here. Instead there was Keller looking at her from the other side of the small bolt hole. (Kate would have to burn it after this.) Kate didn’t think it was just her imagination that he was looking at her with new respect. His expression turned appraising. “You get off on this, don’t you?”
“Excuse me?” Kate snarled.
Keller held up his hands in surrender. “Hey, I’m not mocking you. I’m not judging either.” He came up and sat down beside her, slowly, as if to avoid spooking her. He leaned in close and brushed her hair with his fingers. “Why don’t we celebrate? I’d show you a real good time.”
He probably would. Kate imagined how Keller would be in bed. Rough, definitely. Domineering too, but Kate wouldn’t let him get away with too much of that. He absolutely wouldn’t be anything like Neal.
It was tempting. It was very tempting. And Kate would have taken him up on it, except for one thing. However much Keller wanted to have sex with her, he wanted to use her as a weapon against Neal even more. If she slept with him, Keller would throw it in Neal’s face the first chance he got. And Kate had no interest in being used like that. She stood up. “Sorry,” she said, “but I’m not that desperate.” But she couldn’t help saying it with a smile.
Keller shrugged. “Your loss.”
Kate twirled the data stick they had stolen in her hand. “Are you going to trust me to deliver this to Hale?”
“I trust your integrity entirely,” he replied with overdone graciousness.
“That and you’d kill me if I tried to stiff you.”
“I absolutely would.”
Kate left him alone in bolt hole. It would have been safer to stay longer, but she needed to get out, feel the air.
She should try working with someone new next time. Not because working with Keller had been so horrible, though he wasn’t someone anyone should trust or depend on. But she needed her own network. She wasn’t an extension of Neal, she never had been, and it was about time everyone stopped treating her like she was.
She could do this.
In the New York night, Kate smiled.</em>
This entry was originally posted at http://veleda-k.dreamwidth.org/470808.ht
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