Never Con a Conman
Summary: Even con artists can be conned – a lesson you thought you were teaching; instead, it turned out that you were the one being taught.
Word Count: 3,235
There was a method to your madness. One day you would work out what it was. Until then, you lived crazily. There was nothing more exhilarating than getting away with something you shouldn’t be doing.
Right now, you were in Times Square with a satchel at your waist, beating against your hip with every step you took, pounding to the rhythm of your gait as you matched the tempo of the city. New York was one of your favorite cities. No matter how far you ventured, you always came back here. You used your contacts as an excuse, but the truth was that you were a Yankee in spirit. You passed by hundreds and hundreds of unknown strangers, innocent and oblivious to what you had hidden in your bag – gorgeous natural red rubies, an entire set of them, each plated into a solid golden chain. They were treasures you weren’t supposed to have, but Africa wasn’t nearly as hard to steal from as America, and you had done far more complicated jobs with far fewer resources.
You imagined showing off your wealth just by donning the necklace and strolling about your day, being part of the flashy one percent in appearance, but you were smarter than that. Showing off for the sake of showing off was dangerous. Pretty much everyone who tried ended up caught, either by enemies or by cops.
Speaking of being smarter, you needed to get a new fence. Your dumb contact had been passed to you by a friend, but despite your so-called friend’s competence, the fence was slipping. He was an older man, well-respected, very skilled, but his age was letting his mind go. He’d sold your looted necklace to two different buyers. Two different, very influential, very intimidating buyers – buyers that would kill you and your fence if you didn’t give them what they expected to have.
Thus, you came to New York not just because it was where you might’ve lived, had you been a civilian with a nine-to-five job, but because it was home to the best forger you knew of, and you were prepared to make his acquaintance. You had a plan. You’d have him forge two identical necklaces just like the ones in your bag, give those to the buyers, and melt down the real gold and the rubies through a proxy, then reshape them into something else entirely. In a different fashion, they’d sell under the radar on the black market, and you could use the cuts from the unexpected second and third sales to bolster not only your own account, but to afford the services and the discretion of your forger and your better fence.
You chose to think of it as an opportunity – an opportunity to make a contact and a lot more money than you otherwise would have. You regretted that you’d have to destroy such a beautiful piece of jewelry, but you couldn’t leave the real thing floating around. There was too much risk if you kept it on your person, but if it got back to either of your buyers and they compared the real stuff to the synthetics they would be given, you’d be screwed.
You left Times Square with a smirk on your face and decided to cut through Central Park and get a crepe from a vendor on your way. The address you’d gotten had been a little trickier to come by and cost a few grand for the cooperation of various players, but you were certain that with your score in mind, it would be worth it. Maybe you could even take a vacation.
Neal Caffrey spent four years in a federal super-max prison, but the people he still talked to said he was just as smooth as ever and hadn’t even come close to losing his touch. You doubted he’d talk to them much more once he knew they’d given his location to someone who wanted to find him, but that was okay. You’d have built a bridge by that point, and his contacts weren’t of any particular use to you, now that they’d set up a meeting.
You were a little wary of entering the church of a known Italian mobster, but the pews contained scattered amounts of civilians. You weren’t entirely alone, but you weren’t exactly standing up at the front of the room and discussing your potential partnership through a microphone, either. You appreciated that it was a territory where neither of you were the alphas, and so, since you really didn’t know where you could find a more renowned forger at such short notice, you slipped into the church, kept your head down docilely when the Father observed you, and slid into the pew at the back beside a suit-clad man with a jauntily-tipped fedora.
“I expected slightly less Freddy Krueger and a little more Jason Bourne.” You commented quietly, already recognizing his face from his Wanted posters. “You know, a little more sneaky, a little more scary.”
“A little more CIA,” he countered, lifting his head and raising an eyebrow at you. “For shame. This isn’t Krueger, this is Sinatra.”
You smirked at him and studied the hat again. You supposed you could see it. He was hot, and one of the few men in the twenty-first century who you’d seen successfully pull it off without giving you Wes Craven flashbacks. His striking blue eyes complimented the dark blue silk around the brim and almost matched his tie.
“Alright, I relent. You’re sophisticated, classy, and old-fashioned.” Your lips quirked as you teased. Neal chuckled.
Internally, you felt a thrill. This was going better than you had hoped. Neal was calm and engaging; not flighty in the least. His confidence inspired some of your own, but that was an old trick of the trade, and you knew better than to fall for it too hard.
“Is it really a two-person job?” You cynically asked, looking Neal’s friend up and down.
He was a short bald guy in glasses, skittish and fidgety, and he’d had more glasses of wine since you all sat down than the number of burner phones you owned. You could tell just by his demeanor that he was an anxious little fella, and you tried to avoid partnering with the overly-nervous. Too many nerves made it hard to effectively pull off a job.
“Haversham has all the equipment we need.” Neal told you, topping off your glass like any hospitable host would’ve. “No one’s as good as me. But he comes pretty close.”
“What’s the job for?” Haversham, as he was apparently called, asked you. Unlike Neal, he struck you as incredibly flighty. His voice was a little loud and confrontational. Neal shot him a look, practically screaming at him with his eyes to calm down.
You liked Neal, but you liked a lot of people. You weren’t a con woman because you disliked people. And besides, trusting and liking a person were entirely different ball games. Your life was at risk because of this stupid necklace; no way in hell were you going to tell them the truth about what they were working on, lest they backstab you or use the threat to your health as a means of exploiting more money out of you. They didn’t strike you as the type, but anyone could be a good actor.
You just needed to pull a con on the conmen you wanted to help you with yours. It was a simple process, really; you just needed a lie with as much background information as you wanted to share. You’d already thought of one, anticipating that the question would come up sooner or later.
“There’s a hefty buyer looking to pass off a piece of jewelry as the real thing for a very large sum.” You put your wine glass on the table delicately and crossed your legs at the ankles. “Unfortunately, the real thing was looted in the seventeenth century and reportedly melted down. Discovering part of the horde would be… financially beneficial… but my client is far more interested in putting it on display.” You grimaced as if the idea sickened you. “He’s offering me too much to pass on, no matter how little I approve.”
Neal and Haversham looked at each other.
“If the real piece was melted down four hundred some years ago, how do you expect us to recreate it?” Haversham challenged you, narrowing his eyes while his fingers tapped bouncily on his knee.
You smiled politely. “My client is convinced he can have this authenticated based on the records kept by the original owners. He’s created approximations and send photographs with the dimensional specifications. It’s not perfect, but he can’t very well put plastic and colored glass on display with a price tag as large as we’re talking. So he needs real rubies and real gold.”
Neal winced. “To each his own. A score’s a score.” He raised his glass towards you. “I think we can do this project. Shall we discuss rates?”
You tapped your glass against the side of his gingerly and then took a sip, feigning consideration. It was your life on the line; you would happily pay more than you’d normally like for their cooperation, but you had to behave as though it were any other con. If Neal knew that he was as much of a mark as anyone else in your scheme, you doubted he’d still be singing the same tune.
“We can work something out.” You decided. “Five percent?”
Neal tilted his head at you, scoffing slightly. “Your entire plan is contingent on the products of our labor.”
“Fine.” You huffed. “Ten percent each. You wouldn’t be getting this job if I wasn’t facilitating it.”
Haversham scoffed. “Twenty-five combined!”
“Twenty-two,” you deadpanned. He seemed easily spooked, so you locked your eyes on him in a mean, cool stare.
He sat back. “That’s fair,” he said compliantly, avoiding looking at you. You smiled slightly at Neal, who was giving you a vaguely scolding expression for scaring his friend.
After five days, you had developed a routine of sorts. Neal and his odd friend would be in your secured warehouse by the portside, working on developing the synthetic rubies with tools you didn’t even recognize. You kept the real necklace far from the pickpocket, but brought photographs with you to compare the gems, and recorded the specs for their use.
Haversham had on thick, flame-retardant gloves up to his elbows when you entered with your electronic key. Neal was set up at a table several yards away from the superhot industrial oven. Haversham was wearing a welding mask and thick clothes. The temperature made you start sweating even after you’d been inside for a few seconds, so you imagined he was sweltering. His dedication to protecting himself from boiling gold was laudable. When it splashed, it left burn scars. You’d heard of more than one person convicted for their carelessness.
Neal wore long pants and a tight wife-beater shirt and thick-soled, metal-toed boots to protect his feet, but aside from protective goggles on the table near where he stood over the fake rubies, he wore nothing else. You could see his abs through his clothes, and sweat glistened on his arms. You liked how he was strong and built, but not obnoxiously so, and you gave yourself a second to pretend that you were allowed to be enjoying the view as much as you were.
“Hey, boys,” you called, raising an arm to wave lazily at Haversham, who didn’t respond. You walked to the side of the table and pushed yourself up to sit on the edge. Neal looked up at you, a curl of hair falling over his face and a satisfied, self-indulgent smile on his mouth. “How’re things coming?”
“We finished making the rubies this morning.” He placed his fingers in the group of gems and divided them into two groups, each corresponding to one of the false necklaces. “We should be able to leave them in the gold plating by tomorrow and have them finished days before your deadline.”
“Uh-huh.” You admired the rubies. They looked gorgeous; picture-perfect. Unrealistically beautiful, in fact. “Now, how are you going to make them look like they weren’t manufactured?”
Neal’s lips quirked appreciatively at your catch. “Imperfections on the jewels, forced oxidation on the gold. We have the photographs to go off of.” He cocked his head and stalked to you slowly. You hoped it wasn’t just your imagination that you had his complete, rapt attention. You spread your legs so he could stand between your knees, and he put his hands down on the table on either side of your thighs, leaning over you. “Of course,” he whispered, leaning down. You could see the flecks of shades in his irises. “It would be much easier if we could model off the physical approximation.”
It was hard to act like you didn’t care. You flirted a lot yourself, and you knew it was a ploy. Still, Neal attracted you like few people managed to. He was smart, he was gorgeous, and he had a sense of humor – and, unlike most decent guys you met, he was in the lifestyle. No normal man would understand not to ask questions if you had to take off to Bohemia or be absent for months at a time. You wished you could return the flirtations, maybe even invite him out for drinks, but mixing work and pleasure wasn’t a great idea, especially when failure to deliver the goods would get a target on your back. Self-preservation was always your first concern.
“I love your enthusiasm,” you whispered back playfully, “But I haven’t forgotten that you’re a thief as well as a forger.”
“Touché.” He smiled at you more sincerely then. “I had to ask.”
“Sure,” you compliantly agreed.
“In that case, I should tell you what else I am.” His smile faded. Your expression darkened and you tensed, prepared to shove him away. Sudden mood swings were never reassuring. “Y/N, I might have misled you slightly. I am criminally active – however, those crimes have been more often than not sanctioned by the FBI as of late.”
You swallowed and stared up at him darkly. “If you don’t move, I’m going to punch you in the nose and walk out of here.”
“I just had to see if you would give up the necklace, but Agent Burke will get a warrant to search your hotel room.” Still, he stepped back and gave you room. You hopped off of the table swiftly, backing away while keeping your eyes locked on him.
Your heart raced. Is he lying? You couldn’t find any tells. His tone was even, his expression was wry and bittersweet, and as you listened for anything else in the room, you realized you couldn’t hear the bubbling gold anymore. You held out a hand to stop Neal from advancing and spun quickly to see over your shoulder. Mozzie had moved away from the oven, turned it down, and was taking off his mask to fix his fogged and dripping glasses.
“Please don’t make a scene,” Neal requested, pulling on his lower lip with his teeth. “I like you. I’d rather not watch this get messier than it has to be.” He pulled on the strap of his shirt over his shoulder and turned it inside out so you could see a small microphone on the inside. “Clear, guys. Come on in.”
The door to the warehouse clanged open. “FBI!” A man shouted, his gun out.
You put your hands up harmlessly, but glowered at Neal for a moment before lowering your eyes. Maybe this was your karma for your madness. Everything caught up to everyone eventually. It wasn’t really his fault if you were the one morally in the wrong (you were big enough to admit that you were the antihero, even from your own perspective). Besides, working with the FBI was probably the best for his self-preservation.
“Y/N Y/L/N,” the first man called to you, lowering his weapon. The other agent, a beautiful woman, kept hers out and she approached behind him, keeping an eye on you. The man stuck his hand out as he came closer, smiling genially. “Special Agent Peter Burke.”
“No,” Neal sighed, crossing his arms. “Peter, don’t say it.”
Peter’s grin widened. “It’s a pleasure to catch you.”
Neal sighed again, looking away. You ground your teeth and stared at his outstretched hand skeptically.
“I should probably mention that the real reason I want fake necklaces is so that I don’t get killed by people rich enough to hire hitmen,” you blandly stated to the federal agent. It felt like you were in shock. You knew you’d rail against it once you had time to process and understand what had happened, but at the moment, you were working to make the most out of it for yourself.
Peter nodded sympathetically and realized you weren’t going to shake his hand. He dropped it to his side. “We can take care of that.” He took up handcuffs from his belt. “Behind your back, please.”
You sent another look at Neal. He shrugged at you, his eyes compassionate. He didn’t seem at all surprised that you’d lied about your motivations. You wondered if he’d gone running to the feds as soon as you approached him. You chewed on the inside of your cheek, thinking, before you turned to Peter and asked, “Can I have a moment?”
Though confused, Peter agreed. “Yeah…?” He said it like a question and turned to look at the woman with him.
“No funny business,” she warned you. “I have excellent aim and I’m looking right at your knees.”
You stepped up to Neal. He leaned back on the table warily. “Nice one, Caffrey.” You defeatedly admitted. “I didn’t see it coming.” You paused. If your work wasn’t going to be finished, there was nothing to mix the pleasure with. You’d be damned if you went to all this trouble to partner up with Neal and didn’t get anything out of it.
You reached for his waist and tugged on the belt loops in his pants, pulling him closer to you. Neal moved his hands to your hips impulsively and you reached for his shoulder, sliding your hand easily across his slippery skin, dragging him down to meet you halfway, pressing your lips to his. Neal kissed you softly, gently; his lips were soft and full and his mouth tasted rich with an aftertaste of coffee.
Peter coughed when you pulled back, your hands still on his hips. Neal looked down at you, blinking in surprise, but with a charmed, happy grin on his face. You hoped it didn’t last too long – you still wanted him to feel at least a little bit guilty about getting you arrested.
After a few more seconds of feeling the warmth of his body, you dropped your arms and took a step back. “Alright,” you said exasperatedly, turning around so your back was to Peter. You held your hands behind your back. “I’m cooperating, lady. Leave my knees alone.”
“Thanks for your help, Mozzie,” Peter said to someone.
“Suit!” Haversham hissed, stripping off his gloves. “Why would you say my name?! I don’t want her to know who I am!”
“It’s a bit late for that,” you grumbled.
Requested by @white-magician
Send in requests!