Fandom: White Collar
Characters: Jones, Neal, Diana, Peter (Gen, Humor)
Summary: Bad days happen, but the really bad ones just don't seem to stop.
Author's Notes: For usanetwork_las and the prompt of "Make your least favorite character likeable." I don't dislike Jones, but he's the flattest character on the show and really shouldn't be.
Also for writers_choice, this is "Screwed".
When Jones woke up on Monday morning, he had plans.
They weren't big plans, or even slightly impressive ones either. For the most part, they involved professionalism and teamwork, and maybe a trip to Tokuhiro's studio after work to practice jujitsu.
Unfortunately, they bore an excruciating lack of resemblance to how his day actually went.
The morning started out well enough. The team met to discuss a recent break-in at the Met by an international art thief. They did some research, and Neal got restless and a little noisy until Peter told him to knock it off. Then they all paired-off for detail work.
The thief usually struck twice, so Jones and Neal were sent to visit some of the likely next-choice targets. Some weird little friend of Neal's seemed to be spying on them while they waited around for the Museum of Modern Art to open, but Neal insisted that they ignore him. Jones figured that whatever that whole thing was about, he had obviously missed the memo.
Eventually, he and Neal went inside the museum. Jones knew he was there for babysitting duty, though what did Peter honestly think could happen? Did he think Neal might suddenly forget all the lessons of his old profession and just make a grab for something in broad daylight? Please—Neal was much too smart for that.
In fact, Neal managed to identify the thief before they'd been inside the museum for more than ten minutes.
Hello, Mr. Atherton, Jones thought, moving silently toward the man Neal was oh-so-discreetly indicating. The next few seconds became a blur as Atherton turned and rushed at Jones, knocking him over. When Jones got up again, he found that Neal had already taken the man down and was sitting on him to keep him from getting away.
It wasn't every day that Jones' training got upstaged by the schoolyard techniques of an ex-con, but he shook off the sense of failure. They had their man now, and Neal was beaming from ear to ear. Jones frog-marched Atherton out to the car, wishing he'd done the unthinkable and brought his handcuffs into the museum.
Neal was happily phoning in their news to Peter when a foul-smelling snarl of clothes and hair lurched toward Jones and suddenly erupted all over his charcoal gray jacket.
"Scuse me," the man muttered, before weaving off in a new direction.
Jones stood there gaping, while Neal stared and Atherton snickered. Then he pulled himself together and got back on-task.
"Get the cuffs out of the glovebox," he said, tossing the car keys to Neal. With Neal's help, Jones got Atherton cuffed and secured in the back seat. He put his dirty jacket in the trunk, careful to keep it vomit-side up.
"We can drop it off for dry-cleaning on the way back to the office," Neal suggested, thoughtful as always. If anyone understood the pain of ruined clothing, it was Neal.
So they did that, and then drove to the office. They turned Atherton in for processing, and Jones and Neal and Diana went out for a quick lunch. Things were looking up again already.
When they returned to the office, Jones' mother was waiting outside the entrance with his grandmother.
"Look who came to visit!" his mother said.
Jones hugged and kissed them both, and introduced them to the team.
"Just what kind of assisting do you do, Neal?" Jones' mother asked.
"Neal's got the inside edge," Diana said, giving Neal one of those teasing smiles that she never gave Jones. "He used to be a high-powered con-man and thief, and now he helps us catch them."
Grandma Celie grabbed Jones by the ear and started dragging him down the street. "Didn't I tell you never to get mixed up with con men? Have you lost your mind?"
"Grandma, please!" Jones tried to bat her hand away.
His mother came chasing after them both. "Stop that, Mama! You're embarrassing him!"
Jones made sure his ear was still attached, and smoothed down his shirt while he waited for the fire in his cheeks to die down.
"So, we'll see you for dinner then, all right?" his mother said brightly, well-practiced in denial.
Jones just nodded as she escorted his grandmother away.
When he got back to the door, he was pleased to discover that Neal and Diana were gone. Lucky for him—that would make it easier to pretend that nothing had happened, though if he'd really been lucky there wouldn't have been anything to pretend about.
He made it safely to his desk, where a couple of booklets marked "Mandatory Training" were waiting.
Those could wait, he decided. He started to check his email instead.
Peter came by his desk. "Department meeting in fifteen minutes."
"On?" Jones asked.
Jones suppressed a groan. Peter moved on to deliver the news to Diana.
Guess I'll hit the bathroom, then, Jones thought, but his cell phone rang before he had a chance to get up. It was his girlfriend, Shari.
Now, that was better. "Hey, baby," he said.
It was quiet on Shari's end of the phone, but not for long: "We need to talk..."
Jones' shoulders sagged as if his girlfriend, his grandmother, and his ruined jacket were piled on top of him, weighing him down.
It's only Monday, he thought, and it's not even two o'clock yet. He gazed blearily across the room before the inevitable question rose up to haunt him:
I wonder what Paris is like this time of year?
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