attackfish: Neal & Peter text "We may someday attain a reltationship of mutual respect/ First I will see the gods walking the earth" (Peter and Neal MWT quote)
[personal profile] attackfish
Disclaimer: If I owned White Collar, there wouldn't be any Nazi treasure.

Summary: Moz worries that Neal's changing.  Episode tag for episode 1.7, Free Fall.

Author's Note: I wrote this for [ profile] tjs_whatnot, as part of the [ profile] collarcorner fic exchange.  They wanted Moz.  I hope he's not too much of a high strung little drama fiend.

Jewel in the Dust

He filched the corkscrew from the drawer beside the sink and hugged a wine bottle to his chest, standing by to watch the FBI swarm over Neal's apartment.  “You won't find anything!”

The suit pulled his hands out of the sock drawer and turned around, and Moz looked away, too furious to hide it.  They were all suits, but this was the suit, Neal's suit.  It was supposed to be different somehow.  “Why, because he's innocent?” he snapped.  “I've already heard that one, from your client.”

Because everything interesting was at Mozzie's place, safe.  He kept his lips from curving up, but his hands shook around the corkscrew and the neck of the bottle when he wound the screw into the cork and popped it out.  “That's right, because he's innocent.  Correct, full credit, class dismissed, you can leave now.”

The suit didn't leave.  His minions didn't leave.  The other suit, Fowler didn't leave either.  He didn't move from the doorway from which he just watched, like Mozzie.  Moz jerked his eyes away from him and his pained, unpleasant smile to follow the other agents around the room.  Fowler, he remembered from the files and the files he had compiled, OPR.

His eyes slid back to the man again and again, and he yanked them away to the woman rummaging through the paint brushes on Neal's table, bending their bristles backwards and flat.  His voice fluttered out of him in a hollow moan.  “I'm his lawyer, you know.”  He dropped the bottle gently onto the counter and sprinted through the FBI agents and techs to snatch the brushes out of her hands and cradle them against his chest.  “I'm going to make sure anything damaged comes out of your paycheck.”

“The name's Agent Lauren Cr-,” she began helpfully, not looking up from her rummaging, but he cut her off.

“I know who you are!” he hissed, then bit his tongue.  He wasn't supposed to let that-  This was why he liked to stay in the background on cons.  Something like this always happened.  But she just gave him an irritated sigh.

On his way back to his previous post, he shoved two of the figures in FBI jackets out of the way with his shoulder with a sniff.  The cabinet swung open, and he grabbed a glass, pouring the wine into it and setting the bottle back down on the counter before it could slip out of his shaking hands.  Sunlight reflected off the glass and the pale gold liquid inside.  He glanced at it curiously before taking a morose, unceremonious gulp.

And he froze.  The flavors hit his tongue and the roof of his mouth, so sweet, so tart, so crisp, so much.  Of course he would pick something sublime when it didn't matter, when he wasn't looking, when he didn't care except that it was wine, and it would make his head buzz and the FBI agents picking over the apartment like vultures on roadkill a little less horrifying.  He turned the bottle around gingerly to examine the label.  Neal's  Eiswein.  Oh well, Neal would have to get over it.  “Hey Suit.”

Neal's suit lifted his head up and eyed Mozzie, suspicion flattening his gaze.  “What do you want?”

“Come over here, I'll pour you a glass.”

The suit came over, but he batted Mozzie's hand away from the bottle.  “I don't drink on duty.”

“I insist.”

“Oh, I get it.”  He wrinkled his nose.  “If I drink some, you can try to extort the bureau for damages.  No.”

Moz put the cork back into the bottle and slid it into the refrigerator.  “Well, okay, if you don't want to enjoy a truly superb bottle of wine at the taxpayers' expense, that's your business.”  He glanced over at Neal's suit, watching the room, lips tight.  “You're not going to find anything.”

“You already said that.”  Neal's suit's eyes darted around the room like Moz's, and lingered on Fowler.  “Tell me, does the list of things you're stashing for him include the diamond?”

A prickle of anxious wistfulness crawled its way into Mozzie.  They had pulled jobs separately before.  It wasn't a big deal that Neal kept denying he had even stolen it.  They were conmen, thieves, and rogues.  He never expected honesty.  “Attorney/client privilege prevents me from-”

“Attorney/client privilege doesn't protect either of you if you have been conspiring with your client to break the law.”

“Find some evidence that I am conspiring.”  He swirled the wine in the glass and took a sip.  “Suit.”

The suit glanced over at him.  “It also won't protect you if we find out you aren't actually a lawyer.”

“Do you want to see the papers again?”

“Neal's pretty good with papers.”

“Yes,” Moz said smugly, “he is.”

The suit shot him a triumphant look, but Mozzie didn't stop smirking.  It didn't matter what Neal's suit knew, or figured out, because he had already bought the bakery and set up the awning, and in a few days he and Neal would be gone, free, vanished into the vastness of the world with new, clean identities, new names, new selves, and this man would never see Neal again.


The door opened, and Neal dropped his hat and his jacket onto the table.  Moz stepped out of the evening shadows at the edge of the room.  “You ran to the suit.”

Neal put his hands up.  “Moz-”

“I can't believe you ran to the suit!”  His voice took on a high, squeaking edge, like air rushing down a pipe.  “You could be free right now.  We could be on a beach somewhere.  I had passports, birth certificates, insurance cards, and you...”

Neal shrugged, a little helplessly.  "It's not that big a deal."  If whoever had Kate was with the FBI, it was a good idea to stay close, wasn't it?  Neal would think that.  He would.

"Just remember, next time, you run away from people with badges and guns, not to them."  He sat down on the couch and propped his legs up on the table, and Neal didn't say a word.

Neal took aim and fired off a smile.  Moz crossed his arms.  "Come on, Moz, this doesn't change anything."

No, Moz, thought, nothing does, ever.

"Thanks," Neal tried, smiling hard, like he thought it would actually work.

Moz tried to snort.  It came out as a huff, and he turned away.  The problem, he decided, wasn't so much that this life, this situation was creeping into Neal.  Things always crept into Neal.  He absorbed and reflected, always, everything.  It was just that he had his suit.  He thought he could rely on him.  he hadn't figured it out yet, no one had anybody.  Nobody could be relied on for long.

Somewhere, tugging at the edges of his thoughts, where he wouldn't let the idea take shape was the knowledge that...

"You want anything?" Neal called from the kitchen, opening the refrigerator and bestowing one last smile on his friend.

Moz ignored him.  Mozzie never asked for anything in Neal's place.  As Neal rummaged around in his own refrigerator, Mozzie watched his own feet impassively.  It was easier than watching Neal.  His shoes lay tossed into the middle of the room, and his socks slid against the surface of the table with his feet inside them.  He listened to the rattling from the kitchen, and Neal's tuneless humming, and his own breath.

"Hey, wait a second."  Neal pulled the wine bottle out of the refrigerator and examined it.  "I was saving this."

For what?  Moz wanted to ask.  "We all have to learn to live with disappointment."

Neal put on a pout while his friend tried not to giggle anxiously.  “You drank my only bottle of Eiswein.”

“The FBI were tossing the apartment."  Moz folded his arms over his stomach.  "I was understandably in need of soothing.”

“You drank my Eiswein.”

Moz pointed to the bottle in the other man's hand.  “I left you some.”

“Yeah,” Neal chuckled knowingly.  “You left yourself some, didn't you?”

Moz threw his hands up.  “Hey, I didn't know when you were going to be back.  I wasn't going to let it go to waste.”  He felt himself forgetting about Neal staying, and the gnawing panic at what that might mean.  Some days, he would have given anything to know how Neal did it, how he twisted everything around, and made him want to go along with him and listen to him, even knowing he was more of a liar than Mozzie ever could have been.

“Good thing we found the diamond at Tulane's girlfriend's place, before you had to do something drastic.”

“Well...”  He tried not to worry about what it meant that Neal said “we” instead of “the FBI” so easily, unconsciously, really, he tried.

He was a man apart, an island, lost in a crowd of one.  He was alone.  Everybody was, and he needed to stop forgetting that.

Neal set the bottle back down on the refrigerator shelf and shut the door.  “Told you I didn't steal the diamond.”

He took his feet of the table and closed his eyes.  “I hate it when you're honest.”

Date: 2011-11-01 02:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The final line - it's just perfect!

Date: 2011-11-01 02:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! As much as season three made me want to strangle Moz, I feel bad for him. He's losing his partner.

Date: 2011-11-01 02:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can't even be angry with him, not really - in a sense, he does what he thinks is the best for Neal. He is totally wrong, naturally, but he isn't mean-spirited.

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Date: 2011-11-01 03:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I liked this a lot. I think it's a really accurate look at the inside of Mozzie's head and of the situation itself. Even this early one the cracks were beginning to show.

Date: 2011-11-01 03:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! Even though it's an episode take during the first season, you can really tell I wrote it during the first half of season three. Poor Moz is slowly losing his buddy. He just wants him back.

Date: 2011-11-01 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Poor Moz is slowly losing his buddy. He just wants him back.

Yes. Mozzie's made terrible decision after terrible decision, but never maliciously. He really wants what's best for Neal, it's just that he has a very firm (and incorrect) idea of what that is. Peter's the same way, certain that he knows what Neal really needs. I feel sorry for all of them. I think they're all trying to do the right thing, whatever their conception of the "right thing" is.

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Date: 2011-11-01 05:44 pm (UTC)
sholio: Neal from White Collar looking down (WhiteCollar-Neal sidelight)
From: [personal profile] sholio
I really enjoyed this a lot! Great job with Mozzie's POV -- it's something that we don't get in fic all that often, especially for the earlier parts of the series.

Date: 2011-11-01 05:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! It was surprisingly easy to write from his point of view. Maybe it's because I'm just a little high strung myself?

Date: 2011-11-01 11:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love this!

Date: 2011-11-02 01:22 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-11-01 11:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ohh, this is so good.

The door opened, and Neal dropped his hat and his jacket onto the table. Moz stepped out of the evening shadows at the edge of the room. “You ran to the suit.”

Neal put his hands up. “Moz-”

“I can't believe you ran to the suit!”

This part just *hurts*. And it touches so perfectly on the crux of the conflict or strain or whatever you want to call it between Mozzie, Neal, and Peter. There's just that *something* Neal needs that he can get from Peter and not from Mozzie, and it's that part of him that Mozzie just can't understand.

And I love Mozzie's fierce loyalty as Neal's apartment is being searched. You've done an amazing job with his character in this.

Great story!

Jumping on the S3 discussion bandwagon here, I have to say that Mozzie's character development is the one part of S3 that I'm really enjoying. I think it was really ballsy of the writers to darken him as much as they have, and while there are things that I feel they've...fumbled...this season, it's to their credit -- and to Willie Garson's credit as an actor -- that they could take Mozzie where they did and still have him be sympathetic.

Date: 2011-11-02 12:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have to agree there - although I was not THAT surprised about his darker side, remembering how dangerous fast he disarmed the gun man in "By the book". I always knew that he was a force to be recogned with (after all, otherwise he wouldn't be so successful in what he does).But I really like how they kept him sympathic by showing his softer spots in "Dentist of Detroit". The poor dear has abandonned issues - awwwwwwww.

Date: 2011-11-02 01:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Logically I knew Mozzie had a dark side, but I was a little surprised (and very pleased) that the writers were letting us see it.

Date: 2011-11-02 12:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, I feel that while this side of Mozzie was startling, it was believable -- it caught me by surprise, but it didn't feel like it was out of nowhere.

I think DoD was a wise move on the show's part, because it *did* drive home those abandonment issues, and it showed what lies at the heart Mozzie's methods where Neal was concerned this season.

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Date: 2011-11-02 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! This was a strange fic to write, because it takes place during season one, but it's really about season three.

There's just that *something* Neal needs that he can get from Peter and not from Mozzie, and it's that part of him that Mozzie just can't understand.

This. And at the same time, there's a huge part of Neal that is unacceptable to Peter (for very good reason) and so Neal flits between the two of them and they both want to force him to choose, both fully expecting that when push comes to shove, he'll choose their side.

I agree. I love the development Moz has been getting. He isn't just a quirky sidekick. He's an accomplished thief who came up with a plan to pull one over on Adler. And given his belief system, he must adore Neal, and this season, we've really been seeing both of those sides.

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Date: 2011-11-02 01:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That was wonderful :D And so Mozzie.

Date: 2011-11-02 01:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! I wanted to strangle him this whole season, but I also really feel for him.

Date: 2011-11-02 06:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Just saw this! I will read it tonight when I get home from work, I just wanted to say YAY!!!!!!!!!!! MOZZZZZZZZZZ!!


Date: 2011-11-02 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No rush, XD, I hope you like it!

Date: 2011-11-02 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

This. This is superb!

I was really nervous about asking for Mozzie. I know his character is going through a bit of a shift and even my feelings about him are constantly in flux so I was TERRIFIED that a story featuring him would be rife with character assassinations. But this was perfect. Soooo Mozzie. I knew from the minute he poured that glass that it was going to be. You just nailed his quirks, insecurities and neediness hidden behind paranoia and sarcasm. ♥♥ I love that he wants to warn Neal from getting too close to Peter because you can't trust anyone while meanwhile he is doing the same thing with Neal. Oh Mozz. If you followed your own advice you would have been gone years ago. ♥♥

Thank you for this lovely story!

Date: 2011-11-02 10:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, I'm so glad you like it! I was worried I made Moz too high strung, especially since so much of the fic is about him trying to manage the FBI tossing Neal's place. I've felt really sorry for him this whole season. He's absolutely doing his best to destroy Neal's life in New York, but he just so badly wants to keep a friend he sees changing and moving further away from him every day. Moz is a bit of a hypocrite (not the right word, let me explain). Consciously, he thinks that he should keep himself isolated, attachments are dangerous, etc. but in the end, he just can't live like that, so he's bonded to Neal. Poor Moz.

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Date: 2011-11-06 04:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
:D Oh, what an excellent filling-in-between-the-scenes for the episode! I just loved this. Thank you for such an enjoyable read!

Date: 2011-11-06 04:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! It practically wrote itself.

Date: 2012-08-01 03:08 am (UTC)
china_shop: Slightly cartoony pic of Neal and Mozzie sitting at Neal's table with coffee cups (WC - Neal/Moz comic)
From: [personal profile] china_shop
Neal took aim and fired off a smile.


I love this! Great insights into early Mozzie and the seeds of Neal's divided loyalties. Awesome!!

Date: 2012-08-01 03:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! I actually liked watching Mozzie in the third season. Mozzie's in the same position as Peter. He loves Neal against his ideals and better judgement, and he can't make himself stop.

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