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.”
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