Neighborhood Watch - when El investigated her neighbors, chased them down, and impersonated an FBI agent. Just another day in NYC.
Neighborhood Watch: Angel on My Shoulder
Neal glanced up from his work briefly as he saw Agent Peter Burke walking through the big glass doors of the White Collar division. He returned to his work and then stopped, looking up again.
After Elizabeth's impersonation of an FBI agent yesterday, he wasn't sure what it might be like in the office today – but he certainly didn't expect the huge grin that he was witnessing now. Neal wondered just what might have his partner in such a good mood. An appraising glance told him that Peter was well rested, relaxed, happy… ah. Spousal immunity must have its price…
Peter looked at him, and the smile faded somewhat as his eyebrows lifted. "Neal? What are you grinning about?"
The younger man was suddenly the image of confused innocence. "Just glad you're in a good mood, boss. I mean… yesterday was really something."
Peter looked off in the distance, and the ghost of his smile returned. "Yeah. It sure was."
Neal smirked, briefly, before clearing his throat. "Ah… we still on for dinner tonight? Or are you and Elizabeth…"
Peter snapped his gaze back to his younger partner. "No, no. We're expecting you." Abruptly his expression changed as he clicked back into work mode. "You have those files?"
"Mrs. Suit. Dinner was amazing."
"Why, thank you, Mozzie. And thank you for bringing the wine."
Peter looked at his partner, and turned his head to mumble under his breath. "Did he really bring the wine?"
Neal responded just as quietly. "Oh, he brought it. Carried it the whole way from my wine collection at the apartment…" They shared a grin while Mozzie and Elizabeth chatted. After a few moments, Mozzie caught Peter's eye, and the agent nodded.
"Neal. Do me a favor and help El with dessert, okay?"
"Sure… what's going on?"
"Mozzie and I have to talk." He stood and picked up his glass. "Moz? Join me for some fresh air?"
The little con man rose and clutched his wine glass to his chest. Then he hesitated, reached for the wine bottle and refilled his glass. "Of course, Suit." He gestured broadly. "After you." Taking a step toward the patio door he stopped, reconsidered, and snatched the whole bottle to bring along.
Peter gave El a kiss as he headed out. She smiled at him, and watched them walk out before she turned to Neal. "Okay, you. I just have to put the biscuits for the shortcake in the oven – want to grab the plates?"
"Sure…" Neal tilted his head at her as he brought the dishes into the kitchen. "Ah… any idea what's going on out there?"
She grinned. "Oh, I think Peter just wanted to talk to him about yesterday."
"Ah." Blue eyes sparkled with a touch of mischief. "You mean impersonating an officer of the law?"
"Something like that."
Neal lifted his eyebrows, showing a bit more concern in El's eyes than he was aware of. "Is he in the principal's office?"
Elizabeth laughed, and put a hand on his arm. "I think he'll survive. Can you refill my wine, please? Thanks."
Out on the patio, Peter stood and looked up at the stars. It was quiet, and a breeze wafted softly on the night air. Mozzie watched him, trying not to appear nervous. He gulped a bit of wine, and refilled his glass.
Peter sipped from his own glass as he spoke quietly, still staring out into the night sky. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"Indeed." Mozzie waited a moment, then blew out a breath. "So…? When you invited us over, you told me you wanted to talk?"
The agent sighed. "Yeah. I do." Turning to look at Moz, he lifted his glass. "Thanks for helping El yesterday. She's impulsive… which is one of the things I love about her. And… as… strange as it may be for me to accept, when I can't be there… I feel like she's a little safer when you or Neal is backing her up. Thank you."
Moz shrugged, blinked at him, and he went on.
"And I suppose that's because I've come to trust you both to back me up, and I know you'll do even more for her." Peter sipped his wine again.
The con man looked at the agent for a long, appraising moment. He felt like there was something different about the man standing there in the moonlight. Something elegant. Almost like a Bond, instead of a Burke. Amazing what Elizabeth brings out in people. Well, in him. Shaking himself out of his reverie, he glanced toward the house. "I was glad to help her, Suit. Well, not glad, but happy. Again, perhaps not happy –" he stopped, and they grinned at each other for a brief second before looking away. Moz took a breath. "You're welcome."
The evening hush settled in for a few minutes, before Peter spoke again. "There's something else."
"Oh?" Mozzie filled his glass once more, and stared at the empty bottle.
"Yeah." Peter took a few steps and turned, leaning against the railing as he swirled his glass. "I'd like to know what your intentions are."
Mozzie nearly choked. "I beg your pardon? My intentions toward your wife?"
"No." Peter shook his head, a gentle grin gracing his handsome features. "I want to know what your intentions are regarding Neal."
"Ah." The little man rose, and walked over to stand near the railing of the patio with Peter. "I think we're on the same page as far as Neal is concerned."
"Are we?" The response snapped out a little more harshly than the agent intended. Mozzie seemed unfazed.
"We both want him to be happy, don't we?"
Now Peter sighed. "You know what I mean."
"Yes, I do. And I think we're both well aware that Neal is a big boy, and capable of making his own decisions."
"Of course he is. But we also both know that he…" The taller man hesitated, looked up at the sky for words. "He tends to…"
Mozzie spoke quietly. "He looks up to us."
Another sigh. "Yeah."
"And you're afraid, since he and I have worked together so long, that I'm going to lead him astray."
"Well, Moz, I can't say that it hasn't crossed my mind." The agent gave him an ironic grin.
Mozzie turned to lean back against the rail. "I'd say I was surprised that you don't trust me, but then, you are a suit."
"It's not even that, Moz. I know your record. I probably know more than you think I do. But you've helped me so many times… times when it didn't seem that you got anything out of it but the same thing I do – the satisfaction of knowing the right thing was done." He shook his head. "I think Neal gets that same satisfaction. I don't want him to throw away everything he's worked for."
"Oh, Suit, Suit, Suit. You stand there saying you want what's best for Neal, that you want him to be happy, but you're absolutely sure that he'll be happier doing what you want him to do…"
"And you think he'll be happier doing what? What you want him to do?" A tense moment came and went, drifting away on the evening breeze. "Are we actually supposing that we sit on either shoulder, tempting him to do what's right or wrong? That either one of us has that much power?" Peter took a breath, and let it out. "Maybe you're right, Moz. Maybe we both need to let go and let him do what's right… for him."
They stared at each other for a few minutes in the deepening night. Suddenly the outdoor light went on, and they blinked against the brightness. They heard El's voice before their eyes adjusted enough to see her. "Sorry to interrupt, but Satch needs to go out." She paused a moment and looked at their expressions, lifting one eyebrow. "You boys need anything? …More wine, some snacks… a mediator? " The barest hint of a smile touched her lips as she stepped out with the dog, and somehow, both Peter and Moz found themselves grinning back at her.
"I'm good, sweetheart. Thank you."
"I'm good, too." The con man's response sounded oddly defensive, and Peter turned to look at him. The small grin grew to a barely concealed laugh.
"Just who are you trying to convince, Moz?"
Mozzie rolled his eyes and was about to respond when Neal stuck his head out. "Hey." The two men on the patio looked at him, looked at each other, and back to him. It made him shift nervously. "Everything all right out here?"
Peter spoke first. "Mozzie and I were just looking at the stars. And talking about the future."
"The fault, dear Suit, is not in our stars but in ourselves, to paraphrase the bard." His glasses caught the light as he looked back at Peter. The agent chuckled.
"So you're saying it's inevitable. What about the first part of that line. 'Men are at some times master of their fates'?"
Neal frowned. Clearly he was part of this discussion, but for the life of him, he didn't understand how. "Ah… guys?" His two closest friends looked back at him, and he felt like he was under a microscope. "Are we having dessert?"
Peter nodded, putting a hand on Neal's shoulder. "Absolutely. I'd love to have dessert." He looked to his side. "You coming, Moz?"
Mozzie put his hand on Neal's other shoulder and gave him a smug look. "Every step of the way."
…please feed the author…