Disclaimer: White Collar belongs to USA Network and Jeff Eastin
So 2:22AM was the exact time that those famous blue eyes were imprinted on him. Not sparkling with mischief, or smoldering with seduction, but bloodshot from exhaustion and sorrow and wide with fear.
The boy was so still and his gaze unblinking that for an instant Mozzie thought he might be looking at a corpse, he was naked after all. Perhaps he had been killed and dumped here.
But no, thankfully he was alive, if obviously not well. The young boy's body, while clearly that of a child was oddly adult like, lean though not underweight and muscled like a laborer or even a body builder. The heavily callused hands and feet spoke more to the former than the latter. His left ankle had a dirty plaster cast on it, split open and held together with torn strips of blue and white striped fabric. Mozzie spotted more of it in the corner, one piece with Summertown Infirmary stamped on it. He filed the information away for a later date.
Despite the darkness of the boy's tan, the abuse his body had undergone was all too clear; deep bruises in every shade of black through yellow and a myriad of welts, some scabbed over, others a deep purple. He did his best not to stare but the kid was in such bad shape it was hard not to.
When he looked back at those eyes he was staggered to see that although they had now filled with tears, they shone with hope and the boy was actually smiling at him.
"Are you..here..to take me? Are…we…going now…to heaven?"
He was tripping over his words in what appeared to be something approaching breathless excitement.
Years later, while sitting waiting for the mail train to get them out of Milan fast, Neal told him that he had never seen a bald person before and as Mozzie bent over the box, one of the bright overhead lights shone behind him giving him a halo, convincing Neal that he was an angel.
His girl had told him that when things got so bad that they thought they could go on no more, an angel would come for them and take him to a life free of pain and fear. It was a story she had comforted him with so many times and he had believed it so completely, that after a brief, terrifying look out at the hustle and bustle of New York City he had found the box and stayed there, with every intention of remaining until the angel came.
Mozzie had been about to laugh at the story, but then Neal had leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and whispered "Thank you" and in that instant he realized that he had literally saved Neal's life. That he really would have stayed put until he died (or someone far worse than Mozzie came along to claim him, which scared him more).
The gesture, so uncharacteristic of his friend, moved Mozzie to tears and as he turned away to mask his emotion with a mumbled, "You're welcome" he spotted the large cardboard box leaning up against one of the platform pillars that Neal had been looking at beforehand.
Unfortunately for Neal at the time Mozzie found him, having no knowledge of this, Mozzie snorted his reply.
"God, No! We're headed for Hell's Kitchen!"
The boy's expression immediately became one of sheer terror, the tears of joy that had seconds before balanced on dark lashes, started streaming down his cheeks, leaving deep tracks in his dirty face. His whole body began shaking violently as he tried to push himself back deeper into the corner of the box.
"But he was going to kill us, he was going to burn us alive! He hurt my girl real bad, we didn't know what to do, I couldn't stop him, I tried my best, I really did, but I couldn't stop him!"
"Okay, okay kid. Pipe down for god's sake!" Mozzie hissed, trying to put his hands on the boy to calm him down, but sending him skittering out of reach instead.
"It's just the name of where I live, I'm not talking about the 'real' Hell. I'm taking you somewhere where you'll be safe. You won't be hurt, I promise."
Mozzie had seen enough in his time at the orphanage to know that this kid had been through a lot, more than most could handle. He simply waited beside the box and kept whispering reassurances until the boy had stilled.
"Can you stand on that foot?"
Neal nodded mutely and struggled to get up. He made no effort to cover himself and left the rest of the rags in the box as he hobbled over to the side. After a couple of abortive efforts to lift his injured leg over the edge while balancing on the other, it was clear he was not well enough to get out unaided and his skin had gone pale and clammy.
"Scoot back, kid. I'll tip this thing over and you can crawl out, okay?"
It worked. Mozzie bent down to help him up on unsteady legs. He swayed slightly and for a moment looked like he would go down, but Mozzie held him fast and the color came back to his pain-filled face.
"Stay put." Mozzie ordered as he propped the boy against the wall and stripped off his own shirt to dress him in. Luckily it came down far enough to cover him up and the odd couple slowly shuffled out of the station.
He thought to offer the boy his shoes, but they were too big to be of much help. Fortunately, Mozzie found a luggage cart nearby, the flat kind used to load pallets. He put Neal on it and wheeled him home through Manhattan as if this were the most normal of events. Being so early in the morning worked to their advantage and those few people who did encounter them paid them no heed.
"Only in New York!" Mozzie puffed as he nervously looked around outside his building where he was apartment 'sitting' and left the cart by the curb. It seemed a pity to abandon such a useful piece of equipment, but he knew it would be gone by dawn and he had the distinct feeling that it would be better that he not keep anything that might be associated with the boy's past.
He was right, when he left to get food a few hours later, there was no sign of it and the world was none the wiser that Mozzie had, that morning to all intents and purposes, become a dad.
I know, I know… I am super slow to post. Forgive me please.
And as I am too embarrassed to put a beta through by sloppy writing habits, if you spot an error (plot-wise, grammar or typo) please PM me. I do care about these things and never can spot them myself.
And, as always, if you are following this story please take the time to review it. Don't feel like it? Then check out the author's note at the end of my story Paperwork!