Working with Neal was a study in stress.
Oh, he was brilliant, mostly, there was no denying that. It was just…Neal was ever so slightly blasé about personal safety, and if there was one thing Mozzie refused to be blasé about, it was personal safety. After all, as long as you assumed that everything was about to kill you, it was very difficult to be surprised.
Sometimes Mozzie thought it was a miracle Neal had made it as long as he had without getting killed in at least a dozen nasty ways. It probably had something to do with the charm that Mozzie was unable to duplicate, though even with that Neal'd had a couple near misses in their time as compadres.
If he'd been worried prison would crush Neal's spirit, he shouldn't have. He emerged, newly leashed and as reckless as ever, only this time he wasn't even getting anything for it. And it seemed like every other week the Suit was putting him undercover in some kind of den of thugs, and if there was one thing Neal was not, it was a thug.
"How many times have you had a gun pointed at you this week?" Mozzie asked, poaching another glass of wine from Neal's (excellent) collection.
"Only twice," Neal said, with the grin that Mozzie occasionally hated pasted broadly on his face. "That's a new low, I think."
Mozzie stayed standing. "And when was the last heist where you got a gun pointed at you?" He demanded.
"More than four years ago, that's for sure," Neal said, just a bit too lightly. "What's your point?"
"I'm only making an observation," Mozzie said, because telling Neal he was worried would be like – well, it wouldn't work very well. Neal would just brush it off and grin and tease and not change at all.
He made a private list of names to call if Neal ended up dead in the line of duty. Mrs. Suit was all right, but that didn't mean he wouldn't make the Suit's life a living hell if he killed (the indomitable) Neal Caffrey.
A month in, Neal blithely agreed to help pry some information on a money laundering scheme out of a rogue mob element. Despite all Mozzie's warnings.
Mozzie spent the day very nearly chewing on his nails and watching the phone, fully prepared for someone to inform him that Neal had been killed. Or worse. (The Suit didn't have his number, of course. But he had his own ways of getting information.)
When the call came, the information had been successfully retrieved, and Neal was in the hospital with a graze wound. Mozzie couldn't decide if he was relieved or dismayed.
He braved the contagion of the medical institute to see Neal (when he was alone) and found him awake but groggy. He looked pale. "And you said they'd kill me," he said, by way of greeting, and smirked. Mozzie gave him the Flat Stare, but Neal was as uncowed by that as he was by everything, including risk to life and limb. "There was a kid, Mozzie," Neal said, as if that explained everything.
Which it did. Actually. Unfortunately.
You shouldn't have been in that situation to begin with, he wanted to protest, but settled for a, "The Suit giving you some days off?"
Neal made a face. "Strict bedrest. Peter's orders. I'm going to be bored out of my skull." If he had told Neal to stay in bed, Mozzie mused, Neal would have laughed in his face. He was a little disgruntled by the thought.
"I'll bring you some paints," Mozzie offered, and Neal looked almost ridiculously pleased.
After the incident with Wilkes and therefore a lot more black marks against the Suit in Mozzie's book, he brought it up with Mrs. Suit during their weekly board game. He meant to come around to it gradually, but instead it just sort of burst out as, "I think the Suit is reckless with Neal's life."
Elizabeth blinked. "Peter?" She said, sounding slightly incredulous, and Mozzie grimaced. Inwardly.
"It seems that every other week he's in the line of fire. And Neal's…" How did he put this…delicately. "Neal can be an idiot sometimes."
Mrs. Suit did not, to his relief, look terribly angry. Just puzzled. "I know," she said. "Peter's mentioned it. He worries."
Mozzie paused. It had not occurred to him that the Suit might worry about Neal's tendency to leap first and look later as well. Suits did not worry about cons, supposedly ex or otherwise. It was just not the way things worked.
"Maybe you should talk to him," Mrs. Suit said, after a few moments of silence. "About your worries?"
"Talk to Neal?" Mozzie hoped his tone indicated his incredulity. Mrs. Suit laughed, so apparently she understood.
"No," she said. "Talk to Peter."
Absolutely not, Mozzie thought. No. Never. The idea was absurd.
Another week, another hospital trip. This one for a concussion. "A disturbing trend presents itself to me," Mozzie said, stepping up next to the Suit as he stopped for a cab. His head snapped around and he stared at Mozzie for a second before seeming to recognize him.
"Mr. Haversham," he said cautiously. Mozzie nodded in approval, though all his instincts were rebelling. One simply did not get this close to a Suit. It was dangerous. The things he did for Neal.
"During the years I have known Neal," Mozzie said, "He has been in the hospital a total of three times prior to this year."
The Suit's eyes sharpened. "And how many times could you or he not make it to one for various reasons?"
Mozzie sidestepped the question. "It seems to me that Neal has been risking life and limb a great deal more often."
"Does it." He did not like that tone. Mozzie slipped his hands into his pockets.
"I make no accusations," he said piously.
"Well then," the Suit said, decidedly tersely, "When you find a way to keep Caffrey from risking his own neck every chance he gets, let me know, please."
Ah, thought Mozzie, rather abruptly, I recognize that tone. Well, not exactly. But he'd heard something close to it a few times. Out of his own mouth. Rather uncomfortable realization, that.
He let the Suit depart.
Another month, and a hostage situation Neal very nearly didn't walk out of. Strictly speaking, didn't walk out of, given how very thoroughly he'd been beaten once they'd determined his identity (snitch). The laundry list was impressive. This time when Mozzie got to the hospital (wearing a mask, of course) he was unconscious, bruises livid on his face. Mozzie sat down and made elaborate plans for the hits he would hypothetically issue on the men responsible.
"I wouldn't have agreed to it," he heard from the door. "If he'd said something…I had a bad feeling. It seemed too neat."
Mozzie cut off his list of hits and turned his head just enough to see the Suit. "I didn't know you were here," he said.
The Suit nodded at Neal. "Said they'd cuff him if no one was supervising." He let out a sharp breath through his nose. "He never listens."
"He listens fine," Mozzie said, defensively. And then he frowned at Neal on the bed, who looked young and bruised. And amended, "Mostly."
"How do you manage that?" the Suit asked, sounding beleaguered. Mozzie assessed the question and decided that no answer was probably the best answer, particularly given he was not sure it was entirely true.
Neal was not, Mozzie thought, going to be turned into a law-abiding Suit tagalong. No. But an extra pair of eyes might not hurt. Perhaps. If this partnership was going to last any amount of time – and Neal seemed inclined to let it – it might well be necessary.
"The less often you tell him not to do something the better," Mozzie said, and then shut his mouth. He was feeling distinctly uncomfortable and twitchy with this prolonged exposure to a fed.
"That's your advice?" The Suit sounded incredulous. Mozzie picked up his things.
"Suit," he said, with his best imitation of courtesy, and headed for the door, ignoring the Suit's call of "wait!" after him.
If not capable hands, at least Neal was in acceptable ones. Probably.
Mozzie would keep a close ear to the ground. And keep that list of contacts handy. Just in case.