Mozzie dreamed of Neal and Kate a thousand miles over the ocean, sipping wine while Neal caressed Kate's face with the delicate wonder only ever reserved for art pieces worth millions. A little intimate, a little private, a little too much information, yes, but this was Neal and Kate, and any image starring them would be nothing but the aesthetically pleasing image of happily ever after.
It was all wonderfully prophetic until the image backed itself up outside the plane and the plane exploded. Not so prophetic after all. Then Mozzie's cell rang. It was June, she'd just gotten a call from Elizabeth. The plane exploded. Kate's dead. Neal's in jail.
Mozzie never wanted to dream again.
At one point Mozzie contemplated (for exactly one point two seconds) just how much he had told Neal so. Guys like them didn't get the white picket fence and the PTA life – they didn't get happily ever after. In that one point two seconds of recollection, Mozzie thought he was going to be sick.
Neal had had happily ever after in the palm of his hand, and it blew up. Literally. That wasn't what Mozzie had meant. Damn it, that wasn't what he had meant at all.
Mozzie had a feeling it was going to be a while before he could ever bring himself to say “I told you so.”
You think yourself thoroughly prepared, then...
Of course there would be an aftermath. Of course Neal wouldn't take both Kate dead and him stuck back behind bars well. Of course Neal wasn't going to be a pretty sight. And of course it was still a kick right to the solar plexis seeing Neal trying to curl into himself against the hard plastic chair of the visitor's table.
Of course Neal was going to be a mess with only a night between now and yesterday, when Kate had been violently ripped from him, only a few steps away then gone in a blink. But Mozzie hadn't had a clue just how much of a mess Neal would be – pale, unshaven, hands shaking. There was a cough, just a little congestion Neal assured him, his voice sandpaper rough as though a sore throat was already kicking in (as though he'd been screaming).
“Blast lung or something,” Neal rasped, dismissive, as though having a little blood in the lungs was no big deal. Which it wasn't so long as he wasn't drowning in it. “Cleared up and left a little present behind.” He twitched a ghost of a smile. “No big deal.”
“Uh-huh,” was all Mozzie could say, a pathetic bobbing of his head all he could do. And he hated it with a passion that would have him suing the ass off the FBI for the mere inconvenience of making him feel so utterly useless.
“You can attend Kate's funeral,” Mozzie said. Which may have been something, except, “Except there are conditions.”
Kate's funeral was the epitome of depressing: an empty casket swallowed by the ground, Neal in chains, watching as armed goons who didn't give a damn watched him. The Suit was there, Mrs. Suit, June and that was it. They were here for Neal, not Kate; a rather hard truth to swallow. As lovely as the support was, Mozzie couldn't begin to imagine how much it had to suck for Neal, the only one thinking of Kate while everyone else thought of him.
For Neal's sake, Mozzie talked about Kate. “Remember the time...” But it was for Neal, not Kate, that he remembered.
Mozzie wasn't sure who to mourn – the dead girl or the heart-sick boy. It was difficult not to think of one without ending up thinking about the other, juggling back and forth, two ends of the same magnet, never touching, so close and yet so far. But if it were a contest, Neal would have won. Obviously, because Neal was still alive and still suffering.
It was a twisted sort of suffering. Neal being Neal dressed in his crumbling mask of self-composure while his body wasted away around him. Inevitable, really, when one fought too hard to be all right. Mozzie had read the books, mostly because he was bored and, yes, mostly because he liked to stay on top of his own health, mental and otherwise. Insomnia, loss of appetite, loss of weight, loss of the will to give a damn about his appearance. To see Neal each time was to see a little more lost.
The kid was killing himself, and doing it with a smile on his face.
“Found a way to get me out?”
“Legally or otherwise?”
Neal chuffed, then coughed. He couldn't blame it on blast lung, not this time. “Legally would be nice.”
Mozzie sighed. “Otherwise would have been easier. Legally I'm still working on, but as much as I hate to admit it, at this rate, the Suit will probably have you out long before I will.” It hurt to say, it really did, but even Mozzie couldn't deny that the Suit was trying. Mrs. Suit kept Mozzie updated via updating June.
Speaking of Mrs. Suit and June...
“Here,” Mozzie said, setting a paper sack on the table. “Compliments of two very concerned lady friends.” He slid the sack toward Neal and patted it. “Contained within this simple brown sack of pulped tree are snack foods of the kind that if not eaten will bring down the righteous indignation of those two very concerned ladies that will make the Apocalypse seem like a day at Disney Land. So do yourself a favor: eat them, enjoy them, get meat on your bones and make the concerned ladies happy.”
Neal smiled, almost genuine, it seemed, and took the sack. “Tell the concerned ladies in question thank you--”
“I mean it,” Mozzie found himself cutting in. He frowned at Neal. “Don't think for a second I don't know what's going on. As your lawyer, I have within my power the means of keeping tabs on you.”
“Okay?” Neal drawled.
Mozzie slammed his palm on the table. “Don't okay me, Neal!”
Neal flinched, regarding Mozzie like he would a sinister stranger.
Mozzie softened. “I mean it. I know it's... been difficult. That you miss her so much it hurts--” He grimaced then sagged. His brain a bottomless pit of words and he couldn't dig up the right ones to save his life. To save Neal's life.
If anything, he was making it worse: Neal's cracked mask was starting to crumble.
“I'm sorry,” Mozzie said quickly. “Just... make the concerned ladies happy and take care of yourself. Some of those snacks looked expensive, so they should be right up your alley.”
The crumbling stopped, and Neal's pallid smile made a sickly comeback. “I will, Moz.”
Mozzie beat a hasty retreat. He didn't know which was worse, Neal's facade or that the facade was failing.
“Yeah, that's me. You're Neal's lawyer.”
“Yep, got a problem with that?”
“No. No sir. We've been treating Neal good, keeping him away from the guys he helped put away--”
“That's not what I need to know. It's nice to know that I don't have to worry about him getting shanked, but what I really want to know is... er... well... has he been... crying at all?”
“Yes, crying. Shedding a few tears. Or maybe you caught him with his face buried in his hands? Maybe heard a few... I don't know... hiccuping breaths?”
“Kind of an weird thing to ask, if you don't mind my saying so.”
“I have my reasons.”
“I don't know if he's been crying. I know he hasn't been sleeping good, will wake up shouting sometimes, isn't much for conversation.”
“Oh. Well, if you do ever happen to see a few tear stains on his face, give me a call. It's a secure line, non traceable. Completely safe.”
“Why? This top secret or something?”
“Of course! We're talking about whether or not a man is crying, here. Like hell I'm letting The Man find out. They could use it to blackmail him. They could use it to blackmail me!”
“So we never had this conversation, right?”
Art supplies were frowned upon by the prison, especially where Neal Caffrey was concerned (he was no longer allowed cassette tapes). But a couple of persistent threats full of legal mumbo-jumbo saw Neal with a sketchpad and charcoal. Whether it was the threats or endless barrage of legalese driving the warden to the edge of his sanity that won this round, Mozzie didn't know, and he refused to play dentist to a gift horse. All that mattered was that the art supplies were now in Neal's hands.
Neal was one of those oddly contradictory people whose ego is selective: smug to the brink of being annoying over his forgeries, caught between blasé and self-deprecating when it came to his own work. But he didn't draw and paint to wow the world with his artistic prowess – that was what his forgeries were for. He drew and painted for himself and only himself, to relax, to think, to keep his head on straight.
He was an artist, Mozzie had realized, not because he was insane, but because it kept him sane. He needed the control only a paint brush or pencil could provide. He needed art, even if he thought the art world didn't need him.
Right now, as Mozzie reclined on his bed in Monday, sipping wine in triumph, he imagined Neal filling page after page with Kate's face. And it would be Kate's face, which Neal would rip from the pad and tape all over his cell...
No. No, he wouldn't do that. He would keep them in the book, hide the book under his mattress, keep her where she would never be oggled by strangers or taken away by guards. Kept where only Neal could see her, remember her, and break his heart all over again for her.
Mozzie felt less triumphant.
“Uh... Mr. Moz?”
“Speaking. And to whom am I speaking to?”
“Bobby, sir. You wanted me to call if I thought Neal might be crying. Well, I haven't heard any sobbing. But he was drawing, even though it wasn't bright enough, and I'm pretty sure... no, no, definitely sure I saw his face wet. And not in the way it would be if he'd washed his face. He don't wash his face until he goes to bed, and he wasn't going to bed.”
“So... you're saying he cried?”
“Yes, sir. Definitely. Is it okay if I ask why it's so important he cries?”
“Well, Bobby, I'll tell you. Because he needed to.”
Mozzie eyed Neal up and down. “Lift. Now.”
Neal rolled his eyes. “Seriously? Moz...”
Neal made known his protest with a flippant remark about Mozzie buying him dinner, first. But he did as told and lifted his shirt. Mozzie leaned in close for a thorough scrutiny.
Definitely less painful pronouncement Neal's ribs. Mozzie sat back, folded his arms, and grinned. “Congratulations, you look less like someone's neglected puppy.”
“Gee, thanks,” Neal dead-panned as he adjusted his shirt back around a body that, though still too lean, was no longer the angular skinniness of last week. He sat down. “You weren't kidding about those snacks, Moz.”
“Of course. Would I steer you wrong on matters of taste and culture?”
Neal smiled. For once, it actually reached his eyes. “Never.”
“Good. So how are you? 'The Man' treating you okay? You're eating more than just high-end snacks, right?”
“I'm fine, mom.”
Mozzie nodded. “Humor. I will take that and the fact that you've shaved as a good sign.”
Neal chuckled, which would also be easy to take as a good sign, as Mozzi'es cue to stop worrying, sit back, and wait for Suit to rip through the red tape and get Neal the hell out of here. Except it was premature. Of course it was premature.
Kate was gone, taken before Neal had a chance to hug her, to brush his fingers over her face in awe-struck wonder. Taken, and taking their happily ever after with her.
It was too soon to say all was well. Quite the contrary. Mozzie continued to worry. He would have to make sure the Suit continued to worry, too.
“I do feel a lot better,” Neal said.
Mozzie dipped his chin. “Uh-huh. But I'm still keeping an eye on you. What kind of lawyer would I be, otherwise?”
What kind of friend?
Neal's smile was full of mirth, his eyes full of something else, something soft, almost affectionate, like a silent thanks. Guys like them didn't get happily ever afters. But if there was a chance, a sliver of possibility or a loophole in the unwritten rules of the universe that would let Neal have a happily ever after after all, then Mozzie was going to make damn sure Neal was around to get it.