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Date Night

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Neal poured two glasses of Lafite and carried them to the table, where Mozzie was spreading out blueprints, weighing down their curling edges with a pair of pliers, a coffee mug, a book and a pack of cards. It was dusk, and the windows and skylight were misted with condensation from the drizzly winter day, but Neal's apartment was otherwise cozy, and the red-shaded lamp cast a warm glow. "Is that the Chicago Art Institute?"

"National Gallery in Washington," said Mozzie. "I thought we could start on the east coast and work our way west, then hop across to Japan."

"Hypothetically," said Neal, taking the seat next to him and leaning in so their shoulders bumped. There was something nostalgic and exhilarating about the smell of blueprints after all this time. It made Neal's pulse pick up.

"Hypothetically for now," Mozzie corrected, seemingly oblivious. He peered through his glasses at the floor plan of the main entrance and tapped a capped marker thoughtfully against the paper. Without looking, he reached for his glass and took a sip. "'Nothing happens unless first a dream.'"

"Carl Sandburg." Neal hid a grin and inched his chair closer so their knees were pressed together. Mozzie knew perfectly well that Neal had no intention of resuming his former life of crime—at least, not on the same scale as before—but if he wanted to pretend otherwise, that was a harmless enough fiction, and Neal much preferred planning imaginary museum break-ins to watching cheesy pai gow movies or televised opera. "Good point. So, the National Gallery. Rest room or janitor's closet?"

Mozzie cast him a sideways glance. "I have never had sex in a restroom, and I'm too old to start now."

"Noted." Neal let his fingertips drift casually down Mozzie's arm, brushing the sleeve of his rumpled cotton shirt, teasing him. "We could always go crazy and do it in the main gallery."

"Oh, right. I can just imagine the security guards reviewing the footage." Mozzie affected a gruff accent. "'Now there's something you don't see every day: two art thieves doing it in front of The Martyrdom of Saint Catherine."

"We could start a trend," said Neal, leaning in to nuzzle his neck. "Give the FBI something to talk about."

"Thanks, but no thanks. I'd rather stay as far off their radar as I can, if it's all the same to you." Mozzie sounded faintly irritated, but he arched his neck into Neal's touch, and his hand was sliding up Neal's thigh. "I still don't see why we can't help ourselves to a few souvenirs along the way. These sexcapades are really beneath us."

"Speak for yourself," said Neal, but his attention was focused on Mozzie's hand and where it was going to go next.

Mozzie breathed a sigh. "Are we planning this break-in or not?"

"Maybe later." Neal cupped Mozzie's jaw and gently brought their mouths together. There was always a fractional hesitation when they first kissed, a moment's pause as if Mozzie needed to consciously lower his defenses and let Neal in. As if Mozzie was choosing to do this despite his natural inclination for solitude and privacy. It gave Neal a thrill, like running a tiny con. Of course, once they were past the initial hesitation, all bets were off. Mozzie was a man of moods: sometimes his mind was focused solely on schemes, plots and conspiracies or whatever project was at hand; other times he was more than willing to be distracted.

This was one of the latter occasions, if Mozzie's unbuttoning Neal's shirt was anything to go by, and Neal edged closer, returning the favor, when they were interrupted by a peremptory knock on the door.

Mozzie jerked away. "You didn't say you were expecting anyone."

"I wasn't," said Neal. He ran his hand through his hair, fastened his shirt and went to answer it, calling, "Who is it?"

"It's Peter," came the muffled reply. Neal opened the door a crack, and sure enough, there stood Peter. "I come bearing wine and case files," he said. "We've got a new lead on the Fulton Brewer case."

He made to move past Neal, but Neal stood his ground. "Sorry, Peter. It's date night," he said. "That means no FBI agents and no case files."

Peter raised his eyebrows, startled, and craned to see over Neal's shoulder. "Date night with Mozzie?"

"Yes," said Neal, chin up, silently daring him to make something of it. "Date night with Mozzie. And me. Me and Moz."

There was a clatter behind him, as if some heavy objects had been knocked off the table. In front of him, Peter's eyes widened slightly, but he nodded and stepped back. "Well—" He blinked a couple of times. "—good for you. For both of you. So long as you're not hatching any illegal schemes—"

Neal rolled his eyes and carefully didn't confirm or deny. "Good-bye, Peter," he said instead, moving to close the door.

"I guess the case can wait till tomorrow." Peter tucked the files under his arm and held out the bottle he'd brought. "Do you want this?"

Neal glanced at the label, which bore a cartoon cat. "Thanks, but—I don't think so. I'll see you tomorrow."

He closed the door and turned to see Mozzie retrieving a pair of pliers and a pack of cards from the floor beside the table. Mozzie looked up. "You told him."

"Can't keep it secret forever, right?" Neal shrugged casually, shoving his hands in his pockets and trying to gauge Mozzie's reaction.

Mozzie put the fallen objects back on the table and came over to poke Neal in the chest. His face was flushed. "You didn't have to blurt it out like that."

"Is it okay?" Neal asked. They hadn't talked about telling people, let alone coming out to the FBI, and Neal hadn't planned to say anything. It had just spilled out. "I can probably convince him it was a joke, if you want to put it back under wraps."

"No." Mozzie clasped Neal's shoulder and reached up to kiss him, quick and clumsy, making Neal's heart melt a little. "It's—it's good. Unexpected, but—" He cleared his throat and quoted, "'The man who can keep a secret may be wise, but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep.'"

"That doesn't sound like your usual line," said Neal, pulling him close and hugging the breath out of him. They were a couple. Peter knew, and he'd definitely tell Elizabeth. Maybe Diana and Jones too. Their relationship had just graduated to a new level, and Neal found himself oddly moved.

In the circle of Neal's arms, Mozzie drew himself up to his full height. "Context is everything," he said with some dignity. "There are secrets and secrets. I trust you to know the difference."

"I do, Moz," said Neal quietly. "You can trust me."

Mozzie shook his head. "That's a pretty hackneyed line coming from a con artist." But his gaze dropped to Neal's mouth, and he licked his lips.

"Okay, then," said Neal, angling in for another kiss. "We're good. Now, where were we?"

"You were talking about us having sex in front of a sixteenth century masterpiece, like a pair of reckless exhibitionists," said Mozzie against his mouth. "You know, right now I'd settle for the Chrysler Building as an audience." He shepherded Neal toward the bed with an innocent air Neal knew to be fake. "If we're going to have sex in every major museum from east coast to west, I think it's important that we get plenty of practice in private before we start."

Neal grinned, pushed Mozzie gently onto the bed and followed after, looking down at him, friend and boyfriend, prickly, complicated and steadfast. Mozzie was a collection of challenges, an endless puzzle, never dull. "Sounds like a plan." Neal pushed the cotton shirt aside to kiss Mozzie's shoulder. "Count me in."

 

END