Peter wasn't sure why Neal had suggested Mozzie for this job, but then again, Peter wasn't entirely sure what Mozzie did. Something vaguely illegal and con-artisty, obviously, but the actual details were thin.
Peter knew, of course, that Neal's help wasn't always just Neal. Sometimes Neal's friends and colleagues were working behind the scenes, which was how Peter preferred it. Dealing only with Neal was less complicated, and it left room for plausible deniability (not that Peter liked to think he'd ever need it). But it was especially important when Mozzie was involved, because that was how Mozzie liked to work.
Peter's phone rang. "Peter Burke," he answered.
"Hello, Suit. Neal said I should call you."
Yes, because God forbid Neal should give Peter Mozzie's phone number. (God forbid Mozzie should actually ever call Peter by his name, for that matter, or any name instead of referring to him by label—sometimes in the third person).
"Mozzie," he said, forcing a genial note as if he hadn't heard Mozzie's words. Beggars couldn't be choosers, and Mozzie would be doing him a favor.
Peter took a deep breath. "You really helped me with Neal's birthday, and Elizabeth and I have an anniversary coming up in two weeks…"
"Ah," Mozzie said. "You want to know what to get her."
"Well, no. I want to get tickets for the Met, because she loves opera and we never really go. So, Neal mentioned that you might be able to teach me how to get through it, without dying."
"Dying?" Mozzie sounded appalled.
"Of boredom," Peter clarified.
There was a long silence. "It's possible," Mozzie said. "Remotely. With some training in music appreciation."
"Sounds great!" Peter said. Elizabeth will be thrilled. "Though we can't do it at my place—too suspicious. And I'll have to check my schedule, so I need to call you back. Can I reach you at this number?"
"For the next few hours," Mozzie said.
"Why? Are you going on vacation?"
Peter frowned. "Is the phone going on vacation?"
"What? That's how I work! It comes with the territory."
"Fine." He should have known, Peter thought. "Try not to ditch the phone before dark," he added. "I'll get back to you."
They met at Neal's loft, early the next evening. Neal was out, but Mozzie was there with a stack of CDs. He motioned Peter toward the sofa.
"You're not going to play all of those," Peter said, wondering if it was too late to get tickets to the Ice Capades instead.
"Bits and pieces." Mozzie loaded a disc into the stereo, just as Neal walked in the door.
"Hey," Neal said. "This is quite the operation."
"A crash-course in opera," Mozzie explained. "We'll start with something easy."
"Ooh, 'Carmen'," Neal said. "Nice choice."
"It's the gateway opera," Mozzie said.
Peter leaned forward."The what?"
"Nothing," Mozzie said. "Just listen."
The sounds of a snappy march filled the room, and Mozzie nodded along to the music. "This is the Toreadors' Song," he commented.
"Hey, I know this one!" Peter said. "Nor a lender be," he sang, "Do not forget… stay out of debt."
"Wow. You've really got your work cut out for you," Neal said.
"Nah. It's a generational thing. He can't help it."
"Really? What on earth were they teaching in schools back then?"
"It's from Gilligan's Island," Peter said.
"Oh." Neal looked confused. "Gilligan's Island did a 'Carmen' episode?"'
"'Hamlet', actually," Mozzie said. "Now, shush—we're working."
Neal sat down, and Mozzie played more excerpts from 'Carmen'.
So far, so good, Peter thought. But soon the samples got shorter and shorter, until everything seemed to be rushing past. When Mozzie switched to 'La Boheme', Neal announced that he had some errands to run, and practically bolted downstairs.
Peter had the sudden urge to do the same. "Mozzie," he finally said, "where is all of this going?"
Mozzie stopped waving his invisible baton at his imaginary orchestra. "Oh." He blinked distractedly. "Well, the melodies are glorious, as all of this demonstrates. You've probably heard some of them before, and just never knew where they came from."
Peter nodded. "That's true."
"The storylines tend to be thin, and sometimes they're silly, but the music makes up for it. And the supertitles will help you understand what the characters are singing. Which opera were you thinking of taking Mrs. Suit to?"
"Some treasure-trove thing—"
"'Il Trovatore'? That one's really good."
"—or 'What's-it'? 'Wicket'? 'Wocket'? Something like that."
Mozzie frowned. "I'll bet it's 'Wozzeck.' Definitely not for beginners… Let's work on 'Il Trovatore' for a while."
"I need to leave in about fifteen minutes, or Elizabeth'll start wondering where I am."
"We'll hit the highlights, then. Let's start with the Anvil Chorus."
"Is that a euphemism?" Peter asked.
Mozzie shook his head and poked buttons on the stereo, as earnest as ever. "No."
Three nights later, Peter was sitting beside Elizabeth at the Met, his spirits fortified by after-dinner coffee and the sparkle in Elizabeth's eyes. He'd truly surprised her with the opera, keeping the secret all through their anniversary dinner and letting the truth arrive self-announced when the taxicab deposited them in front of the Met instead of their house.
"Really?" Elizabeth had asked.
"Happy Anniversary," he'd said, kissing her there in the light spilling down from the Opera House's five arched windows.
Now, the two of them sat in the darkness of the theater, holding hands as they watched the opera unfold. Peter couldn't think of anywhere he'd rather be, and he owed it all to the beautiful woman beside him and to the bookish little man who would go almost as far to ensure her happiness as Peter himself.
The onstage scene shifted to a garden, where the soprano and her servant began lamenting the hopelessness of love. Peter smiled as the soprano began the aria Mozzie had played for him just days ago.
Elizabeth leaned in close to whisper in his ear. "Do you know this song?"
Peter nodded along to the music, and whispered just as softly back:
"I do now."
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