Once Neal was released from prison and put back on the anklet, Mozzie made it a habit of not having a routine. He dropped in at all hours under the pretense of needing more wine or a sounding board for his latest job or a place to crash for the night. Sometimes he brought food, and sometimes he brought distractions, but he made it a point to just be there whenever he could.
Neal was putting on a brave face, but he wasn't as experienced with it as he was with all his other façades, and Mozzie saw the raw pain and fear underneath. The younger man was reeling from Kate's death, and someone needed to keep an eye on him. Mozzie certainly didn't trust the Suit to do it.
It was a Saturday, and at half past eight in the morning, Mozzie greeted June's housekeeper, Eleanor, with a smile and the next book in the mystery series she'd been borrowing from him. She informed him that June was out of town and Neal hadn't accepted breakfast even though Frederic, the chef, had prepared something per June's request. Mozzie thanked her with a Shakespeare quote and headed upstairs.
When he made it up to the fourth floor, Neal's door was shut and locked, which wasn't unusual but wasn't the norm either. It only took him a few seconds to pick, and he made a mental note to talk to June about installing something more secure if Neal really wanted privacy.
“Neal?” Mozzie called out as he stepped into the apartment. The curtains had all been drawn, but they were sheer enough to allow plenty of light to see the lump of what he assumed to be half-human, half-blankets on the bed. On one hand, Mozzie was pleased as Neal had become somewhat of an insomniac recently, but on the other, Neal hated sleeping late and was usually a pretty bouncy ball of energy around dawn.
“Whatszit? Huh? Go 'way,” Neal mumbled from somewhere under the covers.
Mozzie wasn't going to be deterred that easily. He poked around the sheets until he found Neal's head near the foot of the mattress. “What's wrong? Are you sick?”
“Don't get sick,” Neal replied in a rough voice as he tried to duck away from Mozzie's hand, which found its way to his sweaty forehead anyway.
Making a face, Mozzie pulled away and wiped his whole forearm on his pants. “You have a fever.”
Neal rolled away and coughed into the blankets. “Do not. 'S cold in here.”
“No, it's not. And please tell me you stocked up on hand sanitizer and Lysol.” Mozzie headed toward the bathroom while Neal groaned and muttered something about never getting sick.
He begged to differ; there had been a time in Brussels when Kate had pulled a job alone because Neal was stuck inside with pneumonia so severe that he could barely breathe, much less speak. Mozzie had left them the week before to scout out a score in Cologne, and by the time he got back to their rented flat, Neal's lips had started to turn blue. He'd made an executive decision and dragged Neal to the nearest hospital without hesitation. Kate had been pissed about the whole thing, but he hadn't cared. Neal's health was always non-negotiable.
The bathroom wasn't well stocked for illness, but he was able to find something that would hopefully bring down Neal's fever. After he washed his hands three times, he wet a washcloth for Neal's head, and then filled a glass of water in the kitchen on his way back to his friend.
“Hey,” Mozzie said as he placed his goods on the nightstand. He reached out and pulled the covers back until Neal protested. “Can you sit up for a minute? We need to get some Tylenol and water in you.”
Neal cracked his eyes open and sighed, which set off a round of coughs. All he really wanted was sleep, but he knew from experience that Mozzie would nag him until he at least took the medicine. He pushed himself up on shaky arms and moved so that he was leaning against the headboard.
“You're a mess.” Mozzie didn't have any other way to put it as he handed off two pills and the glass. Neal's tee was sweat-stained, his eyes were bloodshot, and he looked absolutely miserable. He was curled up with his knees drawn to his chest. One arm was wrapped around his legs while the other hand held the glass. “How do you feel?”
Neal blinked once and shot him the most affronted look that he could muster. “Lousy.”
“Is this Brussels lousy or Côte d'Azur lousy?” Mozzie needed a gauge here, and he was pretty sure that Neal had been faking the flu on the Riviera so that he and Kate could get some alone time.
Neal's gaze lost with little focus it had as he sank into memories of Kate and that trip. Neal had recovered rapidly from his alleged illness, just in time for the Jazz Festival in Nice. Mozzie had hung back, sampling all the best wines while Neal sang Leonard Cohen's “Dance Me to the End of Love” and “Hallelujah” along with the man himself and danced Kate down the avenues. The music wasn't really her thing, but she played nice for a couple of nights and let Neal have his fun. He'd never been sure that she was the right girl for Neal, but the kid had fallen hard and fast.
Mozzie cursed under his breath when tears started to fall down Neal's cheeks. The younger man never made a sound, but his pain was nearly palpable. Before Mozzie could begin to figure out how to comfort him, there was a knock at the door.
Neal flinched and whimpered at the sudden sound. Mozzie patted his back as Neal hid his wet face in his knees and arms.
The knock turned into pounding, and Mozzie jerked open the door enough to slide out before closing it again. “Suit.”
Peter looked from Mozzie to the door and back again, confused. “Is Neal here? I need him. Boxleitner's making his move, and I gotta get him mic-ed up in the van.”
“First of all, it's a Saturday.” Mozzie spoke slowly, hoping the Fed would give up and just leave. When Peter only raised an eyebrow, he continued, “And secondly, he's sick, so he's not going anywhere.”
“He was fine when I dropped him off last night. This isn't a game, Mozzie. I need him to bring this embezzler down.” Peter tried to step around the shorter man to reach for the knob, but Mozzie blocked his attempt by taking a step back and pressing himself to the door.
“I don't think you heard me.” He crossed his arms over his chest and stared down the Man. He'd never been able to pull off physical intimidation, but Mozzie had other tools in his arsenal, and he refused to be the first to blink or break eye contact. "He is not going to go to work today. Do you understand?"
Peter took a step back and put his hands on his hips, not so subtly displaying the weapon in his shoulder holster. “Dammit, Mozzie!”
He stood his ground while trying to appeal to Peter's more compassionate side. He really didn't want to get into a shouting match when Neal was about to break apart inside at the slightest sound. “Neal needs a break, Suit. He's sick, and he needs to rest.”
It wasn't as if everyone hadn't been able to see how ragged Neal was running himself. The bags under his eyes had bags of their own, he was pale and shaky, and he jumped at pretty much any loud noise. Peter paced a couple of steps away and then back a few times as he rubbed a hand over his mouth. Finally, he stopped and turned back to the other man. “Is he okay?”
Mozzie frowned but nodded. “He will be.”
Peter pressed his lips together for a moment before giving a decisive nod. “Okay, fine. We'll do this one without him. Tell him to call me when he's feeling better.”
“Okay,” Mozzie agreed. He waited until he heard Peter close the front door downstairs before he went back inside.
Neal had curled up on his side and tugged the blankets back up to his chin. “Is he gone?” he rasped through a dry and sore throat.
“Yeah.” Mozzie patted his shoulder twice before sliding his hand up to check Neal's temperature again. It was about the same. “Get some sleep while I go out and get some supplies to disinfect you and your apartment.”
Neal nodded and reached out to grasp the older man's arm before he could leave. “Thanks, Moz.”
Mozzie gave him a soft smile, and then pulled away so that he could exaggeratedly wipe his arm on his pants. “I'm going to have to burn these clothes now, you know.”
Neal cracked a smile at the absurdity but honesty of that, and then coughed. “Sorry.”
Shaking his head, Mozzie busied himself with getting a fresh glass of water for the bedside table and re-wetting the washcloth to place over Neal's eyes and forehead. Once he was sure that Neal was settled and sleeping and that the Suits wouldn't be barging in to drag him off to the van, he slipped out for his supply run. He left Eleanor with instructions to call him if anyone bothered Neal, and then he was on his way to Tuesday to pick up his own homemade disinfectant before Neal's germs spread any further.
Thanks for reading!