Consultant is a Noun, not a Verb
Disclaimer: White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA network.
A/N: Here's the final chapter for this story. This chapter is dedicated to my sister who is a HUGE Mozzie fan :) Sorry it took a bit. Job fair, interview, rejection, mental anguish, life…you get the picture.
"Paranoia is a skill. Isn't that what you always say? I wish I'd have been more paranoid. I'm sorry Moz. This is my fault. I should have known they'd come after you."
Neal was sitting by Mozzie's hospital bed trying not to cry because his best friend was still in a coma; Mozzie was barely recognizable especially without his usual glasses. It was probably a good thing he wasn't awake because Neal didn't look like himself either and Mozzie would have freaked out with all the weight he had lost. Although Neal was tired and exhausted he was not about to miss spending time with Mozzie; the IV fluids from earlier had helped, but he still hadn't had a decent meal.
"Moz…I can't lose you too. It's not fair…it should have been me. They were after me and the music box. You have to wake up, Moz. I need something to live for. If you die…if you die it will be my fault. I can't solve this music box mystery without you. Peter doesn't trust me anymore, and I don't know if I trust him anymore. How could he have kept the music box and not told me? Now all the sudden he's worried about what I'm eating and how I'm doing after three weeks of ignoring me? How am I supposed to eat when my friends are dropping like flies and it's my fault?"
Neal looked down at Mozzie, hoping for a response to his rant, but knowing it was impossible.
"What am I supposed to do Moz? You're my legal counsel! You're supposed to tell me what to do. Funny how this works isn't it? You're supposed to give me legal advice and I'm supposed to give Peter criminal advice so he can figure out how to catch bad guys in a legal way. I feel like a middle man; this is a crazy world. Is this house arrest thing even legal? Don't answer that…not that you could because you're not awake…I know…you don't have to remind me…it's better than prison."
Neal reached for Mozzie's hand; he needed something tangible to hold onto. Neal realized it was hypocritical to ask Mozzie to fight when he didn't want to fight himself. He had been so lost in his own world surrounded by only the sounds of his apartment for so long without contact with anyone other than Peter. He had forgotten how much he needed human interaction; June had even stayed away. Neal figured it was probably because he was always slamming the door in Peter's face and she hadn't figured out a good way to approach him yet without setting him off; who knows what Peter had told her about him. He was really a wreck, and he knew he couldn't fix it himself. He needed Mozzie.
"Moz. I need you. I need your smiling face; your odd mannerisms. I need someone to share wine with; someone to misquote Ginsberg. I'm all alone. You know I don't do lonely well."
Neal looked up at the sound of a door opening.
Neal let go of Mozzie's hand and turned to face Peter, who didn't miss the few tears still evident on Neal's face. Peter smiled with a compassionate look on his face.
"How's he doing?"
"I can't really tell, but the heart monitor is still beeping, so I'm guessing it's a good sign."
"Consider it hope Neal; hope that he'll get better. You need to believe he will; have faith. We will get through this Neal - all of us. There is something to live for."
"Yeah, Yeah, I get it. Faith, Hope…Love."
"You said it. I didn't. Just because Kate is gone doesn't mean you have to stop loving her…she'll always be a part of you. She added a new dimension to your character, and you don't need to remove it. Mozzie is a part of you as well. All the people in your life give you new dimensions. Just because someone leaves or dies doesn't mean you have to lose that part of them. It's special…precious. You still have good memories. Cherish them! However, you can't keep living in the past Neal; you have to look to the future. You have us…myself and Elle, June, even Jones and Diana are worried about you. You are not alone, and Mozzie is still with us even if he can't communicate right now."
Neal was silent for a while. He couldn't forget the image burned into his brain of the empty IV bag…he still felt like the life was draining out of him, but now he was envisioning the swirl of a draining bathtub; he felt helpless against the current swirling around him. Peter was trying to throw him a life preserver before he was sucked under, but he wasn't sure if he should reach out and grab it. Still unsure if he should trust Peter after everything that had happened, Neal grabbed Mozzie's hand instead. He was stunned when he felt a slight pressure in return.
"Moz? Moz! It's Neal. I'm here! You're going to be fine."
Neal excitedly stood up not letting go of Mozzie's hand; more tears winding down his cheeks this time from sheer joy. He peered into Mozzie's face to see any flicker of change or recognition…there wasn't any. Mozzie's eyes remained closed and the heart monitor continued its monotonous beeping not indicating any change in heart rate. Neal wondered if he really was hallucinating; he could have sworn Mozzie squeezed his hand. Neal let go and turned to Peter.
"I swear Mozzie squeezed my hand Peter! Did you see anything?"
Peter hadn't noticed anything, but it was obvious from Neal's reaction that something had happened.
"Honestly Neal, I didn't see anything, but it's very likely he did squeeze your hand. You two have a special bond; he might be trying to tell you he's ok in the only way he can."
Neal cracked a smile that Peter hadn't seen in a long time – not the full megawatt smile but definitely a significant improvement. Maybe the squeeze of Mozzie's hand was all Neal needed to escape from his mental prison. Peter found it very ironic that Neal could escape from almost anything, including the maximum security prison, but he had been helplessly locked in a mental prison tormenting himself for Kate's death and Mozzie's shooting.
"Neal, I'm sorry, a few more minutes and then we have to go."
"It's ok Peter. I feel better already just visiting. You're right…I do need hope and faith he'll get better. Thank you."
"I told you. We'll get through this together. It's what families do."
Families…Neal still couldn't grasp the fact that Peter and Elle considered him to be part of their family even after what he did. Neal pondered the words from earlier…faith, hope and love…maybe that is what a family does or at least is supposed to do. How had he ever gotten so lucky?
"Peter, could we stop by my place?"
"I was going to anyway so you can get some clothes. What else did you want?"
"I want my painting supplies. I want to paint…memories."
Neal noticed the confused look on Peter's face.
"Am I allowed to paint? Is paint on your approved verb list? A consultant can paint…just not forge, right?"
Peter started to laugh then, the confusion gone.
"Yes, you can paint."
Neal turned back to Mozzie.
"Moz, I'm painting you first, and then Kate. I think I'll make her an angel to watch over you and me."
"That's a great idea. Neal Caffrey originals. I can't wait to see them!"
Peter chuckled as he followed Neal out the door. He knew that Neal wasn't himself yet, but he could see that Neal had crossed a major milestone on the path to recovery and was profoundly grateful.