First of all, thank you for all those who read this story, and for willing to make it to the 2nd chapter. For those who left me their words and follow this, I can't express my gratitude enough to you.
Particularly, one of the reviews that suggests on how this will go .. proof that your words got my grooves on.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the White Collar characters portrayed here. And the quotes in Italic, which belonged to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Three soft taps of newspapers against the bench arm rest behind. Even within the depths of concentration, Mozzie managed to stop his reading. The rapping had a certain tempo to it, and consistent, not some random annoyed pat on the papers. Someone was making contact. Paranoia, which was hardwired into his system, started to kick in. Maybe he had been too generous with clues for initiation of communication.
Mozzie had to hear this person out.
" 'Do you not find, that with your short sight it is a little trying to do so much typewriting?' "
" 'I did at first -' " comes the reply.
And familiarity striked hard. Mozzie's eyes were wide.
" '- but now I know where the letters are without looking' . Reading in the open? Last time I checked, our names still have some standing on the Fed's wish list."
It took Mozzie a while to respond, "And you're the hot item at the moment. Your unforeseen and unexpected comeback, if I may say, resurrection, got them rattled."
"Shall we?" The men got up and started to walk.
"Incongruous choice of wardrobe," Mozzie remarks after glancing at his companion's attire, which were a sleeveless hoodie and tracksuit. " .. considering your usual preferences."
The two men were set on their feet, slimming the chances of being seen together at one place for too long. Walking brusquely, while remaining inconspicuous to the 'eyes of the street', they alternated between crowded sidewalks and isolated alleys. Names were not necessary except under extreme duress, as Mozzie had made clear during the recovery operation of the U-boat manifest Degas.
"You said so yourself. I'm a household name in the Bureau lately, hence, here I am. Gonna need Tuesday to settle down and come up with a plan."
"Oh? You remember her?"
"Are you kidding me," Neal sighs exasperatedly.
"You didn't know? Quelle surprise."
"My bad. I should have told you. She won't be available at her previous settlement."
"Since when did Tuesday skipped town?" The concern in Neal's voice was perpetual; he did not see that coming. Mozzie had always maintained the upkeep of his safehouses, so they were readily available.
"Since my chi is tainted by the bureaucratic oppression of the Suit, not to mention the heat he brought along, that Fed gone rogue."
"No one knew they've been there."
Mozzie became frantic. "Do you have any idea how it feels to have your inner peace annihilated? He broke my hallowed rake! And then that - "
"Alright then. Point taken." Neal stops him with a raise of his hand.
"Remind me to accommodate Suit and his unreliable posse into my least-favorite houses, should they ever need to be harbored again."
"Since Tuesday is a lost cause, anything nearby?"
"I shut down everything here in New York," his eyes travelled down the ground, his feet shuffling its coarse pavement. "There's nothing left here for me, since .. you know .. the big bust and all."
Neal had gone silent as well. The last few years were still vivid in his mindset, now swiveling around in laps as much as his head could manage: a big fat mistake, one traitorous ass got him running all the way to the East, surviving the harsh terrain ..
It was not so much as running away from the storm as seeking a temporary refuge due to the gravity of the situation. Wait until the murky water settled. Hell, he would never have stayed, let alone die in vain, taking his tainted name with him 6 feet under for infinity.
"Oh Bugsy, where are you?" June Ellington called out for her pet Pug, which was nowhere to be seen. Normally he stayed close to her, and he would come back running whenever she summoned him if he wandered away. But this was just odd.
June paced around the big mansion, searching for the little butterball all by herself as the maid had taken leave for a few days.
No wonder, she thought. The door is ajar. Fetching her overcoat, June was prepared to continue the search for the hound. He won't be too far, she reassured herself. As soon as she was out of the door, the first thing that came into sight was Bugsy, barking happily at her and tries to wiggle its short tail, after leaping down from someone else's arms.
"Hey June," a voice all too familiar to her to forget. June beamed at the sight of Neal Caffrey, after all this quiet years. "First things first, get indoors, shall we?"
"Namely, this is to be said as 'speak of the devil'," Mozzie chimes as the bolts on the door snap heavily into place. They were mentioning June when Bugsy jumped onto Neal's leg at the door. " .. but I can't see how's that relevant to our subject," and gestures towards June, who was no devil.
"Mozzie, you're not being very nice," she frowned, and could still hold motherly warmth in it. "Neal!" Her arms engulfed him, emotionally overwhelmed that her eyes water up.
"Always great to see you. Again." He returned the embrace with equal grace.
"Likewise, my dear. Hm, you're bulkier than I remember," she remarked before breaking away. Only then, she got better look at him. "Oh sweet Lord, are you okay?"
The considerably small scars here and there did not go unnoticed by June's quick searching eye. He smiled back warmly.
"Occupational hazards," he shrugged.
"Well, be more careful then." June patted his shoulders.
"I'd hate to break this heartwarming reunion, but we have, in our hands, some urgent matters."
"Okay, Mozzie. I miss you too," she hugged him as well, considering the length of time that Mozzie is absent from her life as well. "Come, let's get you guys put up. I'l make coffee."
No one is allowed to say a word until Mozzie and his bug scanner are done sweeping the space. So far, this paranoid tendency of him has made the room some of the biggest and the best secret keeper ever. Looking back, some of the most special occasions had taken place at this very space, holding certain sentimental value to it.
"I'm sorry, Neal. Some of the pieces have been donated." The room looks bigger and emptier without the central table and chairs. There are also other things that are not in the view anymore, only sizes that made their absence not so significant in the first glance.
"But I still have your every belongings here. I don't have the heart to give those away."
"Thanks, June. I'll live." He runs his gaze all over the room again, taking notice of the vacant spot that once held the wine rack. Incidentally, about the same time when Mozzie remarks.
"The dark period of abstinence."
That's it. Please tell me how you feel about it.
Sneak peek:: Neal came out of retreat, CT taskforce and White Collar team got wind of it. It would be a race to snatch the prize in advance of the other one.