Fandom: White Collar
Characters: Mozzie and Neal (Gen)
Summary: You can always do things the normal way, but where's the fun in that?
Note: I missed the deadline on the 24-turnaround and then some, but this was written for runthecon and the prompt of "Legal crimes."
"What is that monstrosity in your living room?" Mozzie asked.
"God, not this again." Neal shut his apartment door, and placed the sauvignon blanc in the refrigerator to chill. "You were the one who introduced me to Danish modern."
"Yes, as an aesthetic." Mozzie surveyed the half-finished painting on Neal's easel, which appeared to be Portofino. "But you have to eventually sit in chairs. That one is designed to create new customers for chiropractors."
"It's not that bad," Neal said.
"Really? Have you ever spent an evening reading a book in it?"
"Well, no," Neal admitted. He put a green apple on the cutting board. "Brie?"
"Yes, please." Mozzie examined the chair again. "It doesn't even go with the décor."
"I'm willing to give it time." Neal arranged the brie and apple slices in semi-circles on a plate, and set it on the table. "Chablis? Perrier?"
"I'll have the wine." Mozzie unfolded a napkin. "Have you heard about that new restaurant, Le Petit Poivre?"
"Yes," Neal said. "Have you heard how hard it is to get in?"
Mozzie waved dismissively. "Ordinarily yes, but I have an idea about that."
Neal smiled slowly. "Becoming dishwashers? Setting the place on fire and stealing whatever's available from the kitchen?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Mozzie sniffed. "How déclassé." He wiped his fingers on his napkin. "I think it's time Cecil Burell paid a visit to write a review."
"Really," Neal said. "And who would he be?"
"A food critic for one of the underground newspapers."
"How do you know he hasn't already been there?"
"I have my sources. And at the moment, he's out of the country."
"Ah," Neal said. "So you're going to call up and make a reservation for him?"
"No, where's the fun in that? I'm going to show up unannounced and intimidate them. I don’t suppose you have a beret?"
"Of course." Neal sipped his wine. "Right next to my cigarette holder and my scarf collection."
"It was a simple question! Are you interested or not?"
"Fine, fine… I'll see if Byron had an English driving cap hidden somewhere."
"And a mustache."
Neal stared at him over the top of his wineglass. "You wear a mustache, the deal's off."
"Okay, okay…" Mozzie said.
There was a throng of people outside the restaurant, all waiting for a table. Neal worked his way through the crowd and up to the hostess.
"Good evening," Neal said, giving her one of his most charming smiles. "You must be very popular tonight."
"Yes," she said. "I’m afraid we won't have a table for several hours, though I can put your name down if you like."
"I'm actually here with—well, do you see him over there? Wearing glasses, not very tall, trying not to be noticed? He's here to review the restaurant. He usually shows up in secret to get a general sense of the customer experience, but I thought you might like a warning before he has to wait hours to be seated."
The hostess turned pale. "I'll see what I can do," she said. Five minutes later, she led Neal and Mozzie to a table almost exactly in the middle of the restaurant, halfway between the front door and the kitchen. Mozzie jotted a few things down in the notebook he was carrying, feigning an air of surreptitiousness that everyone was sure to notice.
"Enjoy your meal." the hostess said, presenting each of them with a menu. Neal winked at her, and she smiled and walked back to the front of the restaurant to manage the waiting system she had just violated.
Neal looked around. "Nice place," he said.
"The food is supposed to be even better."
The style was art deco, Neal noticed, and the color scheme simple but elegant. He finally turned to his menu. Mozzie snuck furtive looks over the top of his own menu, and made occasional comments in his notebook.
"You're really going all out on this," Neal said.
"The trick is to make people nervous," Mozzie muttered, "but not be so weird that you become creepy. It's a fine line."
"Yes," Neal said, "I've often walked that line myself."
"If you're going to be condescending, I can do this alone, you know."
"What, and miss the pâté and vichyssoise?" Neal countered. "Not a chance." He scanned the appetizers, the entrees. "How much of this do you think we'll have to pay for ourselves?" he murmured.
"I'm guessing they'll comp us the appetizers and maybe the dessert," Mozzie said. "Not to mention that we got seated right away."
"Yes." Neal smiled. Every part of the menu looked intriguing, not to mention delicious. "Coq a vin or filet? Or Encornets farcis?"
"I'm going to have the pilaf with truffles. What would you like as an appetizer?"
"Pâté, of course. Or maybe the toasts au saumon fumé?"
"Why not both?"
Mozzie looked around for their server, and took a few more notes. You had to admire his dedication to the con, Neal thought. Mozzie could do this kind of thing for days without breaking character. It was a question of honor.
Their waiter arrived, a young man in his twenties with a pencil mustache. Neal and Mozzie placed their orders, adding in a bottle of wine to share.
The pâté was like silk, and the toasts au saumon fumé combined small bites of golden-brown bread and smoked salmon in a heavenly combination.
"This is amazing," Neal said.
"And very professional as well," Mozzie said.
The entries were perfection, causing Mozzie to write a few more entries in his notebook
"You think this place will get a favorable review?" Neal teased.
"Are you kidding? This is the best food I've eaten since I was in France." Mozzie chewed a bite of truffle thoughtfully, doing his best to appear unimpressed. "We should order dessert. I want to try their chocolate mousse."
"I'll have the opera cake," Neal said. "I haven't had that in years."
Mozzie looked over Neal's shoulder, and froze. "What's the Suit doing here? And Mrs. Suit?" he whispered.
Neal turned around, just as Elizabeth waved at them. He smiled and waved back. "I think it might be their anniversary," he told Mozzie. "The timing's right."
"This is not good," Mozzie said. "They'll blow our cover, just you wait."
"Aw, c'mon Moz—don’t be such a pessimist."
"I give it five minutes, tops."
"Then we should probably ask for the check instead of dessert." Neal tried to signal the waiter, who was walking toward Peter and Elizabeth's table.
Mozzie hunched his shoulders, honing in on his notebook to jot down more notes. "And here it comes," he muttered.
The waiter talked with Peter and Elizabeth, and Neal saw Peter gesture toward their table. The waiter said something, and Peter's face hardened into an expression Neal knew all too well. "Oh, boy," he said under his breath.
As the waiter approached, Neal told Mozzie, "Stick to your character. I have an idea."
"You're not a food critic at all, are you?" the waiter said, glaring down at Mozzie.
"I most certainly am!" Mozzie answered.
"A word, if I may," Neal said. He stood up and drew the waiter away from the table.
"My friend is… eccentric," Neal said. "He likes to pretend he's a restaurant reviewer now and then—it's pretty harmless. He always pays the bill. We were just about to ask for the check."
"Oh," the waiter said. "All right. I'll bring it now."
"You made me out to be some kind of nut, didn't you?" Mozzie said, when Neal returned to the table.
Neal shrugged. "Sorry Moz," he said. "It was a great ride, but it wasn't worth risking my parole."
The waiter brought the bill. "Thank you very much, gentlemen." He turned to Mozzie and bowed slightly. "I hope everything was to your liking, sir."
Mozzie squinted at the waiter's retreating back. "He definitely thinks I'm a wacko. He gave me that look people give their senile grandmothers."
"And yet, he still didn't throw us out," Neal said. "And no actual crime was committed."
"Apart from these prices," Mozzie said. "The total on this bill is more than the rent I paid in college."
"Let's split it, and leave a big tip. The service was excellent."
"And the food," Mozzie said wistfully.
The two of them paid up and left, with Neal throwing a smile and a nod Elizabeth's way while Peter grumbled into his water glass.
"That was some of my best work," Mozzie said, as Neal hailed a cab. "Now we'll never know how far I could have taken it."
"You'll get your chance, again, though. It'll happen."
"It had better. I'm not ready to give up a life of crime!"
Neal couldn't help smiling.
"I know what you mean, Moz," he said, as a taxi pulled in next to them and he reached for the door.
"Most of the time, neither am I."