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Author's Note: Written for alizarin_nyc for the Yuletide 2009 Challenge.
June was a smart lady.
Mozzie knew this, which was part of why he spent so much time with her, when Neal wasn't not around.
For one thing, she had great taste in movies. After Tiles of Fire, Tiles of Fire II: The Death Tile, and Tiles of Fire III: Vengeance of The Pai Gow Masters, they skipped Tiles VI: Tiles Unleashed because it was a cheap attempt to cash in on the series popularity which starred none of the original cast, and June went straight to Tiles V: Blood Debt which is arguably the best of the Golden Harvest sequels, and reunites the surviving original cast with director and Cheh and newcomer Cynthia Khan.
Mozzie loved to hear her stories. June hadn't only played poker with the Rat Pack—she'd been a singer in Harlem, a dancer in Vegas, and the wife of a notorious pool shark, bookmaker, and night-club owner. Byron and June may have spent much of the first twenty years of their marriage separated by prison walls, but she had visited him every day and raised up their two children on her own as best she could. She'd shown Mozzie silver-framed family portraits which lined the mantelpiece in the parlour while glowing with pride. There was even one faded colour shot taken in the back of Sy Devore's famous shop in Hollywood, with Sammy Davis and Bob Hope smoking stogies, Sammy sporting a mohair hand-sewn eye-patch.
She also had, hanging in her downstairs bathroom a watercolour study that Mozzie knows for 100% certain was sold at Christie's for half a million and he knows it was not to a beautiful, cultured, classy dame from the Bronx who just happens to have excellent taste in tenants.
June was one very smart lady, which was why Mozzie assumed Neal had been completely up-front with her from the start about his deal with Peter and the FBI. Neal could have tried to play her, but he hadn't even tried. So Mozzie didn't either. Whenever June asked him a direct question, he'd answer.
But June never asked Mozzie a direct question. She would sidle around topics until she was comfortable, like a cat picking just the right spot in a sunlit patch of floor to preen and watch the world go by.
So one night over a light dinner of fish accompanied by some very good wine while Neal and Burke were off tracking a paperhanger who was barely deserving of the name, when June asked Mozzie if Neal had his eye on someone, Mozzie just shrugged.
"Well, he's Neal. He always has his eye on someone."
"I mean romantically. The only young lady he's ever brought home, if you don't mind me saying so, was clearly not interested in l'affaire d'amour. She was pure business—and shady as shady ever was, if you catch my meaning."
Considering the lady in question was an Interpol agent trying to get Neal to purposely foil an FBI investigation, Mozzie wasn't going to argue.
"Well, to tell you the truth," Mozzie dropped his voice down to a conspiratorial whisper, "I think Neal's got his eye on Agent Cruz."
"Really?" June's eyebrows rose, disappearing beneath her perfectly coifed bangs, "She's a lovely girl—"
"—and a crack shot," Mozzie added.
"—but do you really think she could handle him?"
From the amount of pouting Neal had done over Agent Cruz's hero worship of Burke, combined with her impeccable bullshit detector, Mozzie was pretty sure Neal was interested. It was the same kind of challenge that made Neal create perfect forgeries for priceless works of art, even if he had no plans on ever switching them for the real thing.
Neal liked a challenge. He got bored otherwise. And the one thing Mozzie was sure of down to his very expensive shoes was that Lauren Cruz would be a hell of a challenge.
"The thing about Neal is," Mozzie explained patiently, "women fall for him all the time. I mean, he's got the whole package—the looks, the suit, the perfect teeth and hair. He likes being chased. Gets off on it. But it's pretty rare for Neal to turn the tables and do the chasing. I mean, except for Kate." Mozzie shrugged. "Kate didn't want anything to do with Neal, when they first met. He had to wear her down. He's good at that."
June hummed an agreement, but Mozzie could tell she was still thinking.
"If you're worried about Cynthia—"
"Oh good heaven's, no! Neal's a gentleman. He'd never abuse my hospitality by seducing my granddaughter. And if he loves Kate so much, well, then he'd hardly let himself be seduced by a pretty young thing like Cindy, now would he? And that's assuming she was trying—and I'd hardly blame her if she was. Neal's a very attractive young man—and he knows it. And besides, Cindy can take care of herself."
"So if it's not your granddaughter you're worried about—"
"I worry about Neal. It's not right, spending all that time staring at that bottle of his, when he should be out there living life to the fullest."
"Within a two mile radius."
June waved that concern neatly away, diamonds sparkling on her wrist. "Sugar, life isn't about how much ground you cover. It's about who you do it with. That's what makes life worth living."
June removed a thin cigarette from a gold case, but didn't light it. She just held it between two fingers, gesturing with it.
"Now this Kate girl—I know you say Neal loves her. I don't doubt that he does. But if she cared about him so much, she'd have waited for him. That's what I did, when my Byron went away, the first time they caught him running the books for... Well, when they caught him. We knew what we were up to, and if you wanna dance, you pay the piper. And because I loved him, I visited him every week. Like you said Kate did. Something made her lose faith and go running off to California. And if she doesn't have faith in Neal, well, then it doesn't matter how much faith he has in her."
"I keep trying to tell him that, but he doesn't listen to me."
"The heart never wants to hear what the head has to say."
"I'll drink to that," Mozzie raised his wineglass and June tapped it with hers.
"So... if you don't think Neal's got Agent Cruz in mind, who were you thinking of?"
June smiled slyly. "Well... you say Neal likes being chased. I think Agent Burke likes doing the chasing."
Mozzie's mouth dropped open in shock, and June laughed.
"Oh honey, I have been around and around and back around again. There is nothing in this life, when it comes to affairs of the heart, I haven't seen."
"But... but... Burke's married! We're talking married married. Like you and Byron married."
"Yes, he is. And she's lovely, and they're quite clearly made for each other. But I'd lay odds that as much as Neal likes being chased, sometimes... well, sometimes he lets himself get caught. And I'm not so sure that pretty wife of Peter's would kick either of them outta bed for eating biscuits. And that's all I'm going to say about that."
With that, June picked up her cigarette case and glass, and left Mozzie alone in Neal's attic guestroom to ponder the odds.
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