|sam_storyteller (sam_storyteller) wrote,|
@ 2011-02-26 08:34 am UTC
|Entry tags:||ao3, white collar|
Summary: There's only one thing scarier than Peter Burke...
Notes: While I am perfectly happy with Peter and Elizabeth as a cheerfully child-free couple, it was recently pointed out to me that Neal and Mozzie with Burke Junior would be nothing less than hilarious.
Also available at AO3.
Neal was crooning old Rat Pack ballads (That place down there or heaven -- in the meantime, ee-o-eleven...) when Mozzie arrived, soft-footing his way across the loft.
"I brought Chinese," he whispered as he passed, setting the bag down without a noise. Neal had not anticipated that cat burglary skills would be required in a babysitting context, but David Burke was a light sleeper and moving silently had become a major asset.
"I can't believe they leave you alone with an infant," Mozzie continued, taking down a wineglass and stealthily uncorking a bottle.
"Why not? I'm perfectly dependable with kids," Neal replied. "I nearly had me that chauffer and that block long limousine, ee-o-eleven..."
"You're singing him lullabyes about robbery," Mozzie pointed out.
"Gotta get 'em started young," Neal replied, waving off his offer of a glass of wine.
"Hmm. Maybe he'll grow up to be a lawman like dad," Neal said, leaning back a little. "In the meantime, in the meantime...we'll teach you everything we know, isn't that right?" he asked the sleeping infant. Mozzie leaned over his shoulder and patted the tiny fluff of dark hair on David's head.
"How young is too young for flashcards?" Mozzie asked.
"Flashcards of what?" Neal said suspiciously.
"I was thinking of starting him on the Renaissance. Lots of naked babies, he'll feel right at home."
"There's something not right about you," Neal told him. "Besides, I already put up a bunch of van Goghs in his nursery."
"That's so much pressure on a baby!"
"Renaissance flashcards!" Neal shot back, and David shifted and snuffled in his arms. Immediately both men froze, anticipating a wail of misery, but David just smacked his lips and drifted back into unconsciousness.
"Figures," Neal whispered. "Takes Burke Junior to be the one who tops Peter in scaring me into obedience."
You can see Sammy Davis Jr. performing Ee-o-Eleven here.
The plaintive cry was the only warning Neal had before a four-year-old cannoned into his knees; he staggered but managed to stay upright despite David's impact.
"Hey, Davey, what's -- " Neal started, but he was cut off by a loud sob. "David!"
David Burke was weeping piteously, getting snot and tears and probably some of that morning's breakfast on Neal's very expensive tailored trousers. Neal reached down and untangled him from his leg, lifting him up so he could get snot and tears on his very expensive tie instead.
"What's wrong?" Neal asked, as David sobbed into his chest.
"I lost daddy," David announced, very loudly and very pitifully. Neal hushed him, glancing around at the gallery -- people were staring in disapproval -- before carrying him into a quieter side-room filled with hideous Baroque chinaware.
"Shh, it's okay," Neal said, sitting down on a bench, petting David's head as he shifted him onto his lap. "What do you mean, you lost him?"
David sniffled. "Mama said not to lose daddy at the museum and I lost him!"
Neal's phone vibrated in his pocket. Great; Burke Panic in stereo. This should be fun.
"Before you freak out, David's with me," he said, answering the phone.
"Oh, thank God," Peter breathed. "I swear, I'm gonna put a tracking anklet on that kid."
"It happens," Neal said. "Hey, Davey, I found daddy, you want to talk to him?"
David nodded tearfully and Neal held the phone to his ear. "Hi daddy," he said. Neal leaned in close, listening for Peter's reply.
"David, what did I tell you about wandering off?" Peter asked sternly. David's eyes brimmed with fresh tears and Neal took the phone away from his ear.
"What kind of person are you?" he asked.
"What? I told him not to!" Peter replied.
"And he's terrified because he got lost."
"Well, so am I!"
"Okay, you know what, I'm going to take him to the cafeteria and get him a sandwich. Meet you there," Neal said, and hung up. "You want a sandwich?" he asked David, who nodded. "You want my handkerchief?" another nod, and Neal shook out a handkerchief from his inside pocket and held it up to David's nose. "Blow," he said, and then folded it in half and wiped his tears with it. "Come on."
David was a remarkably even-tempered boy, usually, and by the time Peter caught up with them the child was laughing again, being dangled over the sandwich case in the museum cafeteria by Neal. Neal righted him and passed him off to Peter, who at least gave his kid a hug before scolding him.
"That was scary, huh?" Peter asked David.
"So you're going to keep a better eye on me from now on, aren't you?"
"Peter, cut the kid some slack," Neal said, grabbing a peanut-butter sandwich out of the case. Peter didn't really deserve a sandwich for the way he was acting, but Neal found an egg salad on wheat that looked reasonably fresh, and grabbed a fruit cup for himself. They settled on one of the patio tables, David fussily peeling the crusts off his bread before taking a bite. Neal picked through the fruit cup, offering him slices of peach whenever he found them.
"What do you want to see this afternoon before we go to meet Mama?" Peter asked, grabbing David by the back of his shirt to keep him from standing up on the bench. Watching Peter and his son was fascinating -- Peter was always just slightly ahead of the kid, always heading him off at the pass. Neal wondered if that was what their working partnership had looked like, the first few years.
"Seurat," David said without hesitation.
The first time Neal had taken him to the Met, David had been just shy of three, really too young to appreciate the art, but he'd stared in fascination at the Seurats on display. After Neal bought him a postcard of "Circus Sideshow", he'd talked about Uncle Neal dots paints for weeks until Mozzie spent a very laborious afternoon teaching him to say Seurat. David had a peculiar love of pointilism.
"Your child is a genius," Neal told Peter.
"That's what worries me," Peter muttered, and caught David's juice bottle before it tipped over onto the table.
What I Did On Winter Vacation
by David Burke, Age 10
For Christmas my Uncle Neal and Aunt Sara took me to Chic
A Sunday On La Grande Jatte is a really big painting but if you get right up close you can see all the dots.
We went to see A Sunday On La Grande Jatte at the Art Institute Museum, which also has lots of armor and some Degas paintings and an archer by the staircase that Uncle Neal likes. He likes the archer, not the staircase. Aunt Sara bought me a book on pointilism, which is what you call painting with little dots. I like the Art Institute Museum better than the Guggenheim but not as much as the Met. When I grow up I'm going to be a curator, which is someone who picks out paintings for museums and gives tours.
My Mom and Dad went to France, I guess they had fun.
We also went to see a hockey game because Aunt Sara likes hockey. Uncle Neal doesn't, so just
For Christmas I got a video game player and some books from my Mom and Dad, a pair of cool binoculars from Uncle Mozzie, and a paint set from Uncle Neal and Aunt Sara.
Uncle Neal helped me with the spelling and some of the titles and stuff in this essay, I think I should tell you that.
"Ouch," Neal said. "The Talk, huh?"
"Yes, but," Elizabeth replied, "imagine Peter having to do it."
Neal made a face. Elizabeth nodded.
"I'll concede your point," Neal said. "But...El, nobody wants to get the sex talk from their mom. Believe me, I have firsthand experience in this."
"Maybe I won't have to," she said. "He gets this stuff in school. He's thirteen, he's already had a semester of health classes."
"Brainwashing!" Mozzie called from the sofa. "Have you seen what passes for sex ed in schools?"
"He goes to a very good school," Elizabeth argued.
"Yeah, but still, I mean, this is one of those rite of passage things," Neal said.
Elizabeth looked at him. Neal's eyes widened and he held up his hands.
"Oh no. I'm not giving David the sex talk."
"But you're more comfortable with...sex, in general, and you're a man -- "
"I'm his godfather! I'm the fun one," Neal said. "No. No no no."
"Technically, as the fun one, you're the one who's supposed to buy him porn," Elizabeth pointed out. Neal stared at her in horror and she started to giggle. "Oh, your face."
"For the love of God," Mozzie said, getting up from the sofa. "I'll give him the talk."
They both looked at him warily.
"Cowards!" Mozzie pronounced, walking to the stairs. "DAVID!"
"YEAH UNCLE MOZ!" David yelled back.
Mozzie gave them one last withering look and climbed the staircase. Neal and Elizabeth sat together at the dining-room table for a while in silence.
"He probably knows what he's doing," Neal said. "I mean, Mozzie's very rigorous in his research."
"I'm mostly worried he's going to tell David that condoms are a form of mind control or something," Elizabeth said. There was another long silence.
"I'm not actually supposed to buy him porn, right?" Neal asked.
"Well, he's probably already found it on the internet. Besides, you've been showing him naked pictures of women for years."
"That's different, that's art," Neal said.
"I doubt David's going to be differentiating much in the next few years," Elizabeth answered. "If I find a stack of Woodman nudes under his mattress, I'll know who to blame."
Neal looked shifty.
"Oh my God." Elizabeth pointed at him. "You totally had nudes under your mattress when you were fourteen!"
"Fifteen, and they weren't Woodmans," Neal protested. "They were Picassos."
Elizabeth was opening her mouth to reply when Mozzie thumped down the stairs again.
"Duty done," he announced. "I hope you don't mind I threw in a lecture about sexual orientation and the repressive social binary."
Elizabeth looked at Neal.
"It's okay if he's gay," Neal translated.
"Thank you, Mozzie," Elizabeth said, beaming at him. "I knew we could count on you."
"Well, don't come running to me if he asks any awkward questions, I didn't promise a follow-up," Mozzie said, disappearing into the kitchen.
David had his mother's eyes and hair, but the resemblance to his father was easy to see, and never more so when that little crease of frustration crossed his forehead. The Burke Wrinkle.
"How am I supposed to know where to apply if I don't even know what I want to do?" he asked, slumping over on Neal and Sara's kitchen table. He cast a despairing look at the college lookbooks stacked on the other end. Neal, paging through one idly, marveled at the gaggles of smiling, good-looking students inside.
"I'm guessing you're dumping this on me because Peter and El aren't being helpful?" he asked warily.
"Mom says I should do what I love. Dad says I should have a career. I think he wants me to be a Fed," David groaned.
"Do you want to be a Fed?"
"Seriously, are you going to live your entire life on the grid?" Mozzie demanded.
"Mozzie," David whined.
"I'm just saying, you'd make a hell of a swindler, kid," Mozzie replied, unruffled.
"Well, fine, you can be my safety school," David replied. Mozzie looked pleased. "I don't know, I'm sixteen, I don't even know what I want for breakfast tomorrow. I know artists never make any money. And I kinda like the idea of joining the FBI. But maybe I want to be an archaeologist. Or a teacher. Argh!" he sat back. "Can I be a crime-fighting art historian? Help me."
Neal shrugged. "I dropped out of high school when I was your age. I don't recommend it."
"You dropped out of high school?" David stared at him, aghast. Neal and Mozzie exchanged looks.
"What, you think teaching you to pick locks and make fake IDs was something I picked up at Harvard?" Neal said. "I...have a past."
"I'm out," Mozzie announced, disappearing into the living room. Neal ran a hand through his greying hair.
"Okay, this wasn't the way I wanted to have this talk, but here we go," he said. "I dropped out of high school when I was sixteen and started picking pockets. I forged some bonds, and stole a lot of art, and your dad chased me down and threw me in prison for it."
"Prison? What the hell, Neal?" David asked.
"Language," Neal said sternly.
"But honestly, though."
"What do you want me to say? Eventually I got out and Peter gave me a job, which is a very complicated story. When you were born I was still wearing a house-arrest anklet so Peter could be sure I didn't run," Neal continued. David's eyes were huge. "When that came off, the FBI kept me on as an analyst."
"You never told me any of this!"
"Well, it never came up," Neal said. "We don't talk about it, it was kind of an ugly time. Not a whole lot of good memories, you know?"
"No, I don't know! You didn't tell me!"
"Can it, Davey, I'm telling you now," Neal said, and David subsided. "Sorry. Look, I told Peter I'd tell you when the time was right. But you're a good kid, you don't need me as a cautionary tale, so it never came up. Sometime I'll tell you all about prison and how your dad literally saved my life, more than once, but right now all you need to know is that college, any college, is way better than Mozzie's life-of-crime offer. Much as I love him," he called, loud enough for Mozzie to hear. "We'll figure out where you want to go, okay? But I'm going to have to learn it all alongside of you, because I never did any of this stuff."
"But you know all about art, and you speak like eight languages, and you're as good as Dad at math -- "
"Self-taught." Neal shrugged. "I got lucky. If it hadn't been for Peter I'd probably be back in prison by now, doing ten to fifteen for fraud."
David just stared at him; if he'd been intending to say something, he was interrupted by the slam of the front door.
"Neal?" Sara called. "Oh, hey Mozzie. Feet off the sofa."
"Tyrant," Mozzie replied.
"My house, my tinpot dictatorship. Hey," Sara said, coming into the kitchen and kissing Neal on the cheek. "Hi, Davey. Oooh, college books. Can I see?"
She settled down at the table and took the Princeton University lookbook out of Neal's hands. "Ivy League?" she asked skeptically.
"That's what Dad said," David answered.
"Well, they do give a pretty good education, but sometimes you're paying a lot for the name." Sara set the book down and began sifting through the rest. "Have you had a look at the College Guide yet?"
"The what?" David asked.
"You know. It's online, they tell you what the student body breakdown is, what the school's strengths and weaknesses are, that kind of thing. Wow, Stanford. That's pretty far away."
Neal and David glanced at each other.
"David was just saying he wants to tell you all about his career options," Neal said, standing and dropping a kiss into her hair. "Love you. Going to run away and play with Mozzie now."
"So, what fields are you looking at?" he heard Sara ask, as he walked out of the room.
"I dunno, that's the problem," David answered.
"Okay, let's narrow it down, we'll make a list. I bet there are aptitude tests you could take to see what your strengths are, though you shouldn't put all your faith in those..."
"You're leaving him alone with Sara?" Mozzie asked, as Neal shut the door.
"I think in this case possibly my extensive knowledge of forgery techniques and con artistry is not going to be as helpful as Sara's perspective," Neal admitted.
"Well, if all else fails, we can take him on a multi-state crime spree and then flee to Rome," Mozzie said philosophically. "It's nice he has so many options."
"Truly, it takes a village," Neal drawled.