asimaiyat: If you're in trouble, and no one else can help, and you can find them, maybe you can hire Leverage! (w/ whole team) (Default)
[personal profile] asimaiyat
Title: "Crime Family"
Fandom: White Collar
Characters/Pairings: Alex, Neal, Mozzie, Kate. bits of Alex/Neal and Kate/Neal, but mostly gen fluff.
Rating: G
Summary: The gang gets together after a very long day.

AN: for [profile] tigerbright.

Alex was used to dealing with things on her own, no matter how tough they got. But today had been an unmitigated disaster, and Neal had called to say that he was cooking enough paella for an army and could she maybe please only if she felt up to it come over and make a pitcher of her legendary sangria to go with it, so what the hell. She'd stopped at a farmers' market and filled her leather hobo bag with white peaches and big red strawberries, careful to support their weight with the shoulder she hadn't strained at rock-climbing practice, and made her way across town to Neal's apartment.

When she got to the door, she found it unlocked for her, so she slipped in quietly and promptly bumped into Mozzie, who was investigating the linen closet for napkins and placemats.

"Hi, Mozz. Here for the food?"

"You know I don't eat shellfish. And yet, our mutual friend doesn't have the heart to kill the lobster by himself. Some New Yorker, taking pity on the cockroaches of the sea..."

"I could do it if I had to," Neal's voice called from the kitchen. "But you're better at it than me."

"You've used that line to get out of everything from hacking an email account to making tea," Mozzie grumbled. "One of these days, it's going to stop working."

"He used it to get me to sew a button on once," said Alex, starting to follow Neal's voice to the kitchen, which was full of delicious smells, olive oil and wine and searing meat. Mozzie put his free hand on her arm, slowing her down.

"I'm surprised to see you here. I suppose you know the Ingenue's coming."

"Who, Kate?" said Alex. "I'm really not avoiding her or anything. What, did she tell you I was?"

"She and I are not exactly at the coffeeklatch level of friendship, no. But after she came waltzing in wearing that necklace you'd been after..."

"Bygones," Alex replied, with the biggest Gallic shrug she could muster with one good shoulder. She really didn't want to talk about her lost Polish garnet today. So she led the way into the kitchen, and came up behind Neal to kiss him where his jawline met his ear, and she could see him steadying himself where she startled him, trying not to jerk the pan handle in his hand. He was in a pale blue linen shirt and worn blue jeans, bare feet, fingers smudged with saffron and paprika. She smiled against his shoulder as she peered into the pan at the sizzling ingredients.

"Hello, Alex. Feeling up to tending bar tonight?"

"It can't make my day any worse," she said with a wry grin, unpacking the ripe fruits from her bag. She looked around the kitchen and quickly spotted a huge glass pitcher, and reached to take it down from the shelf before remembering which arm she'd used. "Dammit," she hissed.

"Are you hurt?" Neal turned away from the stovetop to see what had happened, and crossed the tiny kitchen to help her without waiting for an answer.

"Little training injury," she replied. "I had my climbing session this morning, and I think I wrenched something in this shoulder. It's been screwed up all day. "

"That's bound to complicate your plans for the week," said Mozzie, raising an eyebrow meaningfully.

"I know, I was planning on being able to climb in a third-story window tomorrow night, not to mention jumping off the fire escape. Not sure what I'm going to do about that yet. I told the buyer I had lined up, just in case, and he flipped out on me. Said if I can't have it to him by the weekend, I'm on his blacklist."

"You could always get Kate to help you," said Neal, handing her the pitcher. "Wine's over there, in the wine rack."

Mozzie shot Neal what he probably thought was a subtle "don't go there" look, which sailed over Neal's head as he poked at the rice curiously with a wooden spoon. Alex rolled her eyes at Mozzie.

"Actually, that's a great idea. Kate's got four working limbs, after all, and she could use the practice."

'Who could use the practice?" Kate was standing in the kitchen doorway, wearing a sixties Pucci minidress and carrying two overflowing Zabar's bags, one in each hand. "I got appetizers."

"Nobody around here understands the important of knocking," said Mozzie under his breath. He'd already pulled out a cutting board and paring knife to help Alex chop vegetables, so she didn't feel obliged to point out the hypocrisy of that remark.

"Oh, Alex just got hurt at the gym, and since you're so much fun to work with, she was hoping you could help her with her job tomorrow night." Neal took one of the bags, and helped Kate deposit them on the overcrowded kitchen counter.

"Sure. What's my cut?"

Alex maintained her poker face, but out of the corner of her eye she saw one disapproving eyebrow inching up Mozzie's forehead.

"Just kidding! God, of course I'll help you out, you're like my sister or something." A huge baguette tumbled out of one of the bags, onto the counter. "Do we have a bread knife? I need to cut bread."

Neal handed Kate the bread knife, and she got to work assembling bruschetta. With the four of them all working in the kitchen, it seemed even smaller than it really was, and it was small even for a Manhattan apartment. Nobody had quite enough room for their elbows.

"So, what's the occasion for tonight? Are we celebrating?" Alex looked up at the others as she chopped the last of the strawberries.

"We're compensating," Neal replied. "Today was horrible."

"For you, too?"

"My mark got spooked and pulled out all of his money. No idea why."

"I told you, don't count on married guys. I'd give you ten to one his wife found out, and turns out to be smarter than he is."

"Oldest story in the book," Alex agreed. She'd found a bottle of Grand Marnier in the liquor cabinet, and was drizzling a couple of shots of it over the chopped fruit in the pitcher, slowly stirring the fruit and liquor together with a wooden spoon in the other hand. She'd handed Mozzie a bunch of mint leaves to chop up, and she nodded to him to toss a few of them in as she stirred.

"I know, I know. But I spent weeks on this guy. It's a major setback. So when I saw the fish market down the block was having a special on fresh mussels, I sort of thought... paella night."

"Cooking always makes me feel better," Kate agreed. "No matter how badly you screw the pooch in the rest of your life, if you can feed people, you can't hate yourself too much." She was halfway done with tray of bruschetta, carefully arranging tapenade, roasted red peppers, and shavings of manchego on the sliced baguette. "The day I told my parents I'd dropped out of Columbia, I baked about four hundred cupcakes."

"And you never know when it'll come in handy to be able to pose as a caterer," Mozzie agreed. Alex nodded absentmindedly. She could tell from the toasty aroma that the paella was just about done, and evidently Mozzie could too, because he'd started cutting lemon wedges to serve it with. Neal turned off the burner and went to help Kate toss the salad, as Alex poured the first bottle of Chardonnay into the pitcher, stirring slowly as she poured to let the flavors blend together.

"This is going to need to chill a little," she said. "Any room in the refrigerator?"

"There's pretty much nothing in there," said Neal cheerfully, not looking up from the salad. "You can use the freezer if you want it done fast. Nothing in there, either."

"You know, you're never going to amount to anything if you keep eating out every meal," Mozzie scolded.

"Oh? Okay, then, when's the last time I paid for dinner?"

"You took me to that sushi place Friday night. Not sure if that was your real credit card, though, come to think of it." Kate frowned.

"You definitely took me out to brunch at Dean & Deluca the day before yesterday." Alex nestled the pitcher of sangria in the freezer, between two ice trays and a pint of Haagen Daasz. "And you paid cash."

"Okay, when's the last time I paid for a meal that wasn't with a beautiful woman?"

"That... shouldn't even count as a question," said Alex, laughing. Her shoulder wasn't exactly feeling better, but it seemed to have stopped throbbing. "What are we doing for dessert?"

"I brought flan," said Kate. "Those should go in the fridge too, actually."

"Someone's knocking," said Mozzie. "I like them already." He went to answer the door as Neal started to set the dining room table, arranging an eclectic mixture of china and silverware that came from a few different sets, all of them elegant in their own right.

Alex set out wine and water glasses around the table, and started to fold the napkins into flowers out of force of habit. Neal grinned. "You have to show me how to do those one of these days."

"One of these days," Alex agreed. "Right now, you've got guests to greet. Go be fabulous." Mozzie had taken the linen blazer of some handsome dark-haired guy who'd just come in, and was tucking it away in the coat closet, surreptitiously checking out the label as he hung it up. Kate was smiling brightly at the guy's companion, a tall, incredibly thin woman, and leading her towards the dining room. Someone had lit a few candles around the apartment, and the sun had barely just started to set, and in the glow of warm light and appetizing smells, Alex remembered that it was just about the longest day of the year. Soon time was going to start passing faster, the summer turning into something to chase, but not tonight. Tonight was going to last just as long as it damn well felt like.

Neal rushed down the hall, having finished fussing over the table, to introduce everyone, and Alex was standing just at the edge of the foyer, watching the action, as she saw him make a sweeping gesture with one arm and say "Carlos! Inez! These are Mozzie, and Kate, and Alex. They're... kind of my family."

Alex couldn't help but grin as she came out to shake hands and exchange air kisses.

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asimaiyat: If you're in trouble, and no one else can help, and you can find them, maybe you can hire Leverage! (w/ whole team) (Default)

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