Final chapter has arrived! It isn't as long as the others but it's just the wrap up. Or is it? Mwhahahaha!
Peter dropped the paper in his lap and looked up. He chuckled as Neal maneuvered his crutches and side stepped the couch. Neal looked up at him and glared.
"You get way too much enjoyment out of this," he said.
"You're getting better at that," Peter said, "That's only the second time today."
"I'd like to see you do it."
Peter chuckled and lifted his paper again.
Peter looked over the paper. Neal stood by the couch, tugging on the right crutch. He had somehow managed to get the bottom wedged under the piece of furniture. He sighed and looked at Peter with the dreaded puppy dog eyes.
"Oh good grief," Peter muttered, folding the paper and placing it beside him.
"Don't blame me," Neal said as Peter got up and took the crutch, "These crutches have it out for me."
"You have to be smarter than the crutch, Neal." Peter said. He tugged on the couch. It didn't budge.
Neal smirked, "Look who's talking."
Peter glared at him before bending over and grabbing the base of the crutch and yanking on it as hard as he could. The couch lurched forward but the crutch was still stuck.
"What the heck did you do, Neal? Super glue the damn thing."
"Yes, Peter, I keep a heated glue gun in my back pocket just in case I need to annoy you."
"You're right," Peter smirked, "You can do that just by opening your mouth."
Peter tugged on the crutch again while Neal, smirking evilly behind him, lifted the second crutch and pushed Peter over. Peter landed face first in the cushions, propelling the couch backwards.
"Neal, what the hell?" Peter demanded as he spun around.
Neal bent down and picked up the crutch, grinning, "Hey, look. It's unstuck."
"Yahoo." Peter grumbled.
Neal waited for him to pull the couch back and go back to his paper before he settled himself down on the couch. He had just laid his crutches down and found a comfortable place when he remembered the drink he'd left in the kitchen.
"Oh, come on. It's twenty steps away."
"So go get it."
"I'm on crutches."
Peter deliberately put the paper in front of his face so he wouldn't have to face Neal's puppy dog eyes. He'd fallen victim to their deceptive powers one time too many over the past two weeks. He wasn't going to do it again. Not for a stupid drink.
He heard Neal sigh, but he didn't get up. Peter glanced at him and noticed the man pressing his fingers against the white bandage on his neck.
"Leave it be, Neal."
Neal dropped his hand and chuckled self consciously, "Nervous habit."
"It's almost gone. Doc said you could lose the bandage if you wanted to."
Neal shook his head, "I don't…when I look in the mirror I…"
Peter only nodded. He was glad Neal had chosen to keep the bandage on even after the stitches came out. He didn't like seeing the three inch, clean cut line either. It made his stomach turn every time.
"How's Melina doing?"
"Wolfgang is suing her," Peter said and turned the page, "but with the FBI backing her, she shouldn't have any problems."
"I can't believe she paralyzed him."
"That's one of the claims Wolfgang is making. He says she used her medical training against him and went against the Hippocratic oath."
"She's not a doctor."
Neal frowned and Peter sighed.
"I'm not doing anything." Neal said.
"You're brooding. Melina made her choice. She chose to save you over her career. Besides, she's not too heart broken about it. She said something about always wanting to be a teacher anyway."
Neal laughed just as the front door opened and Elizabeth walked in. She juggled a brown package as she took off her scarf.
"What do you have there honey?" Peter asked.
"I don't know. It was on our porch." she said, "It's addressed to Neal."
Peter glared at the con man in question, "You're having your packages shipped here?"
Neal shrugged, "Only one, and I couldn't exactly get it from my apartment, now could I?"
"And you just had to have it now?"
"It's not for me. It's yours."
Peter raised an eyebrow and Elizabeth grinned. She walked around the couch to sit next to her husband. She placed the package in his lap.
"What is it?" Peter asked.
"Just something to thank you," Neal said, "You know, for saving my life and letting me stay here."
"Ah, isn't that sweet, honey." Elizabeth said, "Go on, open it. Let's see what's in it."
Peter gave Neal one last long look, and then tore open the brown paper around the box. He popped open the lid to find a mass of white tissue paper. He reached in and pulled out a polished rolling pin.
Peter smirked and looked at Neal, "What's this?"
Neal grinned, "I though you might need it. In case men attack here."
Elizabeth took the rolling pin in her hands, "I don't get it."
"Don't worry, honey." Peter said while laughing.
Elizabeth turned the pin over in her hands and found something engraved in the wood, "To the best partner. Thanks. P.S.-you owe me a new one."
Neal grinned broadly as Peter doubled over laughing. Peter took the rolling pin from his wife and pretended to swipe at Neal who ducked easily.
"Alright, enough boys," Elizabeth said, "I'll take that." she took the pin and headed for the kitchen, "If you need me I'll be making supper."
She disappeared around the corner. Peter chuckled then looked at Neal.
"You really didn't-"
They sat in an awkward silence. Neal cleared his throat. Peter fiddled with the discarded paper and box.
"Hey, Neal. Do me a favor?" Peter said, finally breaking the silence.
"Don't play hero any more."
Neal chuckled, "No worries, Peter. I don't want to end up dead."
Peter frowned, "What?"
"Heroes always die," Neal said, "I like to breathe, if it's all the same."
"Hate to break it to you, Neal, but heroes don't die."
"Name one hero that's still living."
"Heroes don't die because the causes they fight for are still alive." Peter said and gestured to the dining room.
Neal looked up and saw Elizabeth setting the table. He smiled softly and looked back at Peter.
"You wanna talk specific," Peter said, "then, yeah, heroes die, but so does everyone, sometime. But what they die for and what they lived for, that's what makes them a hero. And that," Peter clapped Neal on the shoulder and stood up, "that never dies."
Neal watched him as he went to help Elizabeth. He smiled. Maybe the life of a hero wasn't so bad after all.
Across town, Melina Carter sat in her car in the parking lot of the hospital with her cell phone in her hand. With shaking fingers she dialed a number she now knew by heart. The call was answered on the second ring.
"Is it done?"
"He's safe," Melina said. She swallowed when her voice cracked.
"Good. You've done well."
"I want to talk to her."
"That wasn't part of the deal, Mrs. Carter."
"She's my sister, damn it."
"And she is safe. When Caffery gives us what we want, she will be released. Until then it is your job to get close to him."
"He won't fall for it. He's too smart, and I won't betray her or my husband."
"You will for her safety, and it won't come to that, Mrs. Carter. Get close to him, keep him alive, and find out where he hid the bonds."
Melina sighed and rubbed her eyes with her fingers, "I want to talk to Kate. Please."
"She's safe. Believe that."
Melina fought back tears. She bit her lip and let her anger take over, "When this is over, I'm going to do you a favor."
"I'm going to make sure you're never able to reproduce spawn like you into this world."
The man chuckled, "After what you did to Wolfgang, I don't doubt your word, Mrs. Carter."
Melina hung up the phone and stared out across the parking lot. The man was right. She would do anything to help her older sister. But even she had her limits. She just hoped she didn't have to push them to the limit before this was all over.
She reached across the console to her purse and pulled out the small caliber gun. With shaking hands, she checked the cartridge and the safety. She closed her eyes against the tears that assaulted her.
And wondered just how far she would go.
I'm working on the sequel but some oneshots have popped into my brain. I'll have those up in the next few weeks. This has been a great experience and you guys have been a big help in continuing the story. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!