A/N: I love all of the reviews coming in :) It makes me very happy.
Time moved slowly for Neal Caffrey, who was confined to the small hospital room for the better part of six days. Peter stopped by three times a day, before work, during lunch, and then after the day was over. Sometimes it was to pop his head inside the door or just to talk to the doctors about Neal's condition. He never stayed long or really talked to Neal, which made the younger man sullen and quieter. It still touched Neal that Peter came by the hospital as much as he did. Just his presence in the same location was a small comfort. He was visited often by Elizabeth who actually came to sit with him and talk to him. He felt reluctant to speak to her about Peter's avoidance for some reason. He didn't want to her to yell at Peter and make everything worse. Neal especially didn't want her to get onto Peter and have the older man even more mad at him. Deep down, he knew that Peter wasn't really mad, he was just worried about him. However, the drugs kept him in a constant state of surface confusion that made him wary of Peter's emotions toward him.
Eventually, Neal decided that he needed to talk to someone about what he was thinking. That decision came almost at the same time that June arrived. June had visited him at least once a day, bringing him different gifts every time. She was the doting grandmother Neal never had, he discovered with a flame of pride within his heart. He loved June, not only for the gifts, but the counsel she provided. She was never refusing of him sharing his thoughts with her. In fact, she seemed to appreciate knowing what he was thinking and encouraged him to open up to her when he seemed troubled.
Just as he was today.
"Neal, dear," June began slowly, "What's bothering you? I can tell you're worried by that crease in your forehead."
Neal glanced up at her from his cuticles that he had been picking at constantly for the past half an hour. He didn't know how to voice his inner musings for a moment, but he was in no rush. June was the most patient person he knew.
"It's Peter," he finally admitted and June gave him a knowing look before he continued, "but I assume that you already know that."
"Yes, it's quite obvious, dear."
"I've been realizing that more and more here lately," he sighed, coughing as he inhaled once more.
"What's going on with Peter, Neal?"
Neal paused, "It's the way that he's been handling my…incident. I know that I screwed up by not telling him about going to see my father, but I didn't think he would be so mad. I have a feeling that underneath all of the concern he has for me, that he's truly angry. Like I betrayed him."
"He considers you like a family member, whether he will admit it or not," June leaned back in her chair, "More like a brother, I suppose. From the psychological standpoint, you two don't get along, mirroring the behavior of siblings. He really does care about you and when you do something rash and get yourself hurt, he is angry for it. It is nothing to take personally."
"I didn't know you were a psychologist, June," Neal cocked his head to the side in marveling at the increasingly more complex woman that was his landlady.
June smiled softly, "I am a woman of many interests and trades."
"I agree," Neal chuckled, but then grew serious once more, "What should I do? Do you think he's going to get over it and just move on?"
June hesitated, lost in thought for a moment, "I do believe that he will embrace you again once you're well again. I don't think this will have a negative impact. If anything, this incident will bring both you closer."
"I hope so," Neal sunk further below the blanket and closed his eyes for a moment, "Thanks, June," he told her when he returned his attention to her.
"You're welcome, dear," June smiled again, "Now, I must be going. I have a charity auction to attend. It's helping to fund this very hospital."
"Alright," he took her hand briefly, gazing up at her with his wide blue eyes, "I'll see you later?"
"Yes, Neal, I'll be back soon," June promised.
After she had left, Neal turned over on his side and stared at the wall for a few minutes. Were he and Peter really going to get closer? It was astounding that they were in the relationship that they had. Neal, the ex con and Peter, the FBI agent who had caught him and thrown him in prison. How could they have made such fast friends? Sometimes Neal still wondered about that. His instincts told him that nothing was amiss, but his paranoia had grown during his time in prison. The best thing about his present life was that he was safe for once. No worries about being abused at home by his dad, no worries about being abused in prison by the inmates. Peter really did care for him and he knew that as long as Peter was living, no permanent harm would come to him.
While Peter was living.
A gut-wrenching fear coursed through him. Ice seemed to fill his veins. Neal shuddered and rolled on his other side. A steel fist of panic gripped his heart and Neal pulled the blanket tighter around himself. He then closed his eyes, fighting against the worry that had brought nightmares to him since he had actually begun to care about Peter. Nightmares that would never go away.
The sun rose on the sixth day since he had first awoken in the hospital and Neal's muscles were as sore as hell. The chemicals had lingered in his system for longer than the doctors had predicted, but they said that after one more night, he would be discharged. Neal was grateful for that, since he couldn't stand much more of the blank white walls or the smell of disinfectant. Followed by the rising sun was a voice that Neal knew all too well that made his heart jump.
"Mornin', Sleeping Beauty."
Neal sat up immediately to have a bundle of clothes thrown at him. He stared at Peter Burke standing at the end of his bed and then glanced down at the clothes.
"Is it time to go?" he asked.
"Yeah, get dressed and I'll get you checked out so we can get breakfast," Peter nodded cheerfully. Neal raised an eyebrow at him and his cheeriness. Peter wasn't a morning person, which meant that he either had had a lot of caffeine already (Neal checked the clock, it was 6:30) or there was something up.
"Why is it so early?" Neal asked in mild confusion as he stiffly got out of the bed, groaning as his muscles screamed in protest. The doctors said that it was estimated that his muscles would be in a state of constant ache and pain for several weeks. Neal hadn't been that excited about that news.
"Because we have a lot to do today," Peter replied vaguely, making Neal's suspicions soar, "Just get dressed, I'll be waiting outside."
Neal barely managed a nod before Peter was out the door, closing it behind him. Neal picked up the bundle of clothes that were tied together with a piece of twine. He untied the twine and unfolded a pair of blue jeans, plain gray shirt, and a pair of brand new white boxers. He got out of the hospital gown and into the boxers quickly, feeling better already. He then slipped on the jeans and shirt while his sore muscles complained the entire time. Opening the door, Peter glanced at his appearance before nodding in approval, "What do you want for breakfast?"
"French toast," Neal responded immediately.
"French toast it is then," Peter gestured for him to follow. Ten minutes later, they were out of the hospital and in Peter's car. Neal was holding onto the paperwork that the nurses had given him when he checked out. Something about updating his contact and employment information and resubmitting it. He'd figure it out later. A few minutes later, Peter pulled up to a small diner and Neal followed him inside like a lost puppy. They took seats at the counter and a waitress came up to them.
"Good morning, what could I get you for breakfast?" she smiled as she held out the notepad, ready to write what they wanted down.
"Pancakes and bacon for me, French toast for him," Peter said quickly, "and lots of coffee."
"Coming right up," she smiled before going toward the kitchen.
Neal readjusted himself on the stool before turning to Peter, "When are you going to give me the rundown on what we're doing today? I have a feeling that it's something big."
"It is something big," Peter nodded, "We have a big case."
"Like catching Neal Caffrey big?" Neal asked.
"Like taking down the LA crime syndicate big."
"The LA crime syndicate?"
"Yeah, your dad's gang."
"That's not a good idea, Peter. They're dangerous," Neal felt his blood run cold, "This isn't a white collar operation. This is more of a terror and homicide unit's job."
"I know it's risky, but the FBI needs us on this since you're Suttle's kid."
Peter's face turned dark, "The FBI thinks that you could somehow lure him into a trap or get cozy with him so that it'll be easier for us to get to him. I'm personally against the idea. I think that putting you in that position is too risky and we don't want you to get hurt. I don't want you to get hurt."
Neal took to drumming his fingers on the counter, "He wouldn't hurt me. That's not his goal, so I've been told."
"Why do you say that?"
"Right before I blacked out, there was someone there and they told me that John doesn't want me hurt. That attack was just to get me out of the way while they were in New York. I'm not supposed to be a key player anyway. Not now."
"Because I said no," Neal's gaze turned hard when he stared into Peter's eyes. His blue eyes became blue steel as he said, "He wanted me to join him, but I said no."
Peter's eyebrows narrowed, "He wanted you to join him," he echoed, "That's interesting. This could be deeper than we thought."
"How?" Neal asked as the waitress came back. She sat down their plates and Peter ate a slice of bacon before replying, "Do you think that he would just give up on your that quickly? That he would just take no for an answer? From the files that we've been looking through, he would simply kill you if you denied him."
"He's ruthless," Neal gazed down at his plate glumly, "He'll do anything to get what he wants. If he really wants me, he'll come after me again or kill me. I see your point."
Peter hesitated and then set a hand on Neal's shoulder, "I'm not going to let him hurt you, Neal."
Neal turned and looked at him once more, eyes softening, "I know."
Peter stared at him for a few seconds longer until he split into a smile, "Now eat up, you need something better than hospital food in your system."
"Yes sir," Neal smiled back, cutting into his French toast and popping it in his mouth, "We've got work to do."
A/N: Go on, hit that shiny green review button and tell me what you think ;)