A Matter of Trust

White Collar Fanfiction

By RascalFlattsS

Disclaimer: Do not own White Collar. This story is written for entertainment purposes only.

Summary: Something goes horrible wrong in the vault. Based on the episode "Hard Fall". Some AU from "Hard Fall" Major Neal Whumpage!

There's a lot of Peter/Neal big brother/little brother and Peter/Neal friendship along with some Elizabeth/Neal big sister/little brother and Elizabeth/Neal friendship. There's also a little bit of Neal/Lauren but only if you squint and hold a magnifying glass to the computer screen.

Warning: Some swearing.

MAJOR HUGE GIGANTE SPOILER ALERT for "Hard Sell"!!! You have been warned. Read at your own risk.


Neal turned and saw Peter running down the hall towards him. Behind Peter were Avery and Reed running towards the vault, with Avery carrying a large rifle.

Damn, cursed Neal slightly. I knew this was going to end badly….

Neal watched as Peter continued to run towards him. Peter was fifteen seconds away from crossing the threshold, when Neal watched Avery raise the gun, lining up the shot. Neal was silently thankful that the rifle didn't have a laser scope because the little red dot would have been over his heart.

Neal knew that he wouldn't have time avoid being shot and getting Peter safely into the locked vault and away from danger.

There was no thinking going on Neal's mind; no careful consideration of all alternatives and the consequences. Neal knew what his decision was before he even made it.

Everything after that was a blur.

Neal heard the sound of the rifle fire as he pulled the ledger out of its box. Peter's foot crossed the threshold and the door to the vault slammed shut.

Peter was running so hard that he never heard the gun discharge. He did however feel the bullet move past him. As soon as he made it past the threshold he dropped to the floor. He heard the door slam shut and the air being sucked out of the room.

Peter glanced up, looking at the door. Avery and Reed where standing outside the door, looking very angry. Peter could also see the crack in the glass where Avery had taken another shot.

The memory came flooding back. Peter picked himself off the floor. "NEAL!"

"Here," said Neal. He was gasping and his face looked pale. He was leaning hard against the wall. Peter rushed over him.

"Are you all right?" asked Peter.

"I've been better," gasped Neal. Peter say how these words seemed to take his breath away.

"Where you hit?" asked Peter.

"What?" asked Neal confused.

"Where. You. Hit?" asked Peter, announcing each word for understanding. He looked at Neal, trying to spot a bullet wound.

"We have bigger problems than that, Peter." He pointed up to the vents, sucking out all the oxygen.

"Right," agreed Peter. If they didn't find the kill switch, they would be dead in five minutes. "We need to find the kill switch!" he shouted.

Duh, thought Neal. He pulled out the small oxygen tube. He shoved it at Peter. "Here"

Peter shook his head in disbelief. "No! No, we share the oxygen and look together until Jones gets here."

Neal shook his head, determined. "No! There's not enough time! There are only five minutes for one person; two and a half for two."

"No Neal!" shouted Peter. He couldn't let Neal sacrifice himself.

"Peter, we're wasting time!" said Neal. Not only are we suffocating but I am also bleeding to death from a damn gunshot wound! We don't have time for you to play hero! Neal thought.

Neal took as deep of breath as he could. "Peter, I trust you."

Peter was about to respond but stopped. He could see the trust in Neal's eyes. Neal trusted him to get him out of this mess. And Peter was going to do everything in his power to make sure they made it out of this.

Besides there was no talking to him when he gets like this. Stubborn, hard headed bastard.

"Okay," Peter said. He took the small oxygen tube and placed in his mouth. As oxygen began to fill into his lungs, his head stopped spinning and his vision cleared slightly.

Man, if this is how I feel, I can't image how Neal is feeling, thought Peter. We'd had better find that dame kill switch. Before it's too late.

Neal began frantically pushing aside boxes on the shelf, looking for the kill switch. He pushed them aside, not carrying about the mess he made.

"Where is it?!" Neal yelled in frustration. His head was pounding and his heart was pounding loudly. Not to mention, his left shoulder and chest were killing him. He would have loved to have given up in defeat but he couldn't. He had to find the kill switch. If he didn't, Peter would die and if that happened, Elizabeth would kill him.

Assuming that lack of oxygen and the bullet wound in his chest didn't kill him first.

Neal moved over to the wall, brushing aside each of the framed comic books, looking for the kill switch. What the hell is with this dude and all his stupid frame comics? Thought Neal.

Neal groaned in frustration when he couldn't find the kill switch. He estimated he only had about another fifteen seconds before he passed out from lack of air.

He quickly moved to the next wall, shoving aside the stupid frame comics. After removing on, he found it. Neal sighed in relief. Thank God!

Neal turned and shouted to Peter. "I found it! I FOUND IT!" When Peter didn't turn, Neal pounded on the wall. Peter turned and looked at him.

Neal pointed to the kill switch. "I found-" he started. His fifteen seconds were up. His legs collapsed underneath and Neal found himself sliding to the floor.

The last thing he remembered before he lost consciousness was Peter rushing toward him.

Who the hell frames comics?! Peter thought as he frantically pushed them aside, looking for the kill switch. He groaned when he couldn't find it.

Where is it? He thought. I have to find it, I have to! There was no alternative in Peter's mind. If they didn't find the kill switch, Neal would suffocate to death.

NO! I won't let that happen! I won't! Peter thought angrily. He turned to the next wall moving aside the comics. Nothing.

Peter turned to look at Neal. He saw Neal pounding on the wall, shouting something to him but without any air, Peter couldn't hear what he was saying.

Neal pointed to the kill switch. Peter felt relief washed over him. Thank God! We're going to be okay! He's going to be okay…

Peter's relief turned to horror, when he saw Neal's eyes roll up into his head. He slid against the wall until he landed on the floor unconscious.

Oh God! NO!

Peter ran over to the kill switch. He was about to hit the button, when looked at the door. Avery and Reed where standing there, watching. Peter felt his blood run cold when he saw Avery raise his shot gun, taking aim at the fallen man.

Peter froze. The moment he hit the kill switch, the door would open, giving Avery a perfect shot at Neal. With Neal unconsciousness, there was no way Neal could protect himself or sweet talk himself out this situation, like he always does. But if didn't flip the switch, Neal was going to die….

Peter reached down and shook Neal's shoulder, trying to rouse the man. Neal didn't even flinch. But Peter did, when he felt the stickiness on Neal's shirt. He pulled his hand back, horrified to see that his hand was covered in red.

Oh my God….

Peter looked up at Avery with such anger in his eyes. He spat out the oxygen tank and pulled out his gun before hitting the switch. He pointed it directly at Avery as the door opened. Peter sighed in relief as he felt air rushing toward him.

"FBI!" shouted Jones. He, Cruz and the team where behind Avery and Reed. Peter had never been so happy to see his team. "Put your weapons down!"

Reed immediately raised his hands up in the air. Avery paused for a moment, trying to decide if he could still take the shot.

Peter held his gun steady. "You'll be dead before you can take the shot," he growled.

Avery sighed and set the gun down on the ground. "This isn't over," he said as he raised his hands up in the air.

Peter ignored Avery's threat and bent down over Neal. He pressed his hands over Neal's wound. "Get a bus!" he shouted.

Jones nodded and turned to his radio to call for a bus.

Lauren ran over to Peter. "Can I help?" she asked.

Peter never even bothered to look up. "Check his vitals." Peter continued to press down on the wound.

"How bad is it?" asked Jones.

"He was shot in the chest, Jones," yelled Peter. "How do you think he's doing?!" Jones paled slightly. Clearly Peter was not in a good mood. "How long till the ambulance gets here?"

"Five minutes," replied Jones quickly.

"That's not good enough!" yelled Peter.

"Peter," said Lauren.

"Make sure the area is secure," barked Peter, ignoring Lauren. He continued to press down hard on Neal's bullet wound. "And read Avery and Reed their rights."

Jones nodded. "Of course, Peter."

"And tell the ambulance to hurry up," yelled Peter. "We're not getting any younger."

"Peter!" said Lauren. "PETER!"

"What?" snapped Peter. He looked up at Lauren and was shocked to see that the look on her face was nothing short of pure terror.

"I can't find a pulse!" screamed Lauren.

"WHAT?!" shouted Peter and Jones together. Peter reached up and touched Neal's neck. He felt his own heart stop when he didn't feel Neal's heartbeat.

Peter cursed. "Jones! Get the defibrillator from the car!" Jones nodded and shouted to another officer to get the defibrillator.

Peter positioned his hands over Neal's heart and started chest compressions. He paused only long enough for Lauren to blow two quick breathes into Neal's mouth as she was provide rescue breathing, since Neal had not started breathing either. Peter watched Neal's chest rise and fall but he didn't cough or start breathing on his own.

Peter checked the pulse again, cursing aloud when it still wasn't there. "Damn it Neal!" he said as he resume compressions. "You better not die on me Neal Caffrey! I own for the next four years! You can't die unless I say so! So you'd better come through for me Neal!" He looked up at Lauren. "Anything?" he asked, not really caring for the pleading in his voice.

Lauren blew two breathes into Neal's lungs. She checked for a pulse and shook her head. Peter cursed again.

"C'mon Neal," said Peter as he resume compressions. "You can't die on me! Not after all we've been through! Not now! Not like this!"

"Peter!" shouted Jones. "The paramedics are here."

The paramedics rushed toward Neal. Lauren immediately stood aside for them to work. Peter however seem obviously to them as he continued administrating CPR.

"Sir," said one of the paramedics. "We need you to move." Peter shook his head. "Sir, we need you to move if we are going to save him."

"Peter," said Lauren. She grabbed Peter's arm and pulled him up. She and Jones led him away from Neal. One paramedic continued CPR while the other hooked up the defibrillator.

"Peter," said Lauren softly. "We need to get you checked out."

"I'm fine," said Peter, his tone flat and lifeless. He continued to stare at the scene in front of him, watching as the paramedics tried to bring Neal back to life.

"Charging to 200!" shouted one of the paramedics. "CLEAR!"

Neal's body jumped as the electricity course through him, trying to start his heart. The paramedic checked his pulse and smiled.

"We've got him!" he shouted to his partner. He looked up at Peter, Jones and Lauren. "He's back."

"Thank God," breathed Peter.

"Still not breathing!" shouted the paramedic. "He needs to be incubated!" She nodded. Peter watched as they inserted a tube into Neal's throat and attached a bag to the end. The paramedic pushed the bag and pumped air into his lungs.

The paramedic turned to her partner. "Ready?" Her partner nodded. They lifted Neal onto a stretcher and wheeled him outside. Peter, Jones and Lauren followed.

"I want to ride with him!" shouted Peter.

The paramedics finished loading Neal into the ambulance. Her partner ran up front to get in the driver's seat. She shook her head. "I'm sorry, sir. He's critical. We need to get him to the hospital right away."

"You don't understand—" started Peter but the paramedic cut him off.

"Sir, if we're going to save your friend, we need the room to work," she said.

"Peter," said Lauren softly as if she was speaking to a small child. "Let them do their jobs. They'll take good care of Neal."

"Where are you taking him?"

"Mercy General," said the paramedic. She hopped in the back and Peter watched as the ambulance took off down the road.

Peter left Jones and Lauren behind to take care of the crime scene. He did not want any chance that Reed and Avery would get off on a technicality. He then had one of the local police officers drive him to the hospital. He wanted to drive himself but Jones and Lauren flat out refused.

Peter picked up the phone and dialed Elizabeth. He dreaded calling her and telling her that their friend had been shot and was dying; dying from a bullet that had been most likely meant for him.

"Hi Honey," greeted Elizabeth cheerfully. "How's the undercover job going? Did Neal get the ledger?"

"El," said Peter softly. He heard a gasp on the other side of the phone. He knew Elizabeth could tell something was wrong

"What happened?" asked Elizabeth worried. "Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine," said Peter. He took a deep breath. "El, its Neal."

"Oh Peter," said Elizabeth sighing. "You didn't lock him in the vault did you?"

Peter smiled slightly. Then he sighed and took another deep breath. "El, Neal was shot."

Peter could hear the sharp intake of breath over the phone. "Oh my God! Is he okay?"

Peter shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know. I'm on my way to the hospital right now."

"Which hospital?" asked Elizabeth.

"El, you don't have to—" Peter started but Elizabeth cut him off.

"Which hospital?" she asked again firmly.

"Mercy General," said Peter.

"I'll meet you there," said Elizabeth. She paused. "He'll be okay. You know that, right?"

Peter sighed. "I sure hope so," he said. "I love you."

"I love you too," said Elizabeth as she hung up.

You'd better be okay, Caffrey, thought Peter.

Twenty minutes later Peter arrived in the ER. He marched right up to the desk. "Excuse me. I'm looking for information about Neal Caffrey."

"Are you family?" asked the nurse.

"Well no," started Peter. "But—"

"I'm sorry sir," said the nurse. "I can't release any information to anyone who is not family."

Peter pulled out his FBI badge and shoved it in the nurse's face. "I'm FBI Agent Peter Burke. Neal Caffrey is my partner-who also works for the FBI. We were working undercover when he was shot. Now, I need you to tell me what is going on with him!"

The nurse nodded. She started typing in her computer. "Agent Caffrey was brought in to the ER with a gunshot wound to the upper right chest."

"I already know that," said Peter sarcastically. "I was there when he was shot!"

"He's been taken up to surgery to remove the bullet," finished the nurse. "You can wait here in the waiting room."

"But how is he doing?" asked Peter. "Is he okay? Is he going to be okay?"

The nurse shook her head patiently. "The doctor is currently working on Agent Caffrey. As soon as the doctor is available, he will page you and give you an update." She then smiled. "I know you're worried about your partner right now, Agent Burke. Our staff is very good. They are doing everything for Agent Caffrey. Now if you just have a seat…" She gestured to the chairs in the waiting room.

Peter sighed. He wasn't going to get any more information about Neal's condition from her. He walked over and collapsed in one of the uncomfortable chairs.

He ran his fingers through his hair, thinking about today's mission. How had this happened? He remembered sitting in the conference room yesterday with Neal talking about the job. He remembered that Neal had been skeptical that Peter's plan would work. Peter had assured him that it would. Neal would go and get the ledger out of the vault. And if for some reason the airlock shutdown was triggered, Neal had the canister that would give him five minutes of oxygen while the FBI got him out. It would be fine; Neal would be perfectly safe.

Except Peter had never imaged that he would also be trapped in the vault with Neal. Nor had he imaged that Neal would give him the small oxygen tube. But now that he thought about it, it didn't really surprise him. Neal was loyal to his friends; look at the loyalty he showed towards Kate. Peter considered Neal a friend; it had never occurred to him that Neal might also consider him a friend as well.

Some friend I've been, thought Peter. He hadn't told Neal about his meeting with Kate. He was afraid that Neal would do something stupid if he knew that Peter had meet with Kate. Or worse, that he would think that Peter had betrayed him and that Peter was "the man with the ring."

To be honest, Peter couldn't blame Neal for suspecting him. He hadn't been honest with Neal. He knew exactly what the ring meant the moment he saw it but he hadn't told Neal. Based on the evidence Neal had, it was easy for Neal to suspect Peter. It was Peter would have done if he had been in Neal's shoes.

Despite the lying and the mistrust that had occurred between them, Neal had still been willing to risk his life for Peter. He had given the oxygen tank to Peter at the expense of his own life. He had taken a bullet for Peter. That's the kind of loyalty you don't find every day.


Peter looked up and saw Elizabeth standing in front of him. He stood up and hugged her. "Thanks for coming, El."

"Of course," said Elizabeth. She sat down in the chair next to Peter. "What happened? Is Neal okay?"

"He's currently in surgery," said Peter. "They won't tell me anything until he's out of surgery."

"Peter, what happened?" asked Elizabeth.

"Reed showed up," said Peter. "He confronted Avery at the party. Avery thought that Madison was the spy. He was going to hurt her if we didn't do something. So I told Avery that Neal was the spy. I made it sound that Neal was a corporate spy working for Reed. So then Neal went to Reed, trying to flip him on Avery."

"And Reed's the one who told you about the ledger," said Elizabeth.

Peter nodded. "Neal was already in the vault, trying to steal the ledger. I saw Avery and Reed arguing about Neal. I knew that his cover was about to blown. I ran to the vault to try and warn Neal. Avery and Reed must figure that Neal was in the vault, trying to steal the ledger and they followed with Avery's shotgun.

"Neal waited for me to get into the vault before he moved the ledger, triggering the door to shut. I guess he waited too long because Avery was able to get a shot off before the door shut. I felt it rush past me as I ran in."

Elizabeth gasped her hand flying to her mouth.

"With the door shut, the vacuum had engaged," continued Peter. "Neal tried to give me the oxygen tube. I tried to get him to share it but he wouldn't hear of it. You know how he gets-he insisted that I should take it. He told me that he trusted me. He trusted me to get us out.

"I took the tube and began searching for the kill switch. Neal found it first. After he got my attention, he passed out from lack of oxygen. I ran over and I was about to hit it when I saw Avery raise his gun. He was pointing it at Neal. I knew the moment I hit that button, he was going to shoot Neal. But Neal had already passed out from lack of air. He was dying, El.

"I reached down to shake him," said Peter, "when I felt the blood. I had done a quick visual check for bullet wounds when I first got in the vault, but with his dark shirt, I didn't see any blood. I knew then if I didn't do something Neal was going to die. So I grabbed my gun and hit the kill switch. The door opened and thankfully Jones and Cruz where there with backup."

"Neal wasn't breathing. And then Cruz couldn't find his pulse. His heart had stopped. I did CPR and the paramedics shocked him and thank God they got him back. But he was technically dead there, El. Neal was technically and for all legal purposes dead."

"Oh Peter," whispered Elizabeth. She wrapped her arms around his neck.

Peter continued as if he hadn't heard her. "Neal 'technically' died and it's all my fault. He could still die! He saved my life! He could die and it's all my fault!"

It was then Peter broke down crying in his wife's arms.

It was three and a half hours later when Neal's surgeon came out.

"Agent Caffrey?" he said.

Peter and Elizabeth stood up and walked over to him.

"Agent Caffrey?" whispered Elizabeth, a smile creeping over her face.

"It's a long story," whispered Peter. "I'll explain later."

"Hello," said the doctor. "I'm Dr. Adam Larson. I was Agent Caffrey's surgeon."

"I'm Agent Peter Burke," said Peter, holding out his hand for Dr. Larson to shake it. "I'm Neal's partner. This is my wife Elizabeth."

"Hello," said Elizabeth, shaking Dr. Larson's hand. "How's Neal?"

"He's going to be fine," said Dr. Larson.

"Thank God," said Peter. "What's the damage?"

"He was shot in the upper right part of the chest," said Dr. Larson. "The bullet hit the top part of the lung, along with hitting a major artery before ending up in the scapula. The bullet punctured his lung and caused some internal bleeding. I managed to repair the damage done to the lung and artery and stopped the internal bleeding. Agent Caffrey has also had several transfusions to help with the blood loss. He also has two broken ribs from the CPR."

"Can we see him?" asked Elizabeth.

Dr. Larson nodded. "Currently he's being moved to a room in ICU. Agent Caffrey is currently on a ventilator to assist him with breathing while his lungs heal."

"Dr. Larson," said Peter. "Neal and I were working undercover. When our cover was blown, we were forced to hide in a vault where the air was vacuumed out. Neal did lose consciousness while we were still in the vault before I got the door open."

"I noticed that in the chart," said Dr. Larson. "Being in a room without oxygen certainly didn't help his lung, but I don't think that it caused any lasting damage to the lung."

"What I mean, is that Neal wasn't breathing when we got him out," said Peter. "And I mean is there-could there be any—um---damage from the lack of oxygen." Peter stumbled over the words.

Dr. Larson nodded. "I ordered a CT scan and there does not appear to be any brain damage from lack of oxygen. However, it won't be possible to determine the extent of any brain damage until Agent Caffrey regains consciousness."

Brain damage. Neal Caffrey-one of the greatest white collar criminals and FBI consultants-could have brain damage. Neal Caffrey's brilliant mind-gone. That thought chilled Peter to the bone.

"Currently, Agent Caffrey is a chemically induced coma," said Dr. Larson. "This is simply to allow his lung to heal with the ventilator in place."

Peter nodded. He was still trying to wrap his mind around the idea of Neal Caffrey having brain damage.

"Dr. Larson?" said a nurse. "Agent Caffrey has been moved into ICU."

"Thank you Sam," said Dr. Larson. "If you just want to follow Sam, she'll take you to Agent Caffrey's room. Have Sam page me if you have any questions."

"Of course," said Elizabeth. "Thank you so much, Doctor."

Dr. Larson nodded and walked off.

"If you just want to follow me," said Sam. She led Peter and Elizabeth down the hall to Neal's room.

"Normally, we only allow one person in at a time for ten minutes only," said Sam. "But in this case, Dr. Larson said to make an exception based on the circumstances. You are welcomed to stay until visiting hours are over at eight, but we do ask that if the case of an emergency, you leave the room in order to let us work on Agent Caffrey."

"Of course," said Elizabeth. Peter nodded in argument because he didn't trust his voice to work.

Sam paused for a moment before opening the door. "I must warn you, it may be intimating seeing Agent Caffrey hooked up to all the machines, the ventilator and IVs. But I assure you all those are in place to help him."

"Thank you," said Elizabeth.

"Of course," said Sam. She opened the door. "Hit the call button if you have any questions or concerns."

Peter and Elizabeth walked into Neal's room. They sat down by the bed.

"He looks so small," said Elizabeth after several minutes. Peter nodded.

Elizabeth took Peter's hand. "He's going to be okay, honey," she said.

Peter nodded and squeezed her hand. "I know. I'll just feel a lot better when Neal's awake and back to his annoying self."

Neal groaned. The first thing he was aware of was the pain. Pain in his shoulder. Pain in his chest. Pain in his head.

"Welcome back."

Neal groaned again and opened his eyes. He saw Peter sitting by the bed, holding a cup of coffee in his hands.

"It's about you joined us," said Peter. "El and I were beginning to have a bet going. She's going to be mad that you woke up when she was gone."

"What happened?" rasped Neal, his voice dry and cracked. He tried to sit up but the pain in his shoulder doubled.

Peter was immediately out of his chair, pushing him back down. "Take it easy, Neal. The doctor said you'd be sore for a while. Are you thirsty?"

Neal nodded. Peter pushed the on call button. Sam the nurse walked in. She smiled when she saw her patient was awake.

"Agent Caffrey!" said Sam. "It's so good to have you back with us. How are you feeling?"

"All right, I guess," rasped Neal. "My throat hurts."

Sam nodded. "That's to be expected. Dr. Larson removed the ventilator only yesterday so your throat will be sore for a while. Would you like some water and ice chips?"

Neal nodded. Sam smiled. "I will go get those. Try to rest and not talk too much." She looked at Peter. "Anything I can get for you Agent Burke?"

Peter smiled. "I'm fine. But can you page my wife? She went down to the cafeteria for breakfast and I'm sure she'd like to know that Neal's awake."

Sam nodded. "Of course." With that she left.

Neal raised an eyebrow. "Agent Caffrey?" he rasped.

Peter rolled his eyes. "It's a long story. When you were admitted, the hospital didn't want to release information to a non-family member. So I showed them my badge and told them you were my partner-which is somewhat true. They made the leap to 'agent', I just never corrected them."

Neal nodded. "What happened?" he rasped, his voice barely above a whisper.

"You don't remember?" asked Peter, his voice full of concern. "We were at Avery's party. You were in the vault trying to get the ledger when our cover was blown."

The memories came flooding back to him. Peter running towards him. Avery raising the gun. Neal pulling the ledger out of the box. The door slamming shut as the bullet hit him. Convincing Peter to take the tube. Frantically looking for the kill switching. Finding it a second too late….

"I remember," croaked Neal. "We got locked in the vault."

Peter nodded. "That's right. What else do you remember?"

"You wanted to share the oxygen," said Neal slowly. "I didn't. I insisted you take it and you finally did. I remember finding the kill switch and then…" Neal's voice trailed off. "That's it. That's all I remember."

"You passed out," said Peter. "You also forgot to mention the part where you were shot."

"I kind of figured," said Neal. "Seeing as how I'm in a hospital and all."

"Why didn't you tell me?" asked Peter.

"What?" asked Neal.

"Why didn't you tell me you had gotten shot in the vault?" asked Peter. "I asked you if you had been hit and you then proceeded to point out the oxygen in the room was running out."

"Well, it was!" argued Neal. He took a deep breath. "I knew if I told you, you would freak out. You would insist on giving me the oxygen and giving me first aid and we didn't have the time to wait. Besides, I knew you'd get us out of there. And you did."

Peter nodded. "It was a close call." He took a deep breath. "You weren't breathing and your heart stopped. Lauren and I had to do CPR on you till the paramedics got there. They managed to bring you back."

"Oh," said Neal. "Guess that explains the broken ribs, huh?" He sighed. "Thanks," he added softly.

Peter looked up at Neal. "What?"

"Thanks," said Neal, "for saving my life. With the CPR and all. I know that you didn't have to do that and I appreciate it."

"Didn't have to do it?" repeated Peter. "Damn it Neal! You're my friend! Of course, I had to do it!"

Neal was shocked. "You consider me a friend?"

Peter looked at him. "Of course, you're my friend. What else would you be?"

"Oh I don't know," said Neal. "An annoyance, a thorn in your side, your pet convict; the list goes on."

"For the record, I never called you a 'pet convict'," said Peter. "However, I won't deny that you don't annoy me at times." He sighed. "You waited till I made it across the threshold, didn't you?"

"Well of course, I did," said Neal. "I didn't want you to be stuck outside with those two psychos."

"And you gave me the oxygen tube," said Peter

"Well, Elizabeth would have killed me if anything happened to you," said Neal.

Peter smiled. "And you risked your life to save mine."

"Of course I did," said Neal. "You're my friend. I couldn't let anything bad happen to you."

"And you're my friend," emphasized Peter. "I couldn't let anything bad happen to you either."

Neal smiled. "Thanks Peter."

"Anytime," said Peter. "Just try not to make this a regular habit of yours."

Neal laughed. "I'll try. This is the reason I hate guns."

"Good," said Peter. "Because you can't go and die on me."

"You'd miss me?" asked Neal.

"Nope," said Peter, grinning. "I'd have so much paperwork to fill out."

Neal smiled. "Sure, Peter."

Just then, Elizabeth walked in. She was carrying a cup of water in her hand. "Neal! Thank goodness you're okay! Peter and I have been worried sick!" She walked over to the bed and gave him a small hug.

"Good to see you to, Lizzie," said Neal.

Elizabeth punched him lightly in the arm. "I told you not to call me that."

Neal rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say, Lizzie."

"You're downright evil sometimes," said Elizabeth. "You know that, right."

"I know," said Neal.

"Here," said Elizabeth, handing Neal the cup of water. "Sam said to give this to you. Take small sips."

"Thanks," said Neal. He took a sip of water. "So what's the damage?"

"Bullet hit your lung and an artery before lodging itself into your shoulder blade," said Peter. "Your lung collapsed and you had some internal bleeding. They had you in a vent for a few days to let your lung heal up. Dr. Larson took you off yesterday. He says you're doing well. If you keep this up, you'll be out of here by the end of the week."

"Cool," said Neal. "How long was I out?"

Peter and Elizabeth looked at him. "Four days," answered Elizabeth.

"Ouch," said Neal. He moved his right leg when he realized that something was missing. "Hey! Where's the bracelet?"

"Hasn't been put back on yet," said Peter.

Neal looked at him in surprise. "Really?"

"Well, you've been unconsciousness for the past four days," said Peter. "I highly doubt that you'd run."

"What about now?" asked Neal.

"I'll wait till you're discharged," said Peter. He smiled, "Seeing as how it would be most inappropriate for Agent Caffrey to be wearing an ankle bracelet." Elizabeth laughed and Neal smiled.

"But I thought you didn't trust me," said Neal.

"If you can't trust your friends, who can you trust?" asked Peter. Neal's smile grew. "Besides, you're not going to make it very far in your condition anyway."

"I also took upon myself to tell the nurses that you hate hospitals and have tried to make 'escapes' in the past," said Elizabeth, smiling. "They'll be checking up on you when we're not here. Every five minutes."

Neal smiled. "Gee, thanks, Lizzie."

It was a week later and Neal had been discharged from the hospital. Peter and Elizabeth had insisted that Neal come and stay with them while he injured.

Peter and Elizabeth had driven him home. As soon as they got there, Jones and Cruz had been waiting with a new ankle bracelet.

"I'm starting to get used to this thing," said Neal after they put it on.

Peter rolled his eyes, "Well don't get used to this," he said.

"Now, Peter, be nice to him," said Elizabeth.

"Yeah, Peter, be nice to me," whined Neal. Peter rolled his eyes.

"Well, Peter, we'd better get back to the office," said Jones.

"Okay," said Peter. He went into the kitchen to help Elizabeth get lunch ready.

"Um, Lauren?" asked Neal. "Can I talk to you for a moment?"

"Sure," said Lauren. She turned to Jones. "I'll meet you outside." Jones nodded and left.

Lauren turned to Neal. "Yes?" she asked.

"I, um, wanted to thank you," said Neal softly. "Peter told me how you helped with the CPR and I know that saved my life and everything and without it, I wouldn't be here-so thanks."

Lauren smiled. "No problem." She turned to go.

"And I was also wondering," added Neal, "If I could take you to diner sometime. As a proper thank you."

Lauren turned and looked at Neal. She studied him for a moment before she broke out into a smile. "Sure."

Neal also smiled. "Great. I'll give you a call."

Lauren nodded. "Wait till you're feeling better." She paused. "You know I expect you take me to the fanciest, most expense restaurant in New York, right?"

Neal smiled. "I wouldn't expect anything else."

Lauren nodded. "Get better soon Neal." With that she left.

Peter entered the living room, carrying a tray of chicken noodle soup, crackers and tea. "You aren't trying to hit on my agent, are you Caffrey?"

"Wouldn't dream of it, friend," said Neal.

"Good," said Peter. He set the tray down on the table and sat down on the couch next to Neal. "I expect you to eat all of that."

"Thanks Mom," said Neal. Peter rolled his eyes and gave Neal a playful pushed.

Neal smiled and took a sip of the soup. "Elizabeth, this soup is excellent."

"Why thank you, Neal," said Elizabeth walking into the living room. She sat on the other side of Neal on the sofa. "I'm glad you like it."

Neal nodded and took another sip. He smiled. Kate leaving him was hard and it broke his heart. Even though he was still heartbroken that she had left him, he was also glad that she had left. If she hadn't he would have never escaped from jail. And then Peter would have never caught him again and he wouldn't have been able to work as a consultant for the FBI. Even though Neal wished he had more freedom to move around, he loved his new job as an FBI consultant. And he loved his friendship with Peter and Elizabeth.

He loved that they cared for him and worried about him. Neal had never known his father and his mother had died when he was a preteen. He never had any brothers or sisters. Kate had been his girlfriend and his partner in crime, but she had never taken care of him nor had she been there when he needed her the most. Mozzie was a good friend and at times could be taken as a father figure and mentor.

Peter was like the big brother that Neal never had. He annoyed Neal and teased him. Peter also challenged him and encouraged Neal to reach higher and do better. He trusted Neal when no one else would. Peter may find Neal annoying and want to strangle him some days but when it came down to it, Peter had Neal's back. Peter was also fiercely protective of Neal and would do anything for him. Elizabeth was the older sister Neal never had. She cared for him when he was sick or hurt. She provides support and encourage for Neal. She was also the voice of reason at times when Peter and Neal fight.

Neal trusted Elizabeth and Peter with his life. He would do anything for them and he knew they would return the favor in a heartbeat.

Neal still missed Kate and he was still determined to search for her. But in the meantime, Neal was happy to be in the care and company of his friends. His family.

"Hey Neal," said Peter, snapping Neal out of his thoughts. "You've been awfully quiet. You okay?"

Neal smiled. "Better than I have been in a long time," said Neal. He sat up. "So sick guy gets to pick the movie right?"

-The End-

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