"Family of Neal Caffrey?"
Peter quickly got to his feet and showed the doctor his credentials. The doctor looked confused but Peter explained, "I'm sure you noticed the accessory on his ankle, he's in my custody."
"Right," the doctor nodded, "I'm Dr. Stanley, I've been taking care of Neal since he arrived. We ran a battery of tests, including a CT scan to check out his head injury."
"Is he okay?" Peter asked impatiently, he really needed to know.
"Mr. Caffrey has severe bruising all over his chest and back and we found a couple cracked ribs. The main concern right now is his head injury. You mentioned that he was attacked last evening?"
"Yes, but I don't even have all the details on that..." Peter trailed off.
"I believe he suffered a concussion last night that should have been treated immediately, now his recovery is going to take a while longer," Dr. Stanley said.
"But he is going to be okay?" Peter asked hopefully.
"Yes, Neal will be fine with time. There's been some swelling of his brain that could have been prevented if he had stayed home and rested. We're treating him with oxygen right now to make sure his brain gets what it needs but all in all he's pretty fortunate."
"Is he going to need surgery?" Peter asked with trepidation.
"I don't believe so at this time. Neal is going to need rest, and a lot of it. He'll be dealing with headaches, maybe dizzy spells and nausea for at least a week. I'm concerned that his symptoms could last longer due to the swelling and the fact that he took another hit to his head so soon after the first."
"How long could all that last?" Peter asked.
"It varies from patient to patient, but some have experienced them for months following their accident."
"Months," Peter whispered weakly, guilt slammed into him again. Neal could be suffering for months because he'd failed to notice that anything was wrong with him. "Can I see him?"
"Sure, he was showing signs of waking up earlier. Just try to keep him calm, rest is key to his recovery now. We have him medicated so he may be too out of it to talk much but if the rest of his tests come back okay he should be able to leave tomorrow," the doctor replied.
"So soon?" Peter asked worriedly.
Dr. Stanley smiled, he seemed to understand his concern. "Neal will be fine as long as he has someone with him the first couple of days in case dizziness becomes an issue for him."
"Of course he'll be fine," Elizabeth spoke up, Peter hadn't even realized she'd been listening to everything. "He'll be staying with us until he's back to his usual charming self," she said in a tone that left no room for argument. Not that Peter would have objected, he needed to know that Neal was safe and was glad that he'd be staying with them.
He and El followed the doctor to Neal's room. Neal appeared to be asleep when they entered, he looked so exhausted and pale even as he rested. Peter was surprised when two bright blue eyes met his.
"Peter?" Neal whispered groggily, "is that you?"
To Peter's immense surprise Neal started giggling. He smiled at Neal and said, "Ya buddy, it's me. They must have you on some good stuff."
Neal sighed and said, "The best, haven't felt this good in a long time."
That simple statement clenched guilt around Peter's heart even tighter. Neal was drifting back to sleep fast, probably aided by Elizabeth gently running her fingers through his hair. Peter would let Neal get the sleep that he so desperately needed and would in the meantime try to find the scumbags who had beaten him. Then, he had to find the words to apologize to Neal for letting things get so far out of hand.
Sunlight streaming through partially closed blinds is what woke Neal. His eyes were merely slits as he tried to take in his surroundings. He quickly decided that the room was much too bright for his aching head and squeezed his eyes shut. He was attempting to pull his blanket over his head when he heard an unfamiliar voice addressing him.
"Ah, you're awake."
Neal stared blearily at the woman who he assumed was a nurse. He tried to answer her but it only sounded like a groan. "Time for some pain meds?" she asked kindly.
Neal gratefully took the pills she offered him and after drinking a bit of water regained the ability to speak. "Thank you," he whispered. "How long have I been here?" Neal's mind felt like a jumbled mess. He tried to remember how he had ended up in the hospital but the last thing he remembered was
walking into the office building with Lauren, the rest was rather hazy.
"Not too long, you were brought in yesterday afternoon. How are you feeling this morning?"
"My head still hurts," he answered truthfully, "it's too bright in here," he said as his eyes drifted shut.
The nurse walked to his window and closed the blinds the rest of the way. "Just try to rest until breakfast arrives, if you eat well this morning you may be able to get out of here sooner," she said before leaving the room.
Neal drifted in and out of sleep for awhile until his bladder began protesting to the point it could no longer be ignored. Neal slowly raised the head of his bed until he was in a sitting position and looked around for the bathroom. After swinging his legs over the side of the bed Neal sat, waiting for the dizziness to subside. He was about to attempt standing when he heard a much too loud voice.
"Neal! What are you doing?" It was Elizabeth and her entrance had startled him so much that he began to topple out of his bed and would have fallen on his face if it had not been for her catching him and gently pushing him back into bed. He was surprised by her strength but suddenly found himself gasping in pain.
He lay in the bed gripping his head in his hands, praying that the pounding would lessen enough for him to assure the worried Elizabeth that he was okay. Each gasping breath sent fire through his aching chest and back and it was a few minutes before he felt able to even speak.
"I'm so sorry Neal, I didn't mean to startle you but you really shouldn't be trying to get up."
"It's okay," he replied weakly, "I was just heading to the bathroom." The thought of trying to get up again wasn't a pleasant one but he knew he had to do it.
"Let me help you over there at least," Elizabeth said as she gently helped Neal to his feet. It was awkward, leaning on her but he knew he wouldn't have made it alone. Pain and dizziness assaulted him the entire time he was on his feet and by the time he made it back to his bed he was completely exhausted.
"Thanks," he said once he was settled back in his bed. "Where's Peter?"
"He'll be here soon, he had some important paperwork to finish up. He found the men who attacked you Neal."
"He knows about that?"
"Of course he knows. He would have preferred that you had told him about it as soon as it happened. He combed the entire 2 miles radius around June's and thanks to a confidential tip he found the men who hurt you."
Neal looked stunned. Peter had spent the entire night looking for the men who had beaten him. Elizabeth seemed to know what he was thinking.
"Peter feels really awful about not noticing that you were hurt. He had to do something while you were unconscious, I think it was too hard for him to see you like that."
Neal's heart seemed to lighten at this, he wanted to talk to Peter and thank him for what he had done. He also wanted to know if Peter was okay.
A few hours later Neal was deemed well enough to be discharged. Peter arrived just in time to help get him to the Burke's house. Elizabeth filled prescriptions while Peter drove him to his home. Peter kept glancing apprehensively at Neal who's discomfort was obvious. Neal was simply trying not to throw up in Peter's car as his head throbbed and spun.
Neal was more than ready to lay down when he got to the Burke's and expected to be taken to their guest room. He was surprised when Peter led him to the couch. "I know you're tired Neal, but we really need to talk."
Neal should have expected this, he could practically feel guilt coming off the man in waves. Before Peter could even begin speaking Neal said, "Peter, this is not your fault," as he waved his hand in the direction of his battered self.
"I know it's not my fault that you were attacked Neal, but it is my fault for letting it get out of hand. I feel so stupid for not seeing what was right in front of me. It's my job to notice things that others do not," he said with disgust on his face.
Neal rubbed his aching forehead, "I know something is going on with you Peter, you haven't been yourself all week. You can trust me you know."
Peter looked at the man in front of him, who could barely hold himself upright and realized he owed it to him to tell the truth.
"You're right, there has been something on my mind for awhile. I let it consume me and I let my friend down. I'm so sorry for that," Peter added.
Neal waited patiently for Peter to continue speaking, listening was much easier than talking as his head ached relentlessly.
"El and I have been trying to start a family for awhile now. We found out two days ago that it won't be possible for us. I'm sterile," he finished with shame all over his face.
Neal didn't know what to say. The pain in Peter's eyes made his heart ache for him and Elizabeth. "I'm so sorry," he finally said. "Surely there are other options for you?"
Peter nodded, "There are some things we could try, it's just been so hard on El this week. She's been so excited these last few months, thinking about children."
Neal looked at the man sympathetically. He understood Peter distancing himself as he had, he probably would have withdrawn into himself as well.
"I'll try to do better in future and always make sure I've got my partner's back," Peter said after a few quiet moments, "As long as you promise not to hide injuries from me again," he added.
Neal agreed, "Thanks for finding those guys Peter, the city's a better place without them," he said tiredly.
"You look like you could use something for that headache," Peter said as he watched Neal slump further down on the couch. "I think I hear El now."
Neal decided he could rest just fine on the couch for awhile. Elizabeth brought his pills and water and he swallowed them quickly, ready for some relief. He slowly laid down on their couch, snuggling into the blanket Peter laid over him and sighing in relief as a cool cloth was laid on his forehead.
He looked at the pair of them and smiled. "Thank you both, for everything," he said quietly. He fell into a peaceful sleep knowing that for once, he was not alone.
Authors note: Well, that's it. Had to put a mushy ending on there..hehehe. Hope you all enjoyed and once again, thanks for reading!