Author's Note:

Okay, so this is just your faithful authoress tuning in to address some of the reviews.

The biggest one is the age. Okay, yes, I am well aware that Neal has to be in at least like his thirties. But he acts like such a kid sometimes…well…most of the time, that I thought it would be more fitting for the feel of the story to make him a little younger. Just makes the body match the mind.

Second, this is set, obviously, in an alternate universe in which *spoiler alert!* Kate does not get blown up in an airplane *spoiler over* but instead betrays Neal.

And finally, I will definitely be updating this soon. I am working on about twenty other fics though, and I write as the feeling takes me. I'll get right on it though. Be patient, and thanks for reading! ^^

Neal sighed, pushing his chair back and forth on the back two legs. He was going out of his mind! Peter was reading him parts of a case they were working on, but Neal wasn't focused on it. To be honest, right then, he didn't care one bit about what Peter said. He was pissed at him. Since other FBI agents had taken an interest in his talents, Peter had let him be passed around the agency like an unwanted toy.

He wasn't feeling well either. His body hurt and his head was pounding, not to mention his stomach. After that last job with the mobsters, and that charming little warehouse brawl he'd been stuck in before Peter and the rest of the FBI got there, he was sure he looked like a walking bruise. He's gotten bashed in the back of the head by a two-by-four, hit in the ribs, gotten the hell punched out of his stomach and sides, and his shoulder and left leg were just bad... He wouldn't be telling Peter that though. For one, he didn't think he could stomach hearing the FBI agent telling him to "cowboy up" one more time, but for two, he was pretty sure the older agent would have made him go to the hospital. And he hated hospitals. Hated them.

"Neal!" Peter's shout snapped Neal back to attention. "What do you think?"

Neal quickly wracked his brain to think of something that Peter had said. Just before he was going to confess to his disregard for Peter's entire speech, though, a loud grumble was heard. And it wasn't from Neal's side of the desk. "I think we should go get dinner." He couldn't keep the small smirk off his face as he congratulated himself for a quick save. Elizabeth was out with friends that night, so he knew Peter wouldn't have any plans.

Peter nodded, as Neal had known he would, and the con man stood up. Well, it was more of a process. He waited until Peter had turned to grab his jacket before he even tried. He'd been sitting to long, and all his aches had stiffened, and he ended up having to use the desk to push himself up. He'd just righted himself when Peter turned back around.

"So where to?" he asked, quickly trying to conceal any awkwardness in his movements by distracting his partner as he grabbed his own jacket and fedora. Peter started discussing the options with Neal, but the conversation was really a one on one.

Even as they got to the car, Neal stayed pretty much quiet, only offering quiet suggestions as he watched the rain pour down the window.

Peter noticed, and finally turned around to him. "You're being awfully quiet today," he noted. "What's up with you?"

Neal frowned. "Would you watch the road?" Peter didn't make any such move, so he gestured towards the windshield.

"Fine," Peter submitted, turning to stare at the road ahead of them. "You still haven't answered my question though."

"Sorry." Neal hoped that maybe that would be enough to stop the conversation from going the direction it was going in.

No such luck. "That's not going to work," Peter told him. "What's wrong?"

Neal didn't want to lie. It wasn't that he had a problem with lying, it was that he had a problem with lying to people he respected. And as much as he hated to admit it, he respected Peter. Besides, he was off his game. Peter would probably catch the lie before he finished telling it.

Sadly, he didn't have a whole lot of options. "I have a headache," he told him. It wasn't a lie. He did have a headache. He just had a lot of other things.

"You take something?" Peter asked, glancing over at him.

"No. I was kind of hoping it would go away," Neal answered honestly.

Peter nodded. "Alright, I have some Advil in my glove box. You can take some when you get your drink at the restaurant." Neal felt like the kid that had to get his parents' permission to take medicine. He wasn't going to argue with the dude with the pills though, and nodded.

Instead of conjuring up a real response, he leaned his head against the window of the car and closed his eyes. To his relief, Peter didn't try to start the conversation again.

When they got to the restaurant, a little Chinese restaurant, they found a space, and went in. They grabbed the table in the corner like they always did, away from the intrusive light of the windows. Neal sat down in the corner most of the two, and pulled the bottle of Advil out of his pocket. He poured about four or five into his hand, and was about to toss them into his mouth, but a hand grabbed his wrist. He followed the hand to an arm, to a shoulder, to a face, and saw Peter frowning at him.

"The bottle says take two," he told him, plucking some of the pills out of Neal's palm and leaving only a sad pair. He grabbed the bottle too, putting the pills back and tucking it in his pocket. "I think I'll hang on to these."

Neal was torn between being angry and being embarrassed, but he took the remaining two pills anyway, and took a sip of his water to wash them down.

That was about when the waitress came, and they placed their orders. He ordered some hot tea, and fried rice. Peter, watching Neal, curious as to why he hadn't ordered his usual, placed his own order, and handed the waitress both of their menus. Once she was gone, he turned his focus back to the twenty two year old. Neal was working on adding a fifth lemon to his water.

"Want some water with your lemons?" He asked, raising an eyebrow as Neal reached for a sixth. The con man pretended not to hear him, squeezing a sixth wedge into his drink before mixing it and taking a sip. It seemed satisfactory, and he sat the glass back down, wiping the lemon juice on his napkin.

Giving one more go at a conversation, Peter asked, "So how's June?"

Neal looked up at him. "Fine I guess. She and April are out of town. Will be for a while."

"So you have that whole big house to yourself?"

"Sure do." Neal couldn't resist. "Coffee and all." Peter rolled his eyes.

They were quiet after that, until the food came, with every one of Peter's attempts at conversation getting either completely ignored, or diverted once again to silence. Peter couldn't stand it anymore.

"Neal, what the hell is your problem?" he hissed. It caught Neal by surprise. Neal who had been silently fuming the whole dinner. Neal who was one step away from throwing up every last bit of the food he'd just eaten. Neal who wanted to be anywhere but where he was.

"What's my problem?" he retorted bitterly.

"That's what I asked," Peter bit back, his tone mocking and condescending.

That was all it took for Neal to blow his lid. "You really want to know my problem?! My problem is you and the rest of your fucking bureau kicking me around like some expendable tool!" His voice wasn't quite a shout, but he'd gotten some attention. "I almost got shot Peter. Shot! In the head! Because they don't have my back like you do – like I thought you did. But I guess you're just like them, aren't you? I'm just some ex-fucking-convict that's only good for helping you and your FBI buddies solve your goddamned problems!"

With that, he pulled his wallet out, grabbed a twenty, dropped it on the table, and left the restaurant. Just up and left, jacket over his shoulder.

Peter sat in stunned silence for a second, before he realized that he should go after him. He quickly tossed down a twenty on top of Neal's, and he, too, hurried out. By the time he got out on the streets, Neal was gone.

He knew where he was going, and he knew that with the rain how it was, it was going to be one hell of a long walk to June's. Beyond that, he knew that something was up with the kid. That in mind, he got in his car and started for June's, keeping an eye out for Caffrey. He knew he didn't get far, and sure enough, he spotted him, walking with his shoulders hunched along the sidewalk. He rolled down his window.

"Neal, get in the car," he commanded. Neal ignored him. "Neal! Get in the car!"

Neal glared at him. "Or what? You'll arrest me? Send me back to jail? Get a better threat you prick, because I'm sick of that one."

This was not Neal. Neal didn't act like that.

"No, Neal, I'm not going to arrest you or send you back to jail. I'm going to give you a ride," Peter told him. "It's too cold to be out here in this rain."

Neal looked taken aback by this, and after a second, walked around the front of the car and slid into the passenger seat. He wrapped his arms around himself immediately, and Peter could see him shivering even from where he was.

Peter subtly turned up the heat. "What's going on, Neal?" Peter asked finally, when Neal made no indication of speaking. Neal didn't answer. "Neal?" Again no answer. Peter turned around, and saw Neal with his eyes closed, leaning his forehead against the window. "Neal!"

"Stop the car," Neal mumbled.

"I'm not going to—"

"Stop the car!" He shouted, his hand going for the door knob. Peter quickly pulled over to the right lane, and stopped, just in time for Neal to wrench the door open and crumple to the ground outside. He heard the retching before he got around the car.

Neal was on his knees by the time Peter got to him, and the older man knelt beside him, one hand on his back and one on his shoulders to keep him from lurching forward. The rain matted his hair to his face, and his clothes were soaked through, making him look all the more ill and almost child-like.

Neal retched for a good minute or so before he was finally reduced to dry heaves, and eventually got himself under control. As soon as he could at least halfway stand, Peter hoisted him up and into the car, closing the door behind him and going around to the other side.

"You're sick," he said. "You're sick and you didn't tell me." Neal groaned in response, twisting uncomfortably in the seat. Peter decided then that he would wait to read the riot act to Neal for when the other was actually coherent enough to appreciate it.

He turned the car around. "Where you going?" Neal mumbled groggily.

"To my house. You aren't staying by yourself. You're a mess, and Elizabeth would kill me if I let you go home alone." Neal muttered something incomprehensible and went quiet, and he stayed that way for the rest of the ride.