Forced Fed 1e
He had to be dreaming. The young man heard a low constant "beep beep" in the background as he felt consciousness slowly wash over him. Voices in the background and other noises of people moving around somewhere far off drew his attention further from the darkness and into the light, his eyes fluttering opening. He was in a sterile looking white room dimly lit by a single lamp. He was tucked warmly with blankets, his bed surrounded by machines reading his heart rate and other vitals. It only took a moment for him to realize where he was and still he thought he was dreaming. He saw a window off to his right, curtained, a small sofa sitting before it and a figure laying there asleep. Neal blinked at the person, his memory hazy but more than that he was surprised by their presence. It was June.
Neal kept looking around him, seeing an IV stuck in his arm, the bland surroundings of the room, and a pitcher of water on the nightstand. He suddenly felt very thirsty, his left hand reaching up weakly for the pitcher when someone touched his shoulder. He turned to see June standing beside him, smiling softly.
"Hello, sleepy head. How are you feeling?" Her voice was motherly and calming. He smiled back at her with a surprised expression. His mouth opened but nothing came out and she nodded, patting him gently on the arm as she moved around to the nightstand and poured him a glass of water. His eyes followed her as she glided across the floor and helped him sit up. June held the glass to his lips and he sipped at it thankfully, his eyes looking up at her when he was done. She placed the glass on the nightstand and pulled a chair to his bedside, sitting beside him.
"I found your key in the umbrella stand..." Neal stiffened a bit at her blunt statement, a guilty look covering his face as he turned his face towards the window. Her voice held nothing but sympathy for him but he knew she was hurt by his actions.
"Neal, look at me... Please." He reluctantly turned to face her, eyes lowered but soon they were eye to eye as she grasped his chin in her hand gently.
"You know you can come to me if you're in trouble. You're like family. Remember that." He gazed at her, his expression contrite as he nodded slightly. She squeezed his chin in her hand gently and kissed him on the forehead.
"I was hurt that you left your favorite hat with Jones. He returned it to El and she gave it to me. It's safe at home in the wardrobe, waiting for you." Her smiled had quirked just a bit and he couldn't help but blush and smile back.
"Good, then we are in agreement. You won't do anything as foolish as this ever again without consulting myself, Peter and El. Right?" He looked at her with a curious glance as she grinned back at him returning the grin.
"Promise me, Neal." He nodded, making a sign of crossing his heart.
"Now, this old woman needs to go home. I will come back tomorrow. Maybe you'll have found your voice by then." He nodded at her, feeling a smile on his face as she winked back at him.
"I'll let El know that you're awake. Peter's been wanting to see you but he's at home recuperating." Neal nodded to her with a thankful look as she smiled once more and exited the room with a soft: "Good-night."
Neal was alone. He looked around the room and tried to think of something other than being alone. He would really have liked to have June stay with him but he didn't have the voice to ask and even if he had, he didn't think he would have been able to say what he felt. He was thankful enough that she had stayed with him for whatever time she had, sleeping on the sofa and then talking to him. He still felt guilty for not confiding in her but she had forgiven him and that was enough for now.
Neal found the remote for the TV hanging off the side of the bed and turned it on. He muted the volume and flipped boredly through the stations. At some point he must have drifted off because he woke up to find soft sunlight streaming in through the curtained window and a nurse trying to remove the remote from his hand.
"You're awake. Your friend June left you a message." Neal nodded at the nurse and smiled tiredly up at her. He gave a little yawn and stretch as he waited for her to pass him the note. Instead she walked over to the door and opened it up, peering out a moment before she held the door open and gave a little nod to some unseen person. Neal heard footsteps. A figure shuffled into the room looking a little worse for wear. It was Peter. The agent walked over with a bit of a limp, his left arm in a sling, and an uncertain look on his face.
"Neal." His voice was quiet and sounded a bit hollow for what he remembered of his friend. The young con nodded, motioning for Peter to sit. The nurse helped to fluff Neal's pillows so he could sit up comfortably before leaving them alone. Peter sat in the chair, leaning back and giving a tired sigh. They sat in silence just looking around the room a bit before Neal coughed. It was the only sound he'd been able to make so far. His voice had abandoned him and not returned yet. Peter's attention was on him now, the young man's face blushing some as he opened his mouth to speak but couldn't. The agent nodded.
"June told me. She gave me your note." Peter's voice was contrite as he stared into the young man's eyes and took one hand in his.
"I would never expect you to sacrifice yourself like this. You're my partner and most of all a good friend." Neal shook his head, frustration making him want to shout but his voice refused to come. His hands hit at the mattress as he opened his mouth and nothing came out. Peter watched him struggle to speak, reaching over to pour a glass of water, handing it to the young man. Neal shook his head refusing the water, his face red with effort as he opened his mouth again.
"P...Pe...." He hit the mattress hard with his fist, his eyes shiny with tears.
"Pe... ter..." He looked at his friend and tried again.
"Pe...ter... so...sor..." He stopped there, laying back against the pillows exhausted, eyes closed. His voice was there but he was still too weak to make it work. He felt a hand on his head muss his hair and looked up to see Peter smiling down at him.
"I understand. Don't wear yourself out. Trust me. El will never forgive me if you hurt yourself trying to talk." Neal smiled at his friend with a weary nod.
"I'm just glad you're here and in one piece. Any chance Eric and friends are still in town?" Neal blinked, his expression thoughtful a moment then he shrugged and looked apologetic at the Fed.
"No worries. We have his picture on file and if he shows his face, he's going down for my kidnapping if not yours." Neal nodded with a fierce grin.
"I see you agree." They looked at each other a few more minutes, the silence uncomfortable again. There was still a slight tension between the two. Peter stood and paced around the room a bit before turning back to the young man from the opposite side of the bed.
"I nearly chewed out Hughes for making you give yourself up for me, until Jones told me they had already come up with the ransom." He moved back to the chair and leaned against it as he stood there.
"Did you really think you were so expendable?" His voice was filled with guilt but also a touch of anger. His eyes pinned the young man in place. Neal blushed a bit but sat up as best he could and stared back at the agent without turning away. He made a motion as if to speak but his voice failed him again. Peter's glance softened but he still looked a bit angry if not hurt.
"Neal, I would have thought you knew that you're an important part of not only my team but my family. If I made you feel otherwise... I'm sorry." He took the seat beside the bed and sat down, Neal looking at him with a curious look.
"Just... don't ever do anything so reckless like this again. Promise me?" The young man nodded with a little motion of crossing over his heart. Peter patted the young man on the shoulder, standing up.
"Are you hungry? El snuck in some take-out. I have those dumplings you like if you're feeling up to it." Neal's face lit up and he nodded with a smile.
"Good. Let me go get them from El. She's outside with June." Neal blinked to which Peter smiled.
"Yeah, they thought we needed a little "time" to talk. Neal made a face at the idea of "feelings," making a sign of gagging.
"Yeah, don't they know we guys don't do much more than punch each other in the shoulder and grunt." Neal nearly choked out an audible laugh.
"Well you haven't lost your sense of humor. Give me a second and I'll be back."
A few days later Neal wasn't just out of the hospital but he was back at June's in his old room. He was still pretty beat up from his experience so he slept in for a good day or so after his arrival with a few small visits from Peter and El. June would wake him from time to time to eat some soup or something else and he would read if he felt up to it but his quest for the music box and Kate was put on hold. His dreams consisted of other things, more importantly his newly formed family. He had a crazy dream of a birthday party for himself hosted by noneother than June and Elizabeth, who catered, and Peter brought some of the agents like Jones. Mozzie was there but nobody else from his past interfered with the day with anything negative. It was a nice dream. He was just going to blow out the candles when he heard the buzz of his cell.
Neal woke up from the dream and looked around bleary-eyed as he reached for his cell on the nightstand. He didn't recognize the number but picked up anyway.
"Hello?" His voice was still weak but he could talk. There was silence and then a very quiet voice, a familiar one answered back.
"Neal? I'm so glad you're ok. I just had to be sure." Neal gawked into the phone, sitting up as best he could and listening.
"Kate? How did you..." She interrupted him.
"I can't talk long. I just had to be sure you were ok. I'm sorry, Neal. I'll call you when it's safe again." He heard a click and then a dial tone.
"Kate? Kate?" He pulled the phone from his ear and tried to redial the number but it came up as unavailable. He cursed softly and threw the phone down beside him on the bed. He heard a soft knock at the door and then June peeked in.
"Everything ok, Neal?"
He turned and nodded to her.
"Bad dream." He pushed the cell phone out of sight as she walked over.
"I understand." She sat beside him on the edge of the bed.
"Peter's downstairs. Feel like company?" Neal nodded still a bit on edge from the call and having waken up so abruptly. She gave him a brief pat on the shoulder before making her way back to the door and exiting. A few minutes later Peter peered in.
"Neal. Feeling better?" The young man nodded noticing his friend didn't limp much anymore and his color had returned to normal. He hadn't seen his own face so he wondered how bad he looked. Peter made his way over and pulled a chair with him, sitting.
"Jones and the rest of the agents send their regards." He pulled a small greeting card out and handed it to the young man. It had a picture of the spy vs spy agents and inside was blank except for the signatures of all the agents he worked with along with Peter and El's. He smiled.
"Thanks." Peter blinked.
"Ah... got your voice back I see. Guess your witty repertoire will soon follow?" Neal smirked.
"Perhaps. When do I get my anklet back?"