What about Peter?
Neal took the stairs at a leisurely pace being up early for once. He was dressed in one of the suits June so generously provided him, courtesy of her late husband Byron. The young man looked dapper and Rat Packish with his favorite fedora firmly perched on top of his head. He smiled confidently, blue eyes sparkling as he reached the bottom step and gave a little bow to his landlady. June blushed as he kissed her on the cheek.
"Well, someone is in a good mood and up early. What's the occasion?" Neal just winked.
"Nothing. Feeling good. Spring is in the air so I feel like I've come out of hibernation." June smiled with a knowing nod.
"I know exactly how your feel. Oh and here's a little something for Peter." She handed him a silver thermos. Neal grinned and bowed slightly.
"He'll be ecstatic. He loves your coffee." She grinned as he tilted his hat at her then turned on his heel and made his way outside to wait for Peter.
(45 minutes later...)
Neal looked down at his watch and then back up along the street from left to right. He stood and stretched. Sitting on the small cement fence was not comfortable or good for his suit but he had done it to save his feet from hurting. Plus he had gotten bored as he realized Peter was running late. He juggled the thermos between his hands idly, a sloshing sound from the coffee as he moved it around. When just over an hour had passed, Neal pulled out his phone and dialed Peter's number. They would still be early but he wondered why the agent hadn't called him to say he was running late. Peter's cell rang and rang till Neal got his voice mail:
"This is Peter Burke. Leave a message."
Neal heard the customary beep and started to speak trying to sound less annoyed than he was.
"Peter it's Neal. I'm at June's waiting outside. Call me." Neal heard the beep as the message was received and he hung up and waited a bit longer. Neal watched the morning traffic and pedestrians lost in his own thoughts, when he felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see June standing there. She stared at him curiously.
"Neal? Why are you still waiting outside? Where's Peter?" Neal stood up and shrugged, brushing off his pants.
"I have no idea. Even left him a message on his cell but nothing. Guess I have to call a cab." June shook her head pointing at her Bentley.
"I'm going to a committee meeting for one of my clubs. I can drop you on the way." Neal smiled and followed her to the vehicle.
Neal waved to June as he closed the door of the Bentley and walked into the FBI building. He pushed the elevator for his floor where he worked with Peter and headed up. When the elevator opened on his floor, he pushed open the glass doors, strode into the lobby and made his way to his desk but not before he peered up at the small landing head of him. Peter's office was empty, lights out. Neal sat his hat down on his desk and leaned against the edge of his desk, a puzzled look on his face. Peter wasn't here. He hadn't called him back and he hadn't come to pick him up as he usually did. Neal wondered if he had missed a memo somewhere. He saw Jones finishing up a phone call and approached the other agent with a confident smile.
"Hey Jones. Morning." Jones smiled back looking up at the clock.
"Cutting it close aren't you? Hey where's Peter?" Neal shrugged.
"I got a ride with June today. He didn't come pick me up. I was hoping you would know but I guess you haven't seen him." Jones shrugged with a small shake of his head, picking up the phone as it rang again. Neal walked away from the agent and back to his desk, his eyes looking up at Peter's empty office with curiosity.
Neal was more than happy to leave for lunch. He had kept himself busy with some case files and paperwork and was glad for the break. Plus it would give him an opportunity to stop by Peter's place and find out what was going on. He had called the Burke's landline but nobody had answered and he had just received another answering machine. Neal hated the things but he left a message regardless. He hopped a cab just before noon and arrived at Peter's place just a few minutes after. He took the few steps up to the front door two at a time and knocked. Nothing. Neal knocked twice more but nobody answered. Not even a bark from Satchmo.
Neal was worried now. It wasn't like Peter to not call him if something came up. Had he gone out of town? Had something happened and he and El had to leave emergency? He started to worry even more and that's when he finally gave in to temptation. He pulled out his lock picking kit feeling guilty but knowing he had to do it. He gave a furtive look around making sure nobody was watching and pulled an actual key with a red ribbon on it out of the small kit. El had given it to him but told him not to let Peter know. It was so Neal could help out with Satchmo and watch the place if they were out of town. He pushed the key into the lock and turned it with a quiet click. The door opened and he stepped inside, closing the door behind him. He glanced around the den area and walked back into the kitchen. Nothing. Satchmo didn't run out to see him so maybe they had taken the lab somewhere? He was still walking around looking for clues when he found one that had been left beside their home phone.
"Dear Peter, Don't forget I'll be out of town with my sister till Friday. Tell Neal I left some egg and chicken salad sandwiches for him in the fridge if you guys get hungry. See you in a week! XOXO Elizabeth
Don't forget I'll be out of town with my sister till Friday. Tell Neal I left some egg and chicken salad sandwiches for him in the fridge if you guys get hungry. See you in a week!
Neal smiled at the letter and pushed it back to where he found it. He made his way back to the kitchen as he realized he was a bit hungry and the mention of El's famous sandwiches had reminded him of the fact. He made his way through the swinging door and opened up the fridge. On the middle shelf he saw several bags of sandwiches all neatly labeled. He saw a few marked "deviled ham" and crinkled his nose as he took one of the ones marked "chicken salad" and opened it up. He closed the fridge and walked back out into the den as he idly ate the sandwich. He walked up the stairs to the second floor and peeked into the guest room. It was neat as usual but empty. He peered into the Burke's bedroom but no Peter either. The bed had been slept in, the covers still pulled aside but no sign of his friend.
Neal was about to head back downstairs when he thought he heard something. He turned back and glanced at the bathroom door. It was closed but he could just see some movement beneath it. Neal finished up the sandwich, wiping his hands of crumbs as he approached the door. He tried the knob but it was locked. He knocked quietly. No reply. He knocked again and quietly called out.
"Peter? Anyone in there?" He heard the sound again but this time he realized what it was. He pulled out his lock pick kit again and got the door open in a moment, pushing it till he could see the inside clearly.
Satchmo lay on the floor and looked up at him without moving. The dog was whimpering quietly. Neal crouched beside the lab and pet it gently.
"Hey boy... what's wrong?" He saw something on the dog's leg and pulled it out. It looked like some kind of blow dart. Neal's expression turned dark. Someone had shot the dog with a tranquilizer gun, that only meant one thing. He started to rise but the lab pulled at his hand. Neal looked down at the big dog and realized it kept looking over at the shower. Neal stood and pulled the curtain aside.
"Peter?" Neal saw his friend fully dressed but laying face down in the tub submerged in about two feet of water. The water was slightly pinkish, the agent's arms bound securely behind him as were his legs and feet. Neal immediately lifted his friend to a sitting position, pulling the plug from the tub. As the water drained, Neal pulled the tape from Peter's lips and pulled out what appeared to be some kind of spongy cloth. It had filled the agent's mouth absorbing quite a bit of water in the process. He cut his friend's arms and legs loose, all the while shaking Peter.
"Peter, wake up... Peter!?" The agent's face was ashen, lips bluish gray. Neal felt panic take over but he did what he could to remain calm and started to clear the water with chest compressions. When he had gotten what he thought was enough water out, he started to breath into the man's mouth.
"Come on, Peter... don't die on me!" Neal kept doing the compression and breathing into his friend's mouth till he finally felt some resistance and water gurgled from the agent's mouth and he saw Peter move ever so slightly. Neal sighed in relief, gently squeezing his friend's hand and speaking softly.
"Peter... Peter wake up." He watched Peter move slightly, still coughing up water but the agent didn't wake up, body limp. His breath was shallow as Neal checked his friend's heartbeat and pulse. He noticed a slight gash at the hairline on Peter's right temple which bled in a little stream down to his cheek. Neal found a first-aid kit and started to clean and dress the wound looking for anything else but mostly finding a few bruises and what looked like a needle mark on the man's neck. Neal pulled out his phone.
"Jones, FBI." Neal tried to keep his voice in control as he spoke slowly into the phone.
"Jones... it's Neal." He heard silence for a moment then a more whispered tone.
"Hughes was asking where you went and about Peter. What's up?" Neal started to tell him, his voice filled with a slight hint of panic. He heard Jones gasp.
"Have you called an ambulance?" Neal shook his head at the cell.
"No, I just found him. I don't know how long he was there." Neal had Peter's head laying on a towel rolled up under his head, brushing a few wet hairs from his forehead.
"Call an ambulance and I'll be there in a few. He'll be ok, Neal." Neal nodded at the phone, shaking slightly.
"Thanks Jones." He hung up the cell and started dialing 911. Once he had an ambulance on the way, he hung up and threw another towel over the unconscious man to keep him warm. Satchmo continued to whimper worriedly in the corner, watching them. Neal looked up at the dog after a moment and smiled as best he could.
"He's going to be ok. He has to be." Neal heard a knock at the door downstairs and reluctantly went down to answer. He blinked at the figures of two police officers standing there staring at him curiously.
"Neal Caffrey?" Neal blinked again, nodding his head slowly. He was still in shock from finding Peter hurt he didn't know how to react to the presence of the officers.
"You have the right to remain silent..." Neal just stood there looking at the two officers with a blank expression. He only woke up from his stupor when he saw Jones walking towards them. One officer started to pull out handcuffs when Jones trotted up the stairs and coughed. The officers turned and stared somewhat coldly at the Fed.
"What's going on here? Why is he being arrested? Neal?" Jones sounded official, pulling out his badge. Neither cop blinked, the one with the cuffs continuing to move towards Neal to bind him. Neal didn't resist when the first cuff went on but he looked at Jones for help.
"Just doing our jobs. I received a call that someone had broken into this home." Jones gave a sideways glance at Neal who's face was pale and flushed slightly. He was shaking his head.
"I didn't break in." His voice was soft but adamant. Jones nodded turning back to the officers.
"He's the responsibility of the FBI. If anyone's going to arrest him, we will." Neal still looked stricken despite Jones' glance to him to just go with it. The officers looked pissed if nothing else.
"We got the call. He's ours. You want the paperwork to transfer him afterwards, contact us at the precinct. My card." The officer pulled out a card with his name on it and handed it to Jones stiffly as his partner finished handcuffing Neal, arms pulled securely behind the young man. Neal looked devastated as he turned to Jones, his blue eyes wide and pleading. The agent shrugged helplessly, whispering to the con: "Well figure this out. Ok?"
Neal nodded with a wide-eyed glance, making a motion with them upstairs as he whispered back: "In the bathroom." Jones nodded as the officers pulled Neal away and watched the con slump into the back seat of the patrol car despondently. Jones felt bad for the guy but he had to go check on Peter, the sound of an ambulance already in the background as the patrol car left the scene. Jones was glad they hadn't known about Peter being hurt. It might have been worse on Caffrey.
Jones trotted up the stairs to the second floor of the Burke home and saw the open door at the end. He could just make out the figure of his boss, Peter lying on the floor. Nearby was Satchmo, the Burke's large lab whimpering softly. Jones walked into the bathroom and pet the dog on the head gently before checking Peter. His pulse was good, heartbeat strong and breath shallow but he was breathing especially after what Neal had told him. He saw the first-aid kit sitting open beside the agent, a bandage on the man's right temple. Neal had covered the man with a towel and rolled another under Burke's head for support. Jones smiled slightly at the thought of Neal helping Peter when he heard voices downstairs.
"PARAMEDICS!" Jones made his way to the stairs and waved the EMTs up. They quickly trotted up the stairs behind the agent and started to check Peter's vitals. One of them pulled up a stretcher and they placed the unconscious man on and strapped him in. It all took a matter of minutes and they were downstairs and placing Peter inside the ambulance with Jones in tow getting as well as giving info. He watched the ambulance leave and walked quickly to his car to follow, his cell to his ear as he called Hughes.
"It's Jones. We have a situation. Burke's just been taken to the hospital and Caffrey was arrested." He pulled the phone away as Hughes spoke loudly.
"What happened to Burke and who arrested Caffrey?! He's our jurisdiction!" Jones pushed the phone back as Hughes calmed down.
"Sir, Burke didn't show up to work today and Caffrey came to work alone. Neal was the one who found Peter at home unconscious during his lunch break. Found Burke tied up and submerged in his bathtub." There was silence on the other end then a loud intake of air.
"Jones, bail Neal out. We need to know what happened. I'll worry about calling Elizabeth." Jones nodded into the phone with a sound of affirmation.
"Will do, Boss."
Neal curled up on the small bunk in the cell at the police station. His eyes were only partially closed, staring at the opposite wall, his expression blank. He kept thinking about Peter laying face down in the bathtub, pale and ashen. He shivered slightly at the thought. Peter had been so limp and pale, a ring of blue around his thin lips. Neal felt his eyes grow warm with tears as the memory struck him with renewed horror. Who had hurt Peter and left him like that? He glanced around his cell briefly, trying not to think about where he was.
"Neal?" The young man turned to see a familiar figure standing beyond the bars. He sat up slowly, brushing at his hair self-consciously as he hunched over the side and started to push himself stiffly to his feet. His cheeks flushed warm as he tried to make himself look personable.
"El? What are you doing here?" Neal looked tired, the usual sparkle gone from his spirit. The officer behind El opened up the gate and she walked in, taking his arm in hers.
"I'm here to take you home. The charges were dropped." Neal blinked at her, nodding after a moment as she led him out of the cell and down the hallway. They were quiet as his possessions were returned at the front and she led him out of the police station and outside. Neal didn't notice much about his surroundings, allowing her to settle him into the passenger seat. They drove in silence, Neal's eyes staring blankly out at the city through the window. He seemed so different from his usual self. El gently touched his arm and he looked at her finally.
"Neal, you didn't do anything wrong. I'm just glad I gave you that key. I had to explain to Hughes and the police how you were able to enter. I shouldn't have told you to keep it secret but I thought... He's still unconscious." She looked like she wanted to cry but she didn't, her eyes shiny with tears as she wiped at her eyes and kept driving. Neal didn't know what to say, staring at her profile in the dim light of the dashboard lights. Elizabeth Burke was a strong, intelligent woman but at the moment she looked more vulnerable than he had ever seen her. He placed a hand on her arm and squeezed lightly. She smiled, sniffing some.
"Thank you, Neal... for checking on Peter. I... I can't think what would have happened if you hadn't." She turned and looked at him, her expression more than thankful. Neal smiled back, wiping a tear from her cheek.
"He's my friend and he's never NOT been there for me." She nodded, turning into the hospital parking lot as he looked up for the first time at their destination. He felt a something ripping inside him as he remembered seeing Peter in the tub. He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself.
"You coming?" Neal looked to see El had already parked and was looking at him from outside the vehicle. He nodded, removing his seat-belt and exiting. She took his arm in hers, hugging it securely. He hugged her back as she leaned her head on his shoulder and they walked inside the ER. They made their way to the nurses' station and asked to see Peter. The nurse gave them directions to the ICU and they headed for the elevator. Neither of them talked until Neal coughed. El looked up at him, her arm still grasping his tightly.
"How is your sister? I saw the note." She blinked and nodded.
"Good. She said if I need anything they'll come down to visit in a few days." He nodded, smiling slightly.
"Always nice to have family around." She nodded back to him, her eyes still slightly shiny from unfallen tears.
"Yes, and friends." She kissed him on the cheek and he blinked back. The elevator doors opened and they walked out still arm in arm to the left and down to a glass room at the end. Neal stopped at the door and let go of El's arm as she gazed inside, sniffling.
"I visited before picking you up." She pushed him towards the door and Neal walked inside, the glass door closing behind him. He glanced back at El, her eyes motioning for him to go in. Neal turned and made his way to the figure surrounded by machines. Peter looked so much smaller, weaker almost. It made Neal want to scream, shout or something. He needed to find who had did this. Neal took Peter's hand in his and spoke quietly.
"Who did this, Peter? Tell me." Neal sat down on the chair by the bed and leaned his head against the side as he started to feel tears fall. He looked up when he felt someone brushing his hair with their fingers. It was Peter. Neal took his friends hand in his again and held it.
"Peter?" Neal called to him but his friend didn't respond. He felt tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Peter... tell me who did this!" He keeps holding his friend's hand till it fell limp again.
"Peter?" He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned. It was El.
"Neal, what's wrong?" His eyes were red and he rubbed at them.
"He moved El!" She blinked, wide-eyed.
"Peter?" El hugged her husband gently, kissing him on the lips. He didn't move and she looked about to cry. Neal hugged her, trying to figure things out but knowing she needed comforting. They walked out of ICU and sat outside.
"Who could have done this, Neal? Who would want to hurt Peter?" She looked at him, expression frightened. He didn't answer, unable to voice his own fears. He had to cowboy up in Peter's place. Be strong. He wasn't sure he could fill the man's shoes, but he would try for El's sake. She needed closure. HE needed closure.