(Chapter 4)

Peter was back at the FBI building. He stood outside the glass partition and door that led into the lobby area and the ground level cubicles. He saw Jones at his desk to his left and an empty one off to his right. He turned and glanced at the door marked "stairs" but he took a deep breath and pushed the glass door open, walking inside. He walked slowly, counting each step as he made his way across the seemingly long, open lobby to the landing where his office sat. He saw Jones turn and blink then smile at him with a slight nod of his head. Peter nodded back, hoping he smiled but unsure, keeping up his stride for fear he wouldn't be able to pass the empty desk. He made it, trying not to run up the stairs to his office, or barricade the door once he got inside. He fought the urge to close the shades, instead turning his back to the window along the landing and looking out the opposite at the view of the city.

The city looked gray, dead almost. He gave a little sigh, staring out at the blankness of the city. Something was missing now. Some tiny spark that he had never noticed till... A knocking on the door woke him from his thoughts. Peter turned and saw Hughes standing there. He stood up and nodded to his boss, the older agent making a gesture for him to be at ease.

"Good to see you back, Burke. How's El?" Hughes' tone was neutral, masking his concern. Peter smiled as best he could and made a motion for his boss to sit down. The older agent closed the door and sat across from him, his eyes examining him but trying not to be obvious about it.

"She's doing well. Been busy with catering orders and parties. June's helped her find some work with her committees and clubs. They're like two peas in a pod." Peter felt his smile warm a bit at the thought of the two women. Hughes noticed.

"Good... Good. Tell them both Hi for me. Thank June for the coffee." He gave a little wink at Peter as he said that. Peter nodded, standing when his boss left. He didn't sit down right away, his thoughts going to coffee. Italian roast to be exact. He felt a twinge of sadness and sat down to calm his worries. He was back at work. He was in his element but he was missing his partner. The coffee had just reminded him of Neal. He sighed, his attention back to the view of the city.

When he had originally released the young con to help him, he never anticipated more than a typical working relationship to develop. Neal had managed in a few short months to tangle himself up into both his wife's and his lives to where they couldn't think of not including him in it. Peter found things he never thought about before becoming second nature. He had never been much of a romantic but Neal had showed him a side of life he wouldn't have normally thought about. When the young man died, he felt a part of him had gone with him. El had seemed to lose a bit of her own spark. They had come to call him family, a wayward sheep who finally found a flock to accept him. Peter sniffed and wiped at his eyes.

"Peter?" Jones' voice interrupted his thoughts as he turned and smiled.

"Hey Clinton. What's up?" He fanned himself a bit feeling a little warm suddenly. Jones just shrugged at him.

"Meeting. Hughes wants us to look over this new case file. Coming?" Jones didn't look like he was warm but Peter knew there must be something wrong with the AC if it was this warm in here. He continued to fan himself with a nearby file folder. Jones gave him a glance.

"Bring that file with you." Jones pointed at the one Peter was using as a fan. He looked down at it and saw the name written across the file tab: Neal Caffrey. He blinked, looking up at Jones with a curious glance as he wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. It really was feeling hot in here now. Why didn't Jones seem to feel it?

"Neal's case file? Why are we..." His voice caught in his throat, the room spinning around him slightly. He felt dizzy, leaning back in his chair to catch his breath. Jones replied as if he had finished his sentence.

"Don't you remember? We're investigating him for Bond Forgery." Jones turned as Hughes passed by, the older agent asking him something. Peter tried to listen in but all he could hear were faint murmurs of things, their lips moving but no sound reaching him. How could they be investigating Neal if he were dead? Something was wrong here, the world seemingly spinning faster around him although he couldn't see it actually moving. Peter felt ill, nausea washing over him. He jumped up out of his seat, stumbling past Jones and Hughes. He ran to the stairs, down and towards the back where the break area and bathrooms were. He found an empty stall and started to vomit. He sensed someone behind him, a gentle hand helping him stay up as he continued to be sick.

"It's ok, Peter. You're going to be ok." He turned towards the voice once he felt better and saw a familiar face crouched beside him.

"Neal? How..." He saw the young man smiling at him, handing him a towel to wipe at his mouth. Peter took the towel and proffered hand as Neal helped him stand up. Peter made his way to a sink and rinsed his hands, face and mouth. Neal continued to be there although he couldn't fathom how.

"I don't understand this... I went to your funeral!" Maybe Mozzie had been right? His mind felt confused and the room still felt unusually warm to him. Neal smiled pointing at the wall.

"Do you remember what today is?" The young man's voice sounded nostalgic. Peter turned to see where he pointed and found a calendar with a red circle on it. Who put that in here? He walked over and glanced at the date, words written inside the box.

Anniversary of Neal Caffrey's release from prison.

Peter blinked at the words, turning to ask a question when he found himself laying in bed.


He stared up at the ceiling, his ceiling at home, a thin flannel blanket tucked around him. He felt cold suddenly, pulling the comforter around him and curling up. Had he just been dreaming about something? Peter tried to remember but his attention was diverted by a sudden need for water. He felt terribly thirsty, his lips somewhat dry and cracked when he licked at them. He sat up weakly, leaning on his elbow and looking around the room. It was his bedroom. The same room he and his lovely wife Elizabeth shared but she was no where to be seen. He still felt thirsty, opening his mouth but feeling a tightness in his throat. It felt sore and raw, his nose a bit runny. Peter wiped at his nose with his shirt sleeve noticing he was in his favorite tee and sweats. The afternoon sun shone through the curtained windows making him wonder what he was doing in bed at this time of day.

Peter sat up on the edge of the bed, the covers still pulled around him. He pulled the flannel blanket, toga style around his shoulders for warmth and stood shakily. Everything felt warm around his face but his body was cold. He made his way to the door, the room swaying along the way but he made it, opened it up walking out into the hallway. The floorboards felt cool beneath his bare feet but he just toddled along, blanket dragged along as he entered the bathroom. He turned on the faucet, throwing cool water on his face and drinking some before he left, walking towards the stairs. It seemed such a long way down but he needed to find El. He hiked the blanket up around him so he wouldn't trip and took his time getting to the bottom. Before he reached the last stair, Peter noticed a figure curled up on their sofa. The figure of a young man with dark wavy hair in a white tee and black jeans lay there. He stared at them a moment when he reached the living room.

The figure looked almost boyish although he had to be anywhere between 25 and 30. His hair hung over his face in semi-curls, mostly wavy ringlets. Peter felt a smile form on his lips as he turned to make his way towards the kitchen area. Maybe El was there.

"Peter?" He heard a sleepy voice calling out to him. Peter turned to see Neal stretching and yawning, his face somewhat apologetic.

"You shouldn't be out of bed yet. El will kill me." Neal stood and walked over to Peter and led him over to the sofa, sitting him down. He continued to yawn and stretch, a few dark bags under his eyes that looked like he hadn't slept much lately. Peter nodded at the young man unsure of what was going on.

"I was... thirsty." Peter coughed out, his voice just above a whisper. His throat felt rather sore still like someone had filed it with an emery board. Neal nodded making a motion for him to stay there as he disappeared into the kitchen. He came back almost immediately with a bottle of something thick and red, a spoon and a large glass of water.

"Take some of this. The doctor recommended it." Neal opened up the bottle, pouring some into the spoon. Peter nodded, allowing Neal to feed the syrupy cough medicine to him after which the agent took a long drink of water. Neal smiled at him.

"I guess if you made it down here, you must be feeling better. El was so worried about you, she called me to see what was wrong. You had a really high fever there but it seems to have gone down quite a bit." Neal put a hand to the agent's head and looked relieved. Peter continued to drink the water till it was gone. Neal got up and disappeared into the kitchen again coming back with a full glass. Peter smiled.

"I had a... fever? I don't remember. Everything feels strange." Peter leaned back against the sofa, pulling the blanket tighter around him. He felt cold despite the warmth on his face. Neal helped Peter lay down on the sofa, pushing a cushion under his head.

"You've been in bed three days. I was going to go look in on you but I guess I fell asleep." He rubbed the back of his neck with a chagrined look.

"El went out to visit June briefly. June was worried about you being so sick she made some chicken soup for you. Seems you caught that bug that was going around. Doctor had you on some antibiotics. I guess it helped." Neal took the glass from Peter who sat up a little bit.

"I'm just glad you were here. El always worries about me when I get sick." He held out his hand and grasped Neal's in his, squeezing it. Neal smiled back putting his other hand on Peter's.

"Not a problem. El just sounded so frantic when you wouldn't wake up. Doctor said we did the right thing calling as soon as we did. This bug has hit some people pretty hard. I'm glad you're awake." Neal's voice cracked ever so slightly when he spoke. He seemed to be holding back some emotion.

"Me too. I was having some pretty bad nightmares there for a while. I always have weird dreams when I get fevers." Peter tried not to think about what he had been dreaming about, replacing that fear with a grin.

"I just realized what today is." Peter spoked happily as he sat up a little straighter, blanket tightly wound around him for warmth. Neal blinked with a curious look.

"Today? I can't think of what today is..." Neal scratched at his chin as if wondering what he could have forgotten. Peter laughed although it hurt a bit with his throat so sore he started to cough some. He grabbed the glass and took another drink.

"It's the day you became my partner." Peter smiled watching the realization come to the young man's face. Neal blushed a bit, running a hand through his hair.

"You remember? I try not to think about it mostly cause it reminds me of how I could have spent another four years in prison." He smirked at his friend.

"Well for me it's a significant day. A day that changed my life you might say." He saw Neal blush at the comment, the con looking out of his element.

"Stop it, Peter. You're trying to embarrass me? Next thing you know, you'll be celebrating the day you caught me the first time." Neal narrowed his eyes at the agent who just whistled hoarsely.

"Geesh, don't tell me you already do? Does El know how sick you are and I don't mean that in the health sense." Neal crossed his arms over his chest in mock annoyance, Peter trying not to laugh but doing so despite his throat.

"She's worse than me at anniversaries. So... where can I get some food. I'm starving!" Peter tried to stand but Neal pushed him back against the sofa with a gentle nudge.

"You're staying there. It's bad enough you came downstairs. El is going to strangle me for that." Neal would have said more but there was the sound of a key in the door and it opened up revealing Elizabeth. She turned and stared at the two men, Peter sitting wrapped up in the blanket while Neal sat across from him on the coffee table. She had a small bag hanging from her arm along with her purse.

"Hey El!" They said it almost simultaneously, blushing a bit although in Peter's case it could have been from what was left of his fever. She continued to look at them, eyes narrowing at the scene. Neal broke down under that stare and confessed.

"I'm sorry. I fell asleep and when I woke up, he was downstairs." Neal shrugged helplessly, his charms not working on the woman as she turned her attention to Peter, eyes narrowing a bit more.

"Honey, I missed you when I woke up and came to see where you went." Peter put on the best puppy dog eyes he knew how and she softened her expression, walking over and hugging him as Neal moved out of the way.

"Aww, honey. You're still a bit warm but you look so much better." She turned to Neal, eyes narrowing again like a mother to a child. He gulped a bit.

"Peter was thirsty. I gave him water and some of that syrup the doctor recommended." He pointed to the coffee table and Peter concurred trying to help his friend out. She finally smiled at them both hugging Neal as she stood.

"June sent over some chicken soup. I'm just going to warm it up for you. Stay there, and you..." She pinned Neal in place with her stare.

"Don't let him move from there." Her stare got Peter too who nodded as well, both of them feeling like two little kids getting caught doing something bad. El smiled sweetly after that as she disappeared into the kitchen. They heard the microwave running after a moment. Neal sat down beside Peter on the sofa.

"She's like a tiger protecting her cubs. I have to remember not to get sick around her." Neal smirked at Peter who just nodded sleepily.

"I remember trying to get out of bed once when I had sprained my ankle fairly badly. Never again. It was all I could do to get around on my own." Peter made a face making Neal chuckle.

"Hey speaking of bed. You said some odd things when you were ill. Something about Mozzie not making it to some thing and you mentioned Curtis Hagen. Guess the anniversary brought that to mind? I didn't understand the half of it." Neal looked curiously at his friend but Peter just shrugged.

"I don't recall. Probably some fever induced hallucination." He looked up with relief as El came back into the room with a tray. Neal helped her with it, moving aside as she insisted on feeding her husband. Peter gave a suffering look to Neal but allowed his wife to baby him. Neal tried not to laugh although he seemed to enjoy the scene, almost looking envious of them.


Three days later the doctor pronounced Peter well enough to go to work. He had healed pretty well with only some minor symptoms like sore throat and cough remaining. The syrup seemed to work for that much to Peter's regret. The stuff was nasty but he had to take it or risk his wife's wrath.

Neal waited outside June's, a silver thermos in hand as Peter drove up the following week. The young man trotted over to the vehicle and slipped inside, placing the thermos in the cup holder of the Taurus. He smiled broadly.

"You look like you're feeling better." Neal smiled at his partner and friend, a relieved look on his face. Peter nodded back.

"Yep. Feeling like a million bucks. It's an illness like that that makes you realize how good your life really is. So... shall we celebrate that anniversary today with some Chinese? It's on me. Consider it a kind of birthday present." Peter turned briefly, patting his friend on the shoulder. Neal blinked at the agent.

"So you were serious about that? I thought it was the fever talking but I won't say no to a free meal, especially one that involves those dumplings." Neal licked his lips, his eyes brightening.

"Hey, if we saved it for dinner, we could take El and June and have some wine!" Neal seemed really excited about the anniversary where he had only seemed amused by Peter's memory before. It just made him think how much the young man acted like a grown up Peter Pan.

Peter thought about the nightmare he had during his illness and swept it under the proverbial rug. There were times he had thought the young man would leave him but now, they were like family. They'd been through too much to just separate. If Peter were a shark, Neal was the remora sticking close to him and the agent didn't mind at all. Even if neither one admitted it to the other, they needed one another like PB needs J.