(Chapter 4)

Neal slept comfortably the rest of the day only vaguely aware of June and others checking up on him. His mind was relatively blank now, dreams nearly non-existent as his body fought the cold. There was the occasional flash of imagery but most of it was random and nothing too memorable.

When he finally woke up the next day, he could hear the soft sounds of the city in the background. Neal still felt poorly but he pulled the blankets aside and sat up. His head swam a little before he was able to stand and make his way to the bathroom. He turned on the hot water as hot as he could stand it, stripping out of his pajamas and soaking. The steam helped to clear his sinuses a bit as it warmed his body. He still had a few chills but this felt good.

After a few minutes he turned the water off and exited, wrapping himself in a large warm towel and looking at himself in the mirror. His face still looked somewhat pale, a few dark circles around his eyes but nothing that wouldn't go away once he felt more himself. Neal shaved though he wasn't going anywhere, styled his hair and walked back out into the main room. He threw on a comfy pair of sleep pants, a white tee and threw his robe over it all. He pushed his feet into his slippers and exited the room.

Neal made his way downstairs but June was nowhere to be seen. He found the housekeeper in the kitchen, who smiled when she saw him.

"June had to step out for a few but she wanted me to tell you she'll be back soon. I have some soup if you're hungry." She moved towards the stove where a pot was bubbling. He could smell the soft scent of chicken soup and nodded.

"I'll bring it up in a few. Is there anything else you needed?" Neal shook his head with a soft smile, grabbing an apple off the table and walking back towards his room. He started up the stairs, biting into the apple and thinking about things. Maybe Mozzie was right; It could just be the illness but dreams were just that... dreams. He'd had nightmares before but the ones recently had seemed so vivid.

Neal sighed, going back inside his room and closed the door behind him. He plopped down on the sofa and continued to eat the apple when he heard a soft buzz from nearby. Neal stood up slowly and walked towards the nightstand seeing his phone vibrating. He picked it up and looked to see who was calling.

"Peter?" His voice still choked a bit from the soreness but felt better since he'd taken that first dose of antibiotic and meds. He listened for a reply but heard nothing on the line. He blinked wondering if the call dropped when he heard a slight movement.

"N... ee... al..." The voice was weak, barely audible but it brought a chill to the young man. He listened as he heard a wet cough in the background and more movement.

"Peter? Peter where are you?" Neal started to feel colder but not from fever. He pinched himself and ouched. He was awake or thought he was. The sound on the other side had grown quiet, Neal calling out again.

"Peter... answer me!" Neal listened but could only hear a quiet sound like someone breathing softly in the background. He was trying to figure out what to do when he heard a knock and the housekeeper showed up with a tray.

"If you want to sit at the sofa, I can changed the linens out for you." She smiled at him and Neal nodded vaguely, his attention on his cell. Something was wrong with Peter. He had to find out what. Neal walked over to the sofa as the housekeeper changed out his sheets. Neal kept talking into the phone.

"Peter... Peter answer me." He listened but still only heard the soft ragged breath in the background. Neal sighed, moving over to the wardrobe as the housekeeper left with the dirty sheets. He pulled out a pair of comfy jeans, a navy turtle neck and a warm leather jacket. He changed quickly into the clothes, pushing his feet into a pair of black suede slip-ons, pushing the phone back to his ear. He could still hear the breathing in the background but Peter wasn't answering. He pulled the cell from his ear and pulled up a GPS app. It traced the call to a warehouse on the edge of his anklet's range. Neal hoped Jones was around to track him if he left his 'area.' Neal snuck out the back way before the housekeeper could see him and hailed a cab.


Peter slept poorly after his visit with Neal the day before. He tossed and turned in his sleep having a few nightmares of his own. El finally nudged him awake when he didn't respond to the alarm. Peter grunted, hugging her as he stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom. He took a cooler shower than usual to wake himself up but it didn't seem to help. Today was going to be a long day.

He managed to shave and dress without falling asleep, El fussing over him as he nodded sleepily over breakfast. Coffee seemed to wake him up but just enough. El nudged him gently before he left.

"Are you ok, Peter? You were tossing all night." She kissed him and he kissed her back smiling.

"I'm just worried about Neal. See you for lunch? Maybe we can visit and see how he's doing?" He pulled El close and hugged her tight.

"You bet." She smiled as he waved and left the house.


"The intel collected from the stakeout the other day made it possible for us to get a warrant to search the premises. Thank Caffrey for me for his contribution to the case when he's feeling better Burke." Peter nodded to Hughes. Several agents including Jones were in the room for the meeting. Hughes continued.

"The owner of the building has been so gracious as to open his doors to us but we still need the warrant. That's the assignment. We'll be going in to check the building today. Let's head out!" Hughes smiled, agents nodding and heading out of the office. Peter and Jones stayed behind a moment to talk to their boss.

"Peter, the owner seems a little too eager to let us in, so I want you and Jones to go in and talk to him directly while the other agents search the premises. See if you can feel him out." Hughes patted him on the shoulder and Peter smiled.

"Not a problem."


Jones drove to the site glancing over as he noticed Peter yawning. His boss had been doing it most of the morning.

"You ok, Peter?" Jones pulled into the warehouse lot and parked. Peter nodded.

"I'm good. Just had a bad night. Ready?" Peter took a quick sip of coffee from the thermos and smiled. Jones grinned back.

"Let's go take a tour."


The owner of the warehouse was a Greek immigrant by the name of Aristotle Katsaros. He spoke perfect English punctuated by a slight hint of his native accent. He had come here as a boy with his parents, opening the business after buying it from a friend of the family. They sold various imported gifts and rare goods. He had nothing to hide far as Peter and Jones could see. Katsaros was honest, open and very friendly. Peter wondered if this was the same operation they had been watching. Unless he was just a good actor, Katsaros seemed unaware of the corruption in his business.

"My nephew, Cristos, he's been in charge for the past few months while I've dealt with my late wife's death." The man looked truly sad, Peter and Jones sharing their condolences as he continued to show them around. Meanwhile the rest of the agents were also inside with Katsaros' permission looking around the premises. He was a gracious host.

"This is quite an operation. You opened it to help your family? I'm impressed." Peter was trying to chat the man up as long as he was willing to talk and so far no diversions, redirects or any pauses. The man was clean as far as he could tell. Jones seemed surprised as well. By now the rest of the crew had left, having found no evidence of what had been discovered during the stakeout. It had been there just the other night but now had vanished. Peter and Jones were the only agents left, still trying to piece what had happened as they continued the tour with their host. They walked the length of the warehouse to a more secluded spot where Katsaros paused and looked a bit confused.

"I don't remember these boxes being shipped in." He walked over to one box, grabbing a crowbar and opening up the crate. On top there were what appeared to be hand painted nesting dolls from Russia but just beneath there seemed to be too much space for so few items. Katsaros moved the items aside and gasped. Peter peered over and frowned, Jones whistling through his teeth.

"I don't think this is the latest thing from Nintendo. You said you didn't authorize these? Who else would have authorization to ship things in, Katsaros?" Peter's voice was quiet as he pulled out a handkerchief and handled one of the assault rifles. Jones turned and gave him a glance when there was the sound of something clicking nearby. Peter perked up realizing he'd heard that sound before. He turned to Jones who was already moving, and then to Katsaros but it was too late as the crate blew up and they were thrown aside.

Peter felt himself smash into another crate, his body flopping down to the cement floor with a thud. He gave a low moan of pain, opening his eyes to look for Jones. He saw his colleague laying a few yards away unmoving in a pile of tarps. Peter turned his gaze towards the source of the explosion, the crate that held the guns, and saw Katsaros obviously dead. Peter groaned, wondering who would have had time to set this up. He managed to get his right arm to move and pulled out his cell with some effort. His head swam from the blow as he'd been tossed up against another crate but he managed to speed dial a familiar number. He heard a familiar voice.

"Peter?" Neal's voice was raspy but Peter could just hear it through the ringing in his ears. He made an effort to answer.

"N... ee... al." He couldn't stay conscious, passing out as he heard a voice calling.

"Peter? Peter where are you?"


Neal had kept the phone call active all the while looking down at his anklet hoping he wouldn't set it off and then thinking maybe if they came looking for him that would be the best thing for Peter. The cab finally stopped just outside the lot for Katsaro's Import Goods. Neal paid the cabbie and talked into the cell yet again.

"Peter... I'm here. I'm at Katsaro's. Where are you? Answer me..." He kept hoping he was dreaming and would wake up soon but this nightmare kept going on, the sound of ragged breathing on the phone. As he crept up to the wall and peered around he thought he heard footsteps over the phone, echoing softly till they neared the cell.

"I'm sorry, Uncle but you were just too curious for your own good. It's a shame you had to bring the FBI into this." The voice wasn't familiar but it was close enough to the phone Neal could hear them speaking through Peter's cell. He held his breath as he heard someone pick up the phone and then the signal was lost. Neal cursed, pushing his phone into his pocket and creeping around the wall into the warehouse.


"This one is still alive but unconscious..." A large man with broad shoulders, blond hair and blue eyes spoke to another figure with wavy raven black hair and deep hazel green eyes. The second man nodded poking at a figure down by his foot.

"I'm sorry, Uncle but you were just too curious for your own good. It's a shame you had to bring the FBI into this." He took a few steps towards another prone figure. It was Peter, the man noticing a cell phone beside the agent and picking it up. He switched it off and tossed it hard against the wall watching it smash to pieces.

"This one is alive as well. We'll have to dispose of them all properly. Get Terry to help." Cristos Katsaro's voice was emotionless as he crouched down beside Peter's unconscious form and picked him up by the hair then dropped him again. The agent gave a weak groan but otherwise did not respond. Cristos smiled unhappily.

"If not for my uncle's naivety, I'd never have known about this visit today. We'll have to move base tonight." He gave an absent wave and two men walked up and quickly helped to drag Peter and Jones' unconscious forms away as well as Katsaro's.


Neal ducked into a side entrance near the back of the warehouse and made his way through the maze of crates, shelves and various other equipment. He wiped at his forehead feeling a bit warm but ignoring it under the circumstances. He wondered if June had found his note he left for her in the room. Neal stifled a cough, his throat feeling sore and tight as he moved around in the cool dusty air of the warehouse. He could hear voices up ahead and paused, crouching behind a large shelf.

"This one is alive as well. Well have to dispose of them all properly. Get Terry to help." It was the man from the phone. The man Neal had heard speaking without knowing it through Peter's cell. He listened to the rest of the conversation and ducked further back as two men walked by each carrying a limp figure. Neal held back a gasp as he saw Peter hanging over one man's shoulder. He wanted to rush out and grab his friend but he knew even in his feverish state that it wouldn't be prudent. Neal watched helplessly as the men exited the warehouse, following when he was sure the coast was clear.

"What are we supposed to do with them?" A blond haired man with blue eyes muttered, dropping Jones to the gravel beside the pier entrance outside. The second goon, a brown haired man with muddy eyes just shrugged.

"I say we put some weights on them and blame it on the mob." He grinned like an idiot, the first man smiling just as stupidly back with a nod.

"Sounds like a plan. I saw some tackle gear around here somewhere. Be right back." The blond left, heading past Neal where he hid behind a huge mildewing buoy of red and white. The brown haired goon just sat down on the wharf wall and began to smoke a cigarette casually. Neal thought Cristos needed to hire some better goons. These guys weren't too bright. He lifted up a small 2x4 or what was left of it and casually strode up to the man.

"Got a light?" Neal's voice was raspy but just loud enough it got the man's attention. The goon started to turn when Neal smacked him hard with the board in his hands and heard it crack, splintering as it connected with the man's skull. The brown haired man slumped over onto the gravel and Neal panted from the effort, wiping at his forehead as he felt even warmer. He checked the brown haired man's jacket and found a gun, pushing it into his own pocket before he checked Jones and Peter. Jones had a nasty knot on his forehead but otherwise seemed ok. The agent groaned when Neal moved him.

"Jones... wake up. It's Neal." Neal smiled when Jones opened his eyes and glanced up at him blearily.

"Caffrey? How did you...?" He gave another groan as Neal helped him sit up against a nearby wooden palette. Jones looked over at Peter with a start.

"How is he? Someone set us up the bomb, if you know what I mean." Jones rubbed at his head gingerly as Neal checked out Peter. His friend wasn't moving but he was alive. The back of his shirt had been tore up pretty bad during the blast, some minor burns and scratches evident. Peter's left arm hung oddly as if it had been pulled out the socket, and the left side of his face was bruised and scratched up where he landed on the ground. Neal winced thinking about the wounds when he heard a sound of someone approaching.

"Think you can walk, Jones? I'll carry Peter." He watched Jones nod as he pushed himself up to his feet with the help of the palettes and limped ever so slightly. Neal started to lift up Peter when he heard the cocking of a gun.

"Impressive. The FBI are fast when they find their agents are missing. I wouldn't have thought there'd have been time enough for them to miss these two." Cristos stood there with a toothy smile that reminded the con of a tiger.

"It's a shame though, I would have liked to get this mess cleaned up quickly but adding one more to the pile shouldn't be too hard." He raised his gun when someone screamed behind him.

"FBI! PUT THE WEAPON DOWN!" Neal looked behind Cristos to see agents including Hughes coming towards them. The blond goon had already been apprehended, being dragged away in cuffs as Cristos turned. The man looked pissed, dropping his gun as he glared back at Neal and Jones.

"Good work, Neal." Jones was looking down, Neal following the agent's glance when he saw his anklet was glowing red. He smiled slightly, a blush coming to his cheeks.

"I guess I went over my 2 miles. He sat down beside Peter on the ground, pulling his jacket off and rolling it up under his friend's head. Neal waved a hand in front of his face feeling warmer than usual and a bit lightheaded. Jones patted him on the shoulder.

"You ok, Neal? You don't look so good." Neal glanced up, vision somewhat blurry. It really did feel hot suddenly.

"I'm just feeling a bit warm. When did the sun start shining so brightly?" Neal leaned back against the wooden palettes and slumped. Jones was looking at him concerned as he limped over to some of the agents and Hughes.

"I need help over here!" Jones' voice sounded far away as Neal felt himself fading into the background.


Neal woke up feeling warm but his throat didn't hurt quite so much. He felt rather rested too as he opened his eyes. The room was unfamiliar, the color scheme blander and less interesting than his room at June's. A tan striped sofa with a small wooden coffee table near it sat to his right in front of a curtained window. By the light that passed through the beige curtain, he thought it must be late afternoon. He glanced up at a clock on the wall to see it was around 3 pm. He stretched and yawned, something pinching his arm. He noticed a couple of IV feeds in either arm. Neal was looking at them when he turned at the sound of a door opening.

"It's been three days. He just overdid it is all. They said he should be better when his fever breaks. Yes... thanks. I'll let him know, June." Elizabeth Burke's voice was soft as she hung up the cell and turned. She paused when she saw Neal looking at her and smiled.

"Neal, you're awake. How are you feeling?" El made her way to his side, gave him a hug and kissed him on the forehead. Her smile grew wider.

"You don't feel hot anymore. I think your fever broke." She pulled up a chair and sat beside him, holding his hand in hers. He peered around the room a moment then back at El.

"I think that last fever drove me to the brink. I dreamed Peter and Jones were hurt..." He smiled slightly then stopped when he saw her expression. El looked tired but more than that, worried. Neal cupped her hand in his.

"So that wasn't a dream?" He felt a slight nausea pass over him as he saw El shake her head. Neal thought back to how Peter had looked when he found him and blanched. El hugged him.

"He's ok, Neal. Mostly Peter was banged up, with a slight concussion but by some miracle that was it. Jones the same." She shuddered slightly, Neal putting an arm around her. He sighed in relief making her look at him curiously.

"Sorry, I just thought it was another of my nightmares... I'm glad Peter's ok. Maybe I can go see him?" He sounded concerned and she nodded.

"I think he'd like that. He woke up yesterday. They're still removing shrapnel, mostly small bits of wood. Apparently wooden nesting dolls make great projectiles. Peter and his FBI sense of humor." She shrugged, Neal smiling slightly.

"Ouch. Poor Peter. How about Jones? He here?" He watched her shake her head.

"He was the luckier of the two. Landed in a pile of tarps. Got less shrapnel though cause he had a vest on. He just came in for a cursory exam and was let go." She winced at the thought as did Neal. She pointed at a small bag at the foot of the chair.

"June sent you some clothes and toiletries for when you woke up. She was worried when she got home and you weren't there. I'll have to let her know you're awake. She wants to come visit again." El smiled at him and he grinned back.

"Surprisingly, I wasn't dreaming the last few days, at least I don't recall anything. Maybe the nightmares have gone away. I'm sorry for worrying you and June." He blushed slightly but she just patted his arm.

"I'm glad you were able to help Peter. He's been asking about you."


The next day, Neal was able to leave the hospital but on the way out El had to go pick up Peter who was also being released. He would have to come back as the small splinters of wood pushed themselves out to have the doctor extract them. It was going to be a slow, slightly painful process but the only way they could be sure everything was pulled out naturally and with minimal pain. Neal sat down in the wheelchair provided although he could technically walk, El pushing him towards a room down the hall where Peter was being packed up to leave.

The first thing Neal noticed when they entered Peter's room was a balloon in the shape of a giant Russian nesting doll. Someone at the office must have sent it as a get well joke. Neal wondered if the irony was lost on Peter considering what happened. Peter still lay in bed but he was clothed, his body somewhat stiff as if he were in pain. His left arm was in a sling. The agent turned at the sound of the door opening and blinked in surprise.

"Peter, guess who else gets to go home today?" El pushed Neal's wheelchair closer to the bed, a nurse coming behind her with another for Peter. Both men glanced curiously at the other, a moment of silence passing between them. Peter pushed himself up to a sitting position, groaning ever so slightly as he stood and limped over to Neal, holding out his hand.

"Thanks partner. I owe you my life." Peter took Neal's hand in his and they shook, both men smiling.

"I'm glad I was conscious enough to help." Neal pushed himself up to his feet and they hugged slightly, Peter putting his good arm around Neal. The nurse gave them both a little pinched frown pointing at the wheelchairs, Neal sitting back in his and Peter limping over with El's help to the other one. El pushed her husband and the nurse took Neal's chair as they exited the room. Peter leaned over and whispered to the young man.

"I don't know what possessed me to call you. I knew you were sick but yours was the first number I thought to call. I'm just glad Hughes had the foresight to come look for you when your anklet went off. I guess you figured that would bring people out to help. Thanks." He grinned at Neal who just shrugged slightly.

"I had hoped if anyone would find us it would be Jones but he was with you. I didn't know that. I guess he sent you that balloon in the room?" Neal grinned slightly, Peter nodding with a sigh but smiling.

"I have heard way too many joked about nesting dolls and wood since I woke up. I think Jones had too and just wanted to make me suffer along with him once I was conscious enough to enjoy it." Peter made a mock expression of annoyance, Neal smiling.

"Awww... so what kind of jokes did he pass along?" He saw Peter glance at him with a wary look as if he were too tired to deal with any more jibes but he shrugged helplessly and conceded.

"All the dolls are stuck in you..." He grimaced at the humor as did Neal.

"That's not funny. I wood have said something about you don't nest dolls, they nest you." Neal grinned slightly seeing the expression on Peter's face redden slightly then relax as he shook his head.

"Stop it... I still have to come back once all these damn doll bits pop back out of my skin." He frowned but he didn't seem unhappy, just a little down. Neal reached over and patted his shoulder gently.

"I'm just glad this didn't end like one of my nightmares." He looked relieved, Peter looking over at him curiously.

"So you had a nightmare about me being hurt? That's what upset you the other night?" He blinked at the young man who nodded with a chagrined look.

"I... I dreamed that Keller took his revenge on me by making me watch his men kill you. I didn't... it was so real I couldn't deal with it." He rubbed at the back of his neck looking up when the nurse helped him get up as they exited the hospital. El helped Peter stand and they walked over to the Taurus that was parked nearby. El put them both in the backseat so they had more room to relax, then slipped into the front. While they drove out of the lot, Neal noticed Peter looking at him in a thoughtful manner.

"I guess you worry about me about as much as I do you. I had a few nightmares of my own the other night when you were still sick. I didn't sleep well at all thinking about things that could be." He grasped the young man's hand in his own and smiled but Neal still looked a bit worried.

"You're not the only person I dreamed about... I also dreamed about June... Mozzie..." He paused not wanting to speak of the nightmare he had about El but Peter seemed to understand.

"I know what you mean. I remember when I was still a rookie and helping to bust down doors, I'd have nightmares about everything that could have gone wrong after a bust and sometimes before. It was nerve wracking since most of the things were probable. I'd wake up a nervous wreck but I think it became worse once El and I were married. I didn't want her to be left alone so I transferred to the White Collar unit. I can't even begin to imagine what sorts of nightmares she must have thinking about me when I go to work." He shook his head as if trying not to think about it.

"I guess it's still too soon after Kate's... I guess I'm reevaluating things in my life now." He saw Peter blink at him and smile, his hand reaching up to muss his hair.

"Yeah, sometimes you have moments that test your faith. You know I'm here if you ever want to talk. I'm not letting you off the hook any time soon." He gave him that big brother kind of glance and Neal smiled.

"Long as it's Peter Burke I'm talking to and not Agent Burke. That last guy can be a real pill." Neal said it in mock seriousness noticing El was watching them through the rear-view mirror and stifling a laugh. Peter noticed as well, crossing his arms over his chest defensively.

"Agent Burke's not all that bad. He's just dedicated to his job, justice and the American way... or something like that. He can be fun once you get to know him." Peter sounded like he was talking about another person, Neal blinking at him curiously.

"Uh oh... first signs of insanity: Talking about yourself in the third person. El, maybe you should take him back to the hospital and have them do a psycho-analysis." His tone was facetious, Peter arching a brow.

"Peter is feeling angry now. Peter doesn't like people poking fun at him when he talks in the third person."

(the end)