Written by request for Iuliana.
(this takes place pre-season ender)
It was Thursday when Neal opened up the empty water tank and peered inside.
"Peter? Hey... wake up!" He hissed as he shook the agent who was bound and gagged inside the metal structure, his whispered voice echoing. Neal started untying his friend as he tried to wake him up. He was speaking out loud, obviously wired, as he nudged his friend and continued to try and rouse him. Peter just gave a small groan which turned to a half-conscious murmuring once the duct tape and rags were removed from his mouth.
"Jones, you guys in here yet? I have Peter." Neal waited for a reply when he turned at the sound of something slamming shut and the clang of metal. He left Peter on the tank floor and ran to the door to open it up but the hatch had not only been shut but jammed shut from the outside. He cursed talking into the two-way receiver again.
"We're trapped in the tank, Jones. Someone shut us in. Hurry!" Neal heard a squeal of feedback and pulled the ear piece out. It was turning hot as he dropped it. He pulled out his phone but got no signal. He cursed realizing now they were trapped without communications. Peter moaned softly, the agent only now beginning to wake up a little. Neal hoped Jones would show up soon, sitting beside the agent and pushing his jacket under the man's head as he waited. He tried to wake Peter up but saw a bruise mark with a pin prick in the middle on the agent's neck. The agent had been drugged.
Maybe 10 minutes went by before he heard a reverberation from above and felt a sprinkle of something cold on him. Neal stood and looked as he saw a nozzle about a story or two overhead within the smooth tank beginning to drip with water. It started as a slow trickle before the stream started in earnest. Neal grimaced, grabbing up Peter. The tank was starting to fill up slowly but it was filling up, Neal trying the hatch again without success. He wondered where Jones was. He started to yell hoping he would be heard, watching the water level grow to knee height. Neal kept Peter standing, the agent still unconscious.
Neal kept yelling, the sound deafening to him but he wondered if it was getting outside as the water grew to waist deep, the young man shivering. The water was cold and from the taste of it, hadn't been desalinated yet. Lucky them to getting stuck in a desalinization plant, Peter kidnapped by the arms dealer they were chasing for money laundering. Neal sighed, shifting his weight to hold Peter better and keep his legs from freezing too much. He kept yelling off and on as the water level rose higher. It was up to his chest now, his body growing numb, Neal having issues holding the unconscious agent up as he shivered from the cold.
Hurry, Jones... Please! Neal thought as he held Peter and felt the water rise just below his chin. He had to tread water after a bit, holding Peter's head above water as he did so. Neal was cold but he had to keep alert for Peter's sake. The water got deeper, Peter rousing a bit as he shivered along side Neal.
"Cccc... co... cold..." Peter was waking up if only a bit, his brown eyes fluttering open as Neal kept his head above water, bobbing up and down. Neal was tiring due to the cold and the air thinning. There was nothing to hold onto, the walls of the tank smooth. There had been a ladder and emergency hatch on one side near the top now removed, smoothed over and the hatch welded shut. Neal thought they had made sure nobody could escape.
"Ne... al... What's... go... ing... on?" Peter was looking at the young man, face confused as he began to wake up in earnest. Peter started to tread water a bit but was still too much under the influence for Neal to let go of him.
"Just hold onto me. Jones will hopefully be here soon." Neal heard a noise outside and started to yell.
"JONES? HEY IN HERE!" Neal shouted, tapping on the side and hearing an answering tap back. He thought he heard a voice outside and tried to listen to what it said but it was too muted to understand over the water sounds filling the tank. He just hoped they would hurry with the lack of space and air.
"Neal... can't... feel my arms. Cold." Peter sounded sleepy but Neal just kept treading water, floating a bit on his back to keep his own head above water as he supported his partner.
"Yeah... Me either. I think we'll be ok soon, Peter. Hold on." Neal was praying he was right when the water stopped. They were pretty close to the top and the welded emergency hatch when the flow ended. Neal coughed a bit from swallowing a bit of the salty mess. His whole body ached from keeping afloat but also from the effort to keep Peter safe. Neal felt a little disoriented from the cold and exhaustion when he heard the sound of something akin to a giant can opener. He looked up to see flames in the dimly lit tank and the so-called emergency hatch pop open after a moment. Jones was there.
Neal woke up, shivering slightly. He had been remembering what happened three days ago, his muscles still sore from having to tread water for so long. He pulled the covers aside and stood up with a soft groan, padding over to the bathroom. Neal looked at himself in the mirror, his face somewhat pale looking, cheeks flushed. He didn't feel very good, his body still shivering slightly as he left the bathroom, grabbing up his robe and making his way out onto the terrace. The cool early morning air whipped around him and underneath the robe bringing him more of a chill as he sat on a chaise lounge chair and tried to relax.
He had been dreaming about the incident since it happened. So many things could have gone wrong had he not been able to keep himself and Peter afloat. It bothered him as he sniffed, his nose feeling somewhat stuffed up and runny as he sat there on the terrace. He thought he heard a soft knock on the door, opening up his eyes and looking past the terrace doors. June poked her head in and he waved her over.
"Neal, are you ok? I heard you moving around. It's a bit early isn't it, dear?" She sounded concerned, her voice soft and gentle. He shrugged slightly; leaning back against the lounge chair and feeling like he was still in that icy salt water. He opened his eyes when he felt her hand on his forehead.
"You feel warm. You sure you're ok, Neal?" June sat beside him on the chair but he just nodded sleepily.
"I'm just a little cold." He sat up and she stood helping him stand as they walked back inside. Neal walked over to the sofa and curled up on his side there, hands folded under his chin. June sat beside him, placing a blanket over the young man as she felt his forehead again, brushing his hair aside.
"I guess you're not that warm after all. Rest, Neal." She spoke softly, kissing him on the forehead as she left the room and quietly closed the door.
"Neal. Neal. Wake up." He felt someone nudging him, a familiar voice speaking. He roused himself as much as he could looking up with bleary eyes to see Peter Burke bending over him. Neal jerked awake, looking around confused as he realized he was on the sofa and not his bed. He wiped at his face with his hand, rubbing his eyes and sniffled a bit. His nose still felt a bit stuffed up, his ears and head aching.
"Hey, you ok? June said you missed your alarm." Peter sat down beside the young man on the coffee table and peered at him curiously. Neal shook his head slightly, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
"I'm ok. Hey, isn't it Sunday? What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be resting after what happened?" Neal was looking at his friend now, a concerned look on his face. Peter shook his head this time.
"They didn't give me anything major when they drugged me apparently. Sodium pentathol doesn't do much in the dosage they administered. I lucked out especially with you treading water. Thanks." He hugged the young man to him gently, Neal nodding tiredly. He didn't know why but he felt really cruddy but if Peter was happy he wasn't going to complain about feeling a bit off. He smiled at his friend.
"My legs still hurt. Never had to tread water for so long in water that was absolutely freezing!" Neal shivered in memory, Peter nodded.
"Yeah, they said we were lucky to get out when we did. Avoided hypothermia plus the fact the water hadn't been desalinized yet helped. Apparently the saltier the water, the easier it is to float." Peter seemed to be looking at Neal with a different kind of expression as he spoke. It was a thoughtful kind of expression you see when someone is unsure of something. Neal redirected.
"Interesting. So... what brings you over here on a Sunday?" Neal glanced over at the clock and saw it was after 11 am. He had slept in longer than usual, stretching slightly to undo the kinks from sleeping on the sofa. Peter stood, pacing a little as if trying to figure out how to say something. He finally stopped and turned.
"Elizabeth was curious if you wanted to come over for dinner. She's testing out some new recipes for the catering business and wanted the use of your delicate palette as a guinea pig." He smirked slightly, but Neal knew that wasn't the only reason he was being asked over. He felt a bit awkward like Peter seemed to. The agent owed his life to Neal and maybe he just had no way of showing how much that meant to him so he had come to visit. Neal smiled and nodded.
"Sounds like a date. What time?" Neal stood up and walked over to the wardrobe and started to pull out something to wear. He stretched and yawned along the way, his head feeling like someone had stuffed it with cotton but he would deal.
"7-ish? She has to cook the stuff up ahead of time, find a few recipes and ingredients." Peter sat on the sofa and the stood up again. He seemed antsy. Neal thought he knew why and wasn't sure how to broach the topic in his current state.
"I'm just going to jump in the shower. Maybe we can go catch a bite to eat?" Neal saw Peter nod as he disappeared into the bathroom.
Neal took the hottest shower he could stand. When he left the bathroom it looked like it had been on fire from all the steam escaping. Peter was nowhere to be seen till he glanced out on the terrace and saw the agent standing along the edge of the stone statuary glancing out over the city. Neal quietly slipped into a nice pair of blue jeans, a black tee, blue button up corduroy shirt and a leather jacket over it all. His head still felt a bit achy but he had downed three aspirin and some sudafed to alleviate the discomfort. He felt better but was still a wee bit out of it. He smiled in the full-length mirror along the wall. His cheeks were a bit flushed but that was probably from the shower.
"So, where are we planning to eat?" Peter had walked over and patted him on the shoulder as he continued to look in the mirror. Neal smiled.
"You pick." Neal turned and saw that look in Peter's eyes still. He wasn't sure what to say so he just continued to smile as they moved out of the room and Neal locked up. June met them downstairs, smiling up at both of them.
"I see you were finally able to rouse him. Sleep well, Neal?" She walked over and hugged him gently, Neal smiling at her.
"Very well." His head was still a bit stuffy so his answers felt a bit forced and automatic. Maybe it was the sudafed making him hazy. June just smiled.
"Have fun. I guess you're going out for lunch?" She saw both of them nod to her as she continued to smile.
"I have a meeting so I won't be back here when you return, Neal." She hugged him again before excusing herself and walking back through the dining room and disappearing. Peter and Neal turned and headed out the front door, Neal locking up behind him.
Monday morning, Neal felt like someone had hit him with a car. He heard the alarm go off and hit it with more force than he meant, his head throbbing. The sudafed had finally worn off and he needed some more aspirin if he was going to be conscious for work. It took a moment but he managed to drag himself out of bed and over to the bathroom. He had a few sudafed left so he downed one and then took a few aspirin afterwards. He started up the shower and turned it on the hottest setting, stripping down and jumping in. It seemed to help clear his head a bit but he still felt a bit beat up when he exited. A large plume of steam followed him outside into the main room. Neal trudged over and pulled out a nice tan suit with a white linen shirt, some dark brown Italian loafers and a matching belt.
Neal sat outside on the terrace drinking tea with some honey and lemon for once, his head still throbbing despite all the meds. He had gone over to the Burke's last night for dinner and felt pretty good. He didn't think he would still feel stuffed up or worse on Monday but he did. So far the sudafed was helping and the aspirin at least alleviated the worse of his aches but he was still a bit achy.
"Neal... Neal..." Someone was poking at him where he sat down. He opened up his eyes and focused on Peter Burke's face.
"Hey Peter. Monday already?" He stretched and yawned, starting to stand up when Peter pushed him back down and gave him a good once over.
"You look a bit pekid." Peter seemed worried but Neal just stood and shook his head.
"I'm good. Just tired. So, what's on the agenda today?" Neal started towards the terrace doors, Peter following with a shrug as they closed them and exited the room. They walked downstairs and made their way outside to Peter's Taurus.
"Nothing much. I'm not supposed to be in yet so mostly case files. You sure you're ok?" Peter kept looking at him but Neal just shook his head.
"I'm fine, Peter. If anyone should be asking that question it should be me to you." He regretted saying that when he saw the look on Peter's face. Apparently he was still worrying about what had happened. Neal bit his tongue knowing the agent felt awkward. Peter just nodded with a blank look then smiled as best he could and pointed at the door. Neal nodded back and they left.
It only took three case files before Neal could feel his sinuses throbbing on him again. The sudafed wasn't wearing off, it was the 24 hour one, but it wasn't working anymore. Whatever he'd caught wasn't going down without a fight. Neal sighed; putting the folder he was reading down and standing up. Maybe it was a bit too fast but he felt dizzy, grabbing the desk and steadying himself. Luckily for him, nobody had noticed so he threw on his usual facade and made his way across the lobby despite feeling like the room was swaying and made it to the break area. There he pulled out a packet of green tea from the box, dropped it into an empty cup and poured some hot water over it. He found some extra honey packets and squeezed the gunky goo into the cup. It wasn't the most appetizing looking cup of tea but it would have to do. He held the cup to his face and tried to inhale the steam hoping for some comfort.
"I don't think our coffee has much of a nose to it... I usually sense it has a bit of a muddy texture with gravel and asphalt for flavoring." Neal turned to find Peter standing there. The agent's snark was obvious as he walked over and poured himself a cup of mud as they so amiably nicknamed the coffee.
"Just making sure this tea was fresh. I couldn't find a date on the box but when it steeps, you can usually smell how fresh it is." Neal was lying through his teeth but he figured it sounded realistic enough. Peter nodded with a "oh really?" expression that showed he believed him.
"So how many case files you get through so far?" Peter was fishing, standing there with the cup of coffee in his hand as he pretended he might drink it. Neal took a sip of the tea; it was adequate, and shrugged.
"10 maybe 20? I lost count when I passed out and found myself unconscious on the floor." Neal saw Peter smirk at him as he finally took a tentative sip of the coffee and grimaced.
"So maybe 3 to 5 files?" Peter was smart, taking another sip of the coffee as he motioned for Neal to follow him back to his office. Neal nodded with a slight grin.
"That sounds more like it. But I was starting to slip into a coma so I came for something to wake me up. How about you?" Neal followed Peter up the few stairs to the office at the top and walked in as Peter closed the door behind them. Neal slipped into the chair nearest the door while Peter plopped into his seat behind the desk, taking another sip of coffee.
"About the same. I actually took up playing solitaire at some point. I was thinking of ducking out early since Hughes has been staring at me all morning as if I should be home resting." Peter leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He looked tired. Neal didn't think much about it, his own head throbbing to its own heavy metal version of the little drummer boy. He took another quick inhale of the tea hoping his sinuses would ease up when Peter opened his eyes and looked over at him.
"So... want to join me for an afternoon of playing hooky? My treat." Peter sounded a bit unlike his usual workaholic self. Maybe that abduction had affected him a bit more than he wanted to admit but Neal just nodded, watching his friend smile.
"Good, then grab up your things and I'll let Hughes know I'm stealing you away."
Neal was surprised when Peter took him to one of his favorite French Bistro's for lunch, the kind of place he normally hated to be seen in and as an added surprise, took him to the Met. Neal was starting to feel weirded out now. Something was definitely up with Peter if he was being this nice to him but with the cold bothering him, it was hard to think straight much less read between the lines.
"Peter, we can go to that pub you took me to the other day and have a beer, watch a game..." He saw Peter hold up a hand and shake his head.
"I'm fine. El tells me I should get out more and do some more cultural things. Figured I could watch you and learn." Peter smiled which made Neal even worry more if his friend was complimenting him like this. Not that he never complimented him on his taste but this was strange as if Peter was feeling guilty about something and paying back a debt. Neal just let it go, trying to get over the throbbing in his head. He felt Peter nudge him.
"You ok, Neal? You still look a bit pekid and your cheeks are flushed." Peter reached up to feel the young man's forehead and Neal moved back.
"I'm fine. So, what's next?" They were walking back into the lobby of the museum now and heading for the exit. Peter kept looking at him curiously then shrugged.
"Home I guess unless you can think of something else we can do?" Peter had a hopeful sound to his voice but all Neal wanted to do what sleep this thing off. Still, Peter wanted to hang out with him so he couldn't disappoint him.
"Isn't there a Yankees' game this afternoon?" He saw Peter's face light up. Bingo!
Neal had never been much of a sports fan but he could see why his friend liked it. They had hoarded up on beer and snacks at the booth downstairs and gotten some fair seats for the game considering the lateness of the day. Neal watched his friend get excited as well as the other fans and could only liken it to his experiences in Madrid at the bull fights. At least it kept him from worrying about Peter trying to make him happy and distracted them both from their worries and Neal from his cold. He leaned back in the seat; jacket pulled around him and just enjoyed the afternoon.
"Hey Neal, the game's over." Neal perked up at the sound of Peter gently shaking him by the arm. He wiped at his eyes and looked around at the crowd noisily exiting from the stands as Peter waited for him to react. Neal sat up and shook his head, a mistake as he felt the world swim nauseatingly around him. He blinked a few times then stood, grasping his friend's arm.
"Think I got up too fast. Where to next?" Neal smiled as best as he could without looking like he was begging to go home. He did want to spend time with his friend but the more time he spent out, the more this cold seemed to take over. Peter looked like he was getting to be a bit tired or maybe it was the beer talking.
"Home. El invited some friends over for dinner. You're welcomed to join us. Barbecue in the backyard. First day I can finally take the grill out." Peter sounded excited but Neal shook his head.
"I wouldn't want to crash the party. Besides, June asked me to escort her to a club function tonight. I need to go clean up for that." Neal was lying of course but Peter nodded, a little disappointed look quickly hidden by his usual sober glance.
"Maybe next time. Welp, let's go."