(Chapter 5)

Memories of a similar incident flooded Neal's still drug-hazed mind.

"
Come on out, Terry! We want to see our scared little deer!" Neal could hear Androv's mocking voice within the maze, the sound of a rifle being cocked, was echoing throughout.

Neal started to run faster, carrying Peter nearly piggy back at some point. Adrenaline kept him going for now and fear as he heard the dogs in the background and the sound of men in pursuit on horseback and foot. It was luck when he found the abandoned deer blind and ducked inside hoping for a moment's relief. It was moldy and smelled less than friendly but it would hide them for a bit.

"Where did they go? I know they came this way. They couldn't have just vanished into thin air!" Neal held his breath and was glad when he realized the dogs were in the distance which meant they weren't part of this hunting group. Dogs would have found them for sure but men, he could hide from men given half the chance. It's what made him a successful con and thief.

"Double back and let's take all possible directions." Neal heard someone cocking a rifle or gun and started slightly without making a noise but he was scared, fear keeping him alert for now. The sounds left and finally they were alone. He checked Peter again who was still unconscious, pulse and heartbeat still strong, his breath shallow but evident. He brushed some hair from his friend's face and removed his jacket and pushed it under Peter's head as he curled up beside him and hoped for a few minutes of rest. Jones should be able to track them with the mini-tracker on their collars. That was still in place.

()()()

Neal woke up to the sound of a gun cocking overhead. He roused himself with some effort looking up to see a blurry shadow through the top of the deer blind. It was Donviel. Neal pushed Peter out of the way, as he rolled away hearing a report of a shotgun and feeling a burning as it hit him on the side of the head, the spray missing Peter as Neal slumped. He groaned in pain, a laugh from Donviel as he pushed through the top of the blind and pulled Neal out and through the hole.

"Trying to outsmart someone who grew up on the streets. Can't outsmart a con, rich boy." Donviel grimaced at Neal, the young man feeling himself fading from the pain, his adrenaline fading as exhaustion took over. He heard the crunch of feet from nearby and looked across the man's shoulder to see more figures in black. They had bright yellow letters on their coats he could just make out as he tried to read them in his half-daze.

"F... B... I... ?" Neal slurred, looking at Donviel who turned and saw Jones and company standing there.

"FBI! PUT YOUR WEAPON DOWN!" Jones yelled as the man looked shocked, his green eyes turning back to Neal. Neal just smiled slightly, holding Donviel's wallet in his hand for the man to see.

"You were saying something about fooling a con?" Neal's blue eyes, still a bit too black, glittered a moment before they rolled back in his head as he slumped into unconsciousness.

()()()

Neal woke up to the sound of a ringing in his ears, the blood rushing through his temples as the pain came back to him. He moved slightly, feeling himself tucked under warm blankets, a soft pillow under his head. He woke up to find himself back in the lodge laying in one of the beds. He shifted to look around and saw another figure in another bed across from him. It was Peter. He tried to sit up but his body refused to react, a crinkling sound as he moved his head. He reached up and touched his head to find it had been wrapped in bandages. Neal coughed, looking around.

"Yes sir, the lodge doctor treated them and we'll be shipping them back by ambulance soon as it arrives. Tell Elizabeth we'll meet her at the hospital." Jones' voice was muffled outside the suite door. Neal turned towards it as the door opened and Jones came inside. The agent turned and blinked at Neal.

"Neal. Just talked to Hughes. We're going to transport the both of you by ambulance soon. Everything's been taken care of. Donviel and the rest of them were arrested." Jones walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. Neal nodded, looking across at Peter without saying anything. Jones put a comforting hand on Neal's shoulder.

"Peter's doing better. He lost a lot of blood but the doctor here said he should be ok once we get him to a hospital. He's on an IV drip now. They keep them for the more serious hunting injuries. He's stable." Jones smiled down at Neal who nodded sleepily. He wanted to talk but he was too tired, his body giving into his injuries and what was left of the drug in his system.

()()()

Man's voice: How many days has it been?

Woman's voice: Three.

Man's voice: He must have been exhausted to sleep that long.

Woman's voice: Yes, he wore himself out. He did carry you didn't he?

Man's voice: I guess so. I hope he wakes up soon.

Neal listened to the voices banter back and forth before he finally woke up and opened his eyes looking around. He found himself in a bland little hospital room alone. He peered around finding remnants that someone had been there, a coffee cup sitting on the nightstand. He glanced at it and then turned when he heard the quiet sound of a door opening.

"Shhhh... he's going to wake up if you make that much noise, Peter." The voice sounded familiar, Neal recognizing it as that of Elizabeth Burke. There was a quiet squeaking sound of wheels which he saw was a wheelchair being pulled into the room as she backed in. He could make out a figure in the chair as she turned and entered.

"He's already awake, honey." Elizabeth smiled as she saw Neal staring at her. Peter perked up and glanced at his friend his lips curving into a relieved smile. The agent still looked pale but his color seemed to be returning and other than his arm being in a sling, he looked better. Neal smiled back.

"Hey partner, you finally woke up." Peter let El wheel him closer, reaching out a hand to Neal.

"Pe... ter." Neal coughed, his throat a bit hoarse. He saw El walk over and pour him a glass of water, moving closer to help him sit up and drink it. He smiled at her as he finished the glass and she hugged him gently, planting a kiss on his forehead.

"We're glad to see you awake. Peter woke up two days ago worried sick about you." She moved back to her husband and hugged him from behind, the two clasping hands. Neal smiled and nodded.

"I guess you're the ones I heard talking in my sleep." He shifted slightly trying to get a bit more comfy as he sat up ever so slightly. El moved over and fussed over him and fluffed his pillows up behind him. Peter made a face behind her back that made Neal laugh, El turning and seeing Peter looking innocent.

"He's making faces isn't he? He's a terrible patient even though I was fussing over him to be sure he behaved." El wasn't really annoyed, just concerned as she did her best to make Neal comfy. He smiled appreciatively.

"Peter, behave... I'm going to go let the doctor know Neal's awake." She smiled at them both and left the room. Peter pushed himself up and moved over to the chair nearest the bed and plopped down into it. He looked tired, looking up at Neal as he leaned back against the chair.

"You took a big chance running from those men. Thanks Neal. Jones said the information we collected through the wire is more than enough to put them all away for a long long time." Peter patted the young man on the arm with his good hand. Neal's expression was relieved with a hint of worry.

"I keep thinking about Heath. They used him as bait. Treated both of us like that fox we saw at the hunt during the day." Neal's voice sounded hollow, his eyes showing a glimmer of fear from the memory. Peter nodded with a grim expression.

"There were three of you in that cabin when they tried to initiate me into the hunt. Heath and the others were gone by the time we ran but Jones said they were found by the regular hunting party. The men were suffering from exposure and some minor wounds... well physically they should heal." Peter saw Neal's expression change to relief.

"I'm glad. Heath is a good man. I didn't talk to him long but I got the impression he wasn't the typical hard-nosed business man. He had a heart. Can't say the same for Donviel if he's so concerned with someone's background and school affiliation." Neal leaned back, eyes staring up at the ceiling. They sat there in silence a moment, the doctor coming in with Elizabeth.

"I see Mr. Caffrey woke up. How do you feel?" The physician listened to his heart, lungs and checked his pulse. She checked his eyes and temperature as well as his head injury.

"Everything's healing well. You'll be out of here in no time." She smiled at him, El and Peter before leaving them alone. El excused herself to get a cup of coffee. Peter nudged Neal who had started staring at the ceiling again.

"So, what was it you were singing in French?" Peter was grinning slightly, Neal blinking at him.

"French? When did I sing in French? I don't remember much after I found Heath. Kind of hazy." Neal blinked again, a thoughtful look falling over his face as he tried to remember.

"French... wow... only song I know in French is some old Edith Piaf song. Something about cherries." Neal shrugged, humming to himself suddenly. Peter touched his hand and made a "ah ha!" sort of sound.

"Whatever you're humming now... that's what you were singing! Much as I wasn't myself, I somehow recall that song. Can't get it out of my head!" Peter rolled his eyes, shaking his head slightly in mock irritation. Neal started to hum a bit louder, words forming as he grinned at Peter.

"Stop it, Neal. Geesh! You sound like Pepe LePew!" Peter sounded annoyed, turning as the door opened and El walked back in looking between the two and listening to Neal sing. She clapped.

"Wow, such talent. I always wanted to learn French but my folks made me take Spanish."

Elizabeth placed a cup of coffee in Peter's hand and he smiled, distracted by the brew.

"You pick things up when you're on the continent." Neal sounded a bit proud. Peter muttered quietly between sips.

"Like pockets?" Peter saw Neal blink at the comment, El slapping him on the back of the head. He oofed.

"Be nice honey. Neal has a lovely voice. You should sing more." She hugged Neal who stuck his tongue out at Peter.

"Don't encourage him, El. Please..."

(The end!)