A/N: So, here we go. The last chapter. It's been fun. I appreciate each one of your reviews, and though I don't have time to list you all individually, I thank you all. If you wish to, I'd love for you to go vote on my profile poll. This story has helped me through the White Collar-less time (which will soon be over!) and I'm sort of sad it's over... I hope this last chapter finishes it off well. So, without further ado, here is Zap.
The halls of the hospital were quiet as Neal Caffrey walked through them, his tense shoulders and slightly clenched jaw the only signs of his discomfort. He flexed and clenched his left hand in its sling, trying not worry, trying not to think.
If he let anything slide across the controlled blank page that was currently his mind, he would snap. He just knew he would. If one little thought got in, all the others would follow, and the inevitable would crash over him. So he walked through the halls, forcing himself to smile jauntily at the nurses he passed and watching the room numbers carefully.
107, 108, 109... He stopped silently in front of room 110, afraid of what he'd see once he went in.
His mind scrambled for excuses; Elizabeth wasn't back from her sister's yet. Shouldn't she see Peter first?
He took a breath and steadied himself. He shoved all his emotions and worries back down under the surface, and, with a tremendous effort he put the Neal Caffrey mask back on. The one that was unperturbed by the world. Always charming, always smiling.
The carefully formed mask fell away the second he saw his friend, his partner lying motionless in the hospital bed. Everything white, the room filled with that quiet, steady beeping noise that hospitals had. It had been a while since Neal had been in a hospital. He was still unsettled by them.
Neal walked over to the bedside and sat down in the chair, scraping it closer to the bed. Peter's face was peaceful, giving no evidence of what had occurred.
"Peter..." Neal didn't know what to say. Or, didn't know how to say what he wanted to say. With an irrepressible air of hopelessness he rested his head in his hands, finally allowing the days' events to wash over him.
Everything was going fine; the criminals bought everything and Neal was in. He was going to get all the information he needed and all was according to plan. Then in one horrible minute everything changed. He was suddenly at gunpoint against the wall and the leader was sneering at him.
"You really thought that you could fool us, Neal Caffrey?" Neal had tried to bail it out, to make everything work, but they didn't give him time. The leader leaned closer to him, whispering in his ear. "I know you're there. If you want your pet con back alive you'll have to come get him."
And Peter had come in, hurried and out of breath, disregarding protocol. But the second the door opened, before Jones could get there with backup, before anyone could even blink, the ring leader had turned his gun on Peter and shot him twice. There was a terrible, silent moment as Peter fell to the floor and then the leader turned on Neal.
"I guess that what he gets for trusting a con." The tall man gave Neal an unpleasant smile and pulled back his fist. "It's your fault he's dead." And he'd punched him, knocking him awkwardly to the ground. He'd woken up in the hospital with a badly sprained wrist hours later, immediately asking for Peter.
"I'm sorry, Peter," Neal whispered, his voice cracking slightly. "It's my fault. I should've been more careful."
"'t isn't your fault," a mutter came. Neal's head shot up, his blue eyes wide.
"'s me," Peter said with a bright, lopsided grin. "Are you s'prised?" Neal narrowed his eyes slightly, his eyes raking over first Agent Burke and then the medical equipment around him. He realized they had him on pain medication. That would explain the grin.
"More relieved then anything," Neal said in a rare moment of unguarded honesty. Peter seemed to consider this, then shrugged slightly.
"'t's not your fault," he repeated. Neal let out a short sigh.
"Peter, it is. I should've been more careful, I should've thought it out first. If you hadn't come in after me, then you wouldn't be-"
"Neal," Peter said with an almost lucid, insistent look. "Stop. I don't blame you." Neal tilted his head to one side slightly, simply watching Peter for a moment. "If anythin', I should be thanking you."
"You got us 'nough to arrest them," Peter said. "Mos' agents wouldn't ev'n be able t' do that much under those conditions."
"But-" Peter cut him off again.
"Cut 't out. You did good today, kid." He grinned again, all the seriousness gone. "You've got zap." That completely threw Neal off his train of thought.
"What?" He asked with a hint of incredulousness.
"Energy. Enthusiasm. Vigor. Zap."
"Thank you, Mr. Thesaurus," Neal said with a quirked eyebrow, grateful that the conversation had been steered to other topics. And privately touched by the sentiment, however odd it was. Note to self: Peter Burke is very different when on drugs.
"Don' mention it," Peter said with a little laugh. A nurse came through the door.
"Sir, I'm sorry, but visiting hours are over. I'm going to have to ask you to leave." Neal nodded and stood up. Peter clasped his hand.
"See you," he said brightly. "Don't you keep beatin' yourself up."
"Bye, Peter. See you tomorrow." Neal gave a smile to Peter and the nurse and walked out. As he drove in a taxicab back to June's house, Neal watched the lights of New York slide by through the window.
"You did good today." Neal found that those words meant more to him than almost anything else had.
"You did good today."
"You're the only one."
"I decided to take a leap of faith."
"Take it. I trust you."
After all this time, the cases, Fowler, Kate, everything, Neal that understood Peter Burke better. The man was good-hearted, brave, smart, honorable; and all these traits were why Neal had trusted Peter from the beginning. Why he still trusted him.
And, finally, Neal thought that Peter might be starting to really trust him back.
"You did good today."