(Chapter 13)
Updated since I realized there was something missing… (d'oh!)

()()()

Neal was floating in the water again only this time he was alone. He glanced around at the gray mist that surrounded him, blocking out all but himself and the small section of ocean he was bobbing in. Neal was tired, his body aching but he had to keep treading water; stay afloat. He continued to turn, hoping for something in the distance to show that land was near. At some point he thought he saw a light but then it moved and vanished. He turned and saw another but it was brief. He kept floating, keeping his head above water but feeling more and more tired by the moment. He started to think of Kate... He felt something warm and wet in his eyes. His mind wandered to Elizabeth and how much he worried about her when they were captive. He protected her for Peter's sake. His body was tiring, his legs kicking less and less as he felt himself starting to sink.

Neal...

He turned at the sound of someone calling his name and saw Peter staring across the booth at the Bistro at him. Neal blinked looking around at the scenery wondering if he had fallen asleep. Peter smiled at him.

"Neal, you ok?" Peter's voice was almost brotherly. Neal nodded, looking around and noticing Elizabeth was missing.

"Where's El?" Neal felt some concern but Peter just smiled.

"Freshening up... Neal, is something bothering you?" Peter reached across and took a hold of his shoulder.

"You know you can always talk to me, but there's something I need you to do first."
Peter's tone had changed, Neal perking up at the sound of a 'but' coming...

"What is that, Peter?" Neal found himself waiting impatiently for what was to come. Peter squeezed his hand again.

"Wake up, Neal..."

Neal blinked, looking at his friend. He opened his mouth to say something when he heard a loud beeping sound.

()()()

Peter woke up with a strange sense of dread. He sat up slowly, careful not to wake up El who leaned against him. Peter stood up, stretched, yawned and walked over to Neal's bedside. The young man still lay unconscious, respirator softly hissing with each breath, machines beeping softly. The IV bottles dripped quietly in the background. Peter sat beside him, holding Neal's hand.

"Wake up, Neal..." Peter had barely said those words when he heard the machines go nuts and start beeping. Peter stood and watched as Neal's body started to tremble and shudder.

"Neal? Neal!" He pushed the nurses' call button, turning when El spoke.

"Honey, what's happening?" Her voice was sleepy but worried as she wiped at her eyes. Peter's face had paled, his hands trying to hold the trembling form of his friend. A nurse walked in and took one look and made an immediate call. The door flew open a few minutes later as more doctors and nurses entered the room. Peter went back to the sofa with El as the doctors moved them aside.

They huddled together, Peter wrapping his arms around his wife protectively. The nurses and doctors worked feverishly to bring Neal back, his heart flat lining. El was crying softly, one of the nurses seeing them and gently seeing them out of the room. Peter sat out in the hallway with El, her crying in earnest now. He held her as he tried to hold back his own emotions, staring at the door and trying to will it to open. Neal had to be ok!

They must have waited for 30 minutes if not more before the doctors and nurses began to leave the room. The nurse who had led them outside walked over and touched Peter gently on the shoulder. She was smiling softly.

"He's ok. We stabilized him. He had a small stroke but he's better now. It's a result of the CO poisoning. If anything changes, we may have to move him back to ICU but for now, he's doing well. We put him in an oxygen tent but you can visit him."

()()()

Neal was back in the sea. He saw a light in the distance. It was steady and blinked over and over at him. He swam towards it, the beacon bringing a sense of relief to him. After a moment he realized there was a pattern to the light…

N - E - A - L

W- A - K - E - U - P

N - E – A - L

W - A - K - E - U- P…

()()()

Neal woke up with a start, looking up and around as his eyes opened and focused on his surroundings. He found himself in the Taurus, looking out the window. Peter was tapping on the glass looking at him curiously.

"Neal, you coming?" Peter was staring at him as Neal nodded groggily and opened up the door, another hand reaching across to touch his shoulder. It was Elizabeth.

"Hold on while Peter gets your chair." Her voice was soft, Neal nodding with a stifled yawn. He hung his feet over the edge of the opening waiting as Peter unfolded a small wheelchair. Neal eased himself out of the vehicle, El behind him helping as she took hold of a small backpack. They both helped him into the chair, his face reddening some.

"This is humiliating. What if someone sees me?" Neal's voice was petulant as he sulked in the wheelchair. He felt a slight slap on the back of the head. It was Elizabeth.

"Behave Neal. I wanted to treat you to this for all you did. Now shut up and enjoy yourself!" She glared in a motherly manner at him, Peter holding up his hands as Neal appealed to him as a man. They quietly pushed him into the same bistro everything had happened in nearly a month ago. Neal slumped in the chair slightly, arms crossed over his chest. He looked up when he noticed the bistro was devoid of other people, a nervous look in his eyes but El and Peter seemed to be comfortable. They pushed him past the main tables into a back conference type room where tables were set up. Neal was starting to get curious, turning back and looking at El and Peter before starting at the sound of voices.

"SURPRISE!"

Neal nearly jumped out of the wheelchair as figures popped out of the woodwork. June was suddenly beside him, giving him a big hug and smiling at him.

"June? What is going on here?" Neal looked confused, his blue eyes glancing around till he caught sight of another figure blending in with the background. It was Mozzie.

"Mozz? What's..." He was interrupted by the little guy as he hurried over and just whispered to him.

"I can help you duck out the back if you want." Mozz sounded serious, Neal unsure what was going on until he heard Peter whisper just as loudly.

"I don't think that's going to help him, Mozz... besides, there's cake!" Peter was grinning, patting the young man on the back. Mozz suddenly perked up at the thought of cake.

"In that case… you're on your own Neal." Mozz shrugged helplessly as he disappeared.

"Peter... what's this all about? Why are you throwing a party for me?" Neal sounded more confused than upset, El hugging him gently.

"Because... Well, does there need to be a reason, Neal?" She kissed his forehead and he blushed slightly, June stealing El away soon after to chitchat and set things up as Peter popped up beside him and helped him out of the chair.

"Just go with it, Neal. El wanted to throw a nice party for all you did and make sure you knew you were appreciated. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Trust me..." He perked up as his nose sniffed something. Neal smelled it too.

"June's Italian roast..." Neal smiled then frowned; Peter noticing.

"Oh yeah... I think she forgot about what the doctor said. No stimulants while your heart heals. I'll drink some for you." Peter grinned drawing a smirk from Neal.

"So funny, I forgot to laugh. Go get some, I know you want to." He pushed the agent forward, walking slowly towards a chair and flopping into it. He felt a presence and turned to see Mozz. The little guy pulled up a chair and sat next to him.

"Feeling better? Sorry I didn't visit... you know how much I hate hospitals." He sounded apologetic. Neal nodded, yawning slightly and adjusting his stance in the chair. Mozz looked worried.

"I'm fine. The CO really tore me up but they said I should be 100 percent in another month. No long term damage at least." He wheezed a moment before catching his breath. Mozz stood and walked off, Elizabeth showing up with the backpack a few minutes later. She pulled out a small nebulizer and he surreptitiously used it a few minutes before handing it back.

"Shall we eat? I ordered all kinds of goodies: Calamari, scallops, lobster..." El was interrupted as Peter peered down at a smiling Neal, cup of coffee in hand.

"Lobster? El we can afford this right?" Peter's voice sounded a bit concerned, his eyes looking over at Neal, the young man grinning as El stifled a laugh.

"Honey, I'm pulling your leg. Besides... it's a party! Relax." She squeezed him and nodded looking down at Neal as he sat beside him.

"Fine, but if we get lobster I'm not wearing any bibs!"

(The End)