Peter sighed, as the guards opened the thick steel doors, so he could enter the row of cells. He walked down to the correct one, and then stopped, nodding to the guard to open the cell door. The man did, then stood, waiting, outside. Peter shook his head, and entered the cell.
Neal was curled on the bed, the thin blanket he had been issued pulled up over him, but he was shivering anyways. Peter bent down, reaching out shake the younger man's shoulder, "hey Neal."
Neal flinched away from him, gasping into the pillows, "it's okay. It's Peter."
Peter glanced across at Neal's cellmate–he was apparently asleep, but Peter could see that he was breathing too unevenly. He frowned. Neal wasn't supposed to be housed with another inmate. Peter had made sure of that–he'd wanted Neal to serve his time, not get shanked for snoring too loudly. The fact that Neal was only in prison for a week, after a paper-work mixup where the judge apparently "lost" the yearly renewal of the parole contract, shouldn't have changed anything.
Peter gently rubbed his friend's back, "hanging in there?"
Neal slowly turned over, shivering, staring up at Peter like he had never seen the agent before. Peter frowned again, "Neal?"
"Peter?" it was almost a whisper, and the voice that came out of his friend's mouth was hoarse and timid. Peter nodded, slowly moving just a little bit closer to the cot.
"Neal? Do you mind if I sit down next to you?"
Neal reached out towards him, and he followed his friend's grasping hands, seating himself on the edge of the bed, "okay, Neal. Here, they finally finished searching the stuff me and el brought for you."
Neal blinked, as Peter handed him a plastic bag. He slowly pulled out the blanket from the livingroom couch–Neal's usual abode if he was staying over–and a sketchbook and some colored pencils. Neal managed a small smile, "thanks."
Peter watched his friend pull the blanket against his chest, burying his face in the green and white bundle of yarn–it was a remnant of Elizabeth's crocheting spree two years ago, and had pretty much become Neal's blanket. Neal breathed in, deeply, and Peter could imagine him smelling home, Peter and El and Satch, and the laundry detergent El used way too much of.
Peter sighed, and reached over his friend, gently pulling the thin sheet off the younger man's behind. There was blood staining his prison-issue orange jumpsuit. Peter replaced the blanket, "Neal, I'm gonna get you out of here."
Neal nodded, but took a hand off the bundle to curl it in Peter's sleeve. Peter pulled Neal's upper body into his lap, and started gently stroking his hand through Neal's hair, "okay. It's gonna be okay."
Neal nodded, but only hugged the blanket closer against his chest with one arm, his other hand clenching violently in Peter's pant leg. Peter looked over his shoulder, glaring at Neal's cellmate until the heavily tattooed, muscled man sunk backwards slightly. Peter turned back to Neal, leaning over him, trying to comfort his friend as much as he possibly could in his fifteen minutes of allotted visiting time.
Peter walked down the corridor, which never seemed to end. Cell after cell, face after face, until he finally reached the one with the crowds around it. There was blood on the floor, and in the bed Neal had been sleeping in the last time he had been here. But he wasn't paying attention to the blood. He was paying attention to the broken pencil laying on the ground among the rest of the pack. It was blue. Except now it was rusty-red, from the blood drying from the tip up to about a third of the way to the end.
Up to where Neal's hand had been gripping it. Up to where it had stuck out of the man's shoulder. Peter wished it had gone in just a little further, caused the man just a little more pain. Or a lot more pain. That would be good too. He turned around, looking at the warden, "where is he?"
"The victim or the assailant?"
Thank god that was confusing. Thank god they were technically both assailants. Thank god Neal hadn't let himself just be the victim.
"Caffrey's in medical. I'll have one of my guards take you there."
Peter nodded, and followed the man who nodded to him out of that hallway, down another, and another, and another...
He entered the prison medical center slowly, walking between rows of beds, most of the occupants tied down, restrained in some way, or knocked out. He finally reached Neal, who was sitting up on the bed, the blanket Peter had brought him the day before hugged to his chest, despite the blood staining it.
Peter waited for Neal to look at him, then waited for Neal to nod, then sat down, and pulled his friend close, holding the younger man as Neal started to sob. He buried his face in Neal's hair, "are you hurt?"
Neal shrugged against him, and Peter only hugged him tighter, "it's going to be okay."
This wasn't right. Neal should have been housed in the non-violent offender section. He shouldn't have had a cellmate, and he certainly shouldn't have been put with a man convicted of armed robbery and second degree murder. Peter knew that kind of thing happened, but it shouldn't have happened this time, he had pulled strings to prevent this...the fact that it had happened meant that somebody higher up than the friends Peter had had pulled their own strings to put Neal in that situation.
Looking down at Neal, as the younger man cried, his body shuddering against Peter's chest, Peter knew he would catch them, and stop them from ever hurting Neal again.