It had not been expected and it had happened quite suddenly. Still, despite all the evidence proving that what had happened, had indeed happened, it wasn't an easy transition. How could one explain what happened to someone else and not sound insane? It wasn't going to be easy so for now, they hid... or more honestly, HE hid until what could be undone was possible.
It was as if he was being pulled down into a deep cold darkness and then suddenly he was looking upwards, or so it felt. He could feel the cool cement of the warehouse floor beneath him, his body stiff and sore. Neal fought to move, feeling a few fingers move and then the flickering of light above as his eyelids opened and he could finally see. First thing he felt was a pain in his head as if someone had smacked him with a 2x4. He managed to push himself up to his elbows and look around. His vision blurred in and out of focus as he finally sat up and tried to look around. Neal wasn't sure what was going on but something felt different to him. He heard what had wakened him up and pulled a cell phone from his pocket. He pushed a button and held it to his ear.
"Peter? Hey... where are you guys?" It was Jones. Neal didn't know what to say.
"Jones?" He froze hearing a voice that wasn't his own answering. Neal looked at his hands suddenly and the cell. They were so familiar and yet...
"Peter, I'm headed back. Hughes was looking for you. What happened?" Jones sounded like he was in a car. Neal kept looking at his hands and then at his clothes. They weren't his clothes, the style different. Someone was speaking to him, the cell, Peter's cell still in his hands. He pushed it to his ear.
"Are you ok, Peter? Where's Neal?" Jones was calling him Peter. Neal blinked, still feeling odd, head throbbing. Maybe he was having a weird dream? Neal looked around, Peter must be around... He saw a figure lying limply upon a nearby crate. Neal stood legs unsteady. His head continued to hurt but hadn't he been hit in the chest? He looked down and saw no blood except a few spots dripping from his cheek. Neal walked towards the figure and felt his pulse begin to race.
"How..." He just stared down at the figure, the world beginning to spin around him as he felt consciousness begin to leave him. He must be dreaming, he thought. How could this be happening? Neal collapsed to the floor, his mind numb suddenly.
"Peter? Peter are you there?" Jones' voice came over the cell that Neal held. It woke him up if only a little and he shook his head, scooting over towards the figure again. If this was a dream, it was a weird one. Neal looked at the limp figure and tried not to be afraid. They were hurt badly, a large blood stain on their chest. Their face was pale, nearly white. He felt for a pulse and shivered at the coolness of their skin, a faint pulse evident. He still felt faint but not due to the wound but due to the surrealism of the situation.
"Peter?" Neal had forgotten about the phone and raised it to his ear.
"Jones? He's hurt... I'm..." Neal was confused still, kneeling by the figure and trying to wrap his mind around everything.
"Who's hurt, Peter?" Jones kept calling him Peter but when he spoke, his voice was strange.
"Who?" Neal looked at the figure, phone pressed to his ear and blinked.
"I am..." He felt the world collapse around him as he passed out.
Neal was dreaming. He remembered the sting going according to plan. He got the people to talk; Peter and crew picked it up and raided the place. He was arrested with the others to make it look like he was a criminal. Once everyone was gone, Peter had removed the cuffs. They were chatting when someone got the jump on them. One of the criminals had been hiding well enough nobody had seen him. He shot at Peter but Neal pushed his friend out of the line of fire and felt the bullet enter his chest. He found it hard to breath, wheezing when he looked up and saw Peter hold him, his face tragic.
"Neal? Neal talk to me!" Peter sounded scared, Neal trying to speak but unable to. He saw the gun man lead Peter by gun point into the warehouse, the agent carrying Neal. Peter lay him on a nearby crate, nudging him gently. The gunman laughed.
"You'll be with him soon. Don't worry." The man's voice was dark and cold, Peter turning to glare at him. Neal didn't know what to do. He was cold; his body feeling like it was fading away as he started to lose consciousness. He twitched slightly, body growing colder.
Peter, I'm sorry... I thought...
He saw Peter reaching for his gun and then saw the agent fire, a loud report echoing in the warehouse as Peter grimaced at the gunman, his head whipping back as something hit it hard. Peter collapsed to the floor and lay there, eyes staring blankly. The gunman smiled a moment before collapsing, a gunshot in the chest. Neal could barely breath, watching the gunman fall and seeing his friend staring up blankly.
Peter... Peter don't die!
It was at that moment he heard another voice behind his own; A familiar one.
Neal, don't die on me...
The voice was faint but it was Peter's. Neal saw the agent sit up and look at him oddly before he walked over and touched him on the shoulder. Neal didn't understand what was going on till he noticed that Peter's body was still lying on the floor staring skyward. Suddenly he found himself looking upwards and then everything went black.
"How is he?" A woman's voice was speaking in the background. He shifted slightly, his head throbbing still. He heard movement and the click of something like a ballpoint pen. He shifted again, a soft hand brushing at his hair.
"It was a mild concussion. Your husband is a very lucky man. Once he wakes up, we can evaluate him and he should be able to go leave soon after." Neal guessed this was the physician speaking. He heard a sigh of relief.
"Thank you, Doctor." Elizabeth Burke's voice sounded happier than he'd ever heard it. Neal was glad to hear Peter would be ok. He wanted to wake up and talk to her. He was still too weak, listening while he could.
"Doctor, I wanted to ask about... Neal. How is he doing?" Her voice was cracking slightly with emotion.
"Mrs. Burke, it's still too early to say for sure but we have him stabilized for now. We're waiting to see how he fairs over the next few days. He's still in ICU but we're hopeful." Neal blinked despite his eyes being shut. He was in ICU? He didn't feel that badly but...
"We're praying for him. Thank you again, Doctor."
Neal felt his eyes begin to open, the light hurting his eyes he winced. There was movement near him and a soft hand on his shoulder.
"He's waking up! Honey, hey..." Elizabeth was speaking to him but her tone was more familiar than he remembered. Neal turned his eyes towards her and focused. She smiled down at him and moved to kiss him, Neal surprised when it was on the lips. He blinked up at her wondering what was up. El smiled down at him.
"Hey Peter, how are you feeling?" She hugged him gently, her hand squeezing his. Neal blinked again looking at the doctor for help. The physician smiled and moved to the opposite side of the bed, taking Neal's wrist in his hand and taking his pulse.
"Strong and steady. You're doing much better, Mr. Burke." The doctor smiled at him and patted him on the shoulder lightly before leaving the room. Neal was confused, wondering what kind of weird hallucination this was. He looked up at Elizabeth and tried to speak.
"El?" He felt oddly, something wrong as he looked at his hands. These weren't his hands. How...
"Yes Peter dear? What is it?" She was hugging him close and about to kiss him again when he turned his head. El looked confused if not hurt.
"Peter... how is he?" He had to know how Peter was but his question just brought more confusion to Elizabeth's face.
"What? Don't you mean Neal? Honey, what's wrong?" She brushed his hair but he shrugged her off, her face curious. He shook his head.
"Why do you keep calling me Peter? I'm Neal." He was adamant unsure what kind of weird dream this was but El seemed so real, her expression worried and concerned.
"Neal? He's in ICU... what's wrong honey?" She turned to call the doctor but he grasped her arm gently.
"I am Neal, El. Please... tell me how Peter is." He gazed up at her with concern seeing her blue eyes looking at him even more oddly.
"Let me call the doctor back in, Peter. Ok?" She looked at the door anxiously, Neal staring up at her. He still held her arm but let go when she obviously didn't believe him. How could they not? He WAS Neal. He knew that more than...
"What's wrong Peter?" El had paused when he sat up and looked at his reflection against a water glass on the nightstand. Neal held up the glass and looked closer. It couldn't be!
"Peter, I'm calling the doctor back." El sounded worried, Neal looking at the image in the glass. It was Peter's face.
"El... wait..." She hesitated, looking back at him curiously.
"I... I'm sorry I scared you. I was confused." Neal wasn't sure what was going on but if the doctor came back, he knew it would be bad. He would figure this out or wake up from the nightmare. El looked at him worriedly, hugging him as she near him.
"You sounded so sincere, Peter. You sure you're ok?" She kissed him on the cheek, nestling near him. Neal felt uncomfortable but he would just have to deal till he woke up. It had to be a dream. There was no other explanation although why he was dreaming he was Peter was beyond him.