(Chapter 7)

Three weeks later, Peter Burke stood in a prison interrogation room watching as a young man was brought into the space in an orange jump suit. The figure ran a hand through their strawberry blond hair as they walked in and sat down. Peter glanced at the man, walking over and sitting across from the prisoner.

"Agent Burke, you look better. How's the shoulder?" Jacob pulled his glasses off and wiped at them, eyes slightly averted. His face held very little emotion as if he didn't want to get his hopes high. He'd had time to practice Peter knew, the con having been trapped in a situation he had no control over. Jacob was a criminal, no more than Neal had been but Peter saw something there that could be reformed, had been changed for a while till Jacob had been taken back into the underworld against his will. He hoped to help the con like he had helped Neal and himself.

"Better thanks to you. I was told under the circumstances I shouldn't be alive or at least this healthy this soon. Jacob, you did good." Peter saw the young man look up at him and something like a smile showed in the con's face if only for a moment. Jacob was still afraid to hope for anything obviously, knowing he could stay in prison a while due to his apparent break in parole.

"They aren't holding you for Morgan's death, Jacob. I thought you should know that. Erik and Cori are being prosecuted for that and several other deaths and disappearances. Geraldi though… he pretty much left the lot of them high and dry." He saw the con nod at the information taking it all in.

"How is your friend doing... Caffrey. Did they get to him in time?" Jacob sounded truly concerned about Neal, Peter nodding.

"Yes but he's going through some minor rehabilitation. He's still in the hospital being treated but they said normally people don't make it this far when they get as sick as he did. He's been conscious off and on but they keep him fairly sedated to help with the pain." He smiled, Jacob nodding but keeping his manner as low key as possible. Peter felt it was time he told the con what he was really there for.

"Oh, by the way... I have some news for you." Peter pulled a neatly folded set of papers out of his jacket and slid them across to Jacob. The young man looked up at Peter and down at the papers, slowly unfolding them and reading. Peter tried not to smile but it was hard not to when he saw the expression of doubt begin to melt from Jacob's face. The con looked up, his eyes bright with hope.

"What is this? Am I reading this right?" Jacob's voice was incredulous but he kept reading, his expression turning to relief. Peter nodded as he no longer tried to hide his grin.

"Yes, it's conditional on the terms of your previous parole but you'll be out of prison. A friend has been looking for some help at a clinic they recently started. I told them about you when they came to see how I was. They were impressed with your medical skills. Morgan taught you well." He watched Jacob blink at the mention of his friend's name and nodded with a little frown.

"Morgan... he pulled a lot of strings to do what he did for me and when Geraldi had him killed..." He paused, unspent anger in his voice, his body tensing before the con took a deep breath and he continued.

"I didn't think I'd ever be able to repay what Morgan did for me. I felt like a failure for giving in to Geraldi but I was afraid. Thank you Agent Burke and tell Caffrey thanks as well. I'm glad our paths crossed." He smiled the first honest smile Peter had seen since meeting him.

"I did very little. Your record is what did this. You'll be a free man soon, Jacob. Take advantage of this opportunity. I'll be in touch." Peter held out his hand and Jacob took it without hesitation.

"And don't worry about Geraldi. We're keeping an eye on him. We'll catch him. He's not going to have any rest."

()()()

Neal remembered very little of that last day with Geraldi and the rescue. He had been in agonizing pain with only the occasional sense that someone was there beside him. He thought he had heard Peter at some point before everything went black and he woke up in the hospital a week later. The tetanus had invaded his system fairly quickly but with Jacob's quick thinking giving him antibiotics and the serum; it had kept the strain from invading his system completely. The doctors said he was very lucky and should recover in a month from the worse of the effects. In the meanwhile they were keeping him sedated with various drugs to counteract the muscle contractions and clear his system of the disease.

He was happy to be away from Geraldi and friends, nightmares of Erik and Cori filling his mind. He dreamed of a helpless Peter bound to a chair and being unable to help him, waking up sweaty and exhausted. It helped that Peter had come to visit him once his shoulder had healed and his own minor staph infection cured. Again, Jacob's quick thinking had kept both of them from suffering worse than they would have had the medic not been there. Neal was glad to see his friend doing well and asked about Jacob when he was conscious enough to remember.

It had been nearly a month now since the incident and he was still stuck in the hospital healing from the damage Geraldi's men had caused in such a short period of time. He was trying to forget when he heard the door open and someone peeked in. It was Elizabeth Burke. Peter's wife smiled at him, her blue eyes flashing curiously as she entered the room and made her way to his side.

"Hey Neal. How are you feeling? I brought you some of my sandwiches and chicken soup from June if you're hungry." She pointed at the little lunch bag at her side and smiled. Neal nodded his head as he shifted slightly, trying to get comfortable and sit up. El helped fluff up his pillows and raised the bed for him as she pulled the bed tray over and set up the food. He winced a bit, his muscles still convulsing off and on from the tetanus in his system, hands gripping the bed sheets as he waited for the fit to pass. He saw El watching him but smiled a tight smile.

"I'm ok... Doctor said they should go away soon. This looks good. Smells like chicken salad?" He smiled at her hopefully and she nodded.

"I know how much you like my recipe. Eat up." She cut the sandwich up into four triangles, Neal taking one of the small pieces and popping it in his mouth. He closed his eyes and grinned broadly.

"You sure you don't have an extra sister I can marry?" He winked at her with his most charming smile, Elizabeth blushing ever so slightly with a shake of her head.

"Sorry Neal, my one and only sister is married already. I'm sure we can find someone to give this recipe to one day." She saw him blush as she picked up a piece of the sandwich and fed it to him. They were giggling like two kids when they heard the door open with a little preliminary knock. They both turned to see Peter standing there, his face looking at them curiously. He walked into the cozy hospital room, watching his partner and wife with an amused look.

"Are you feeding my partner, El? Didn't you read the instruction book? No bright lights, don't feed him after midnight..." Peter's tone was facetious, Neal smirking back.

"Very funny, Peter. So... how was that meeting? I've been anxious to ask about it all day." Neal settled back into the mattress, his face a bit tight as he had another fit. Both El and Peter seemed to notice, their faces worried but didn't say anything as he relaxed again, hands easing their grip on the mattress. Peter pulled up a chair and sat down, his face bright.

"Jacob was surprised like you said. Poor guy felt like he had nothing left with everything that happened. He was speechless at first but I think it will work out. We'll see. My friend is already excited about having an assistant." Peter was smiling, Neal seeing that reflected in Elizabeth's face. She was hugging Peter from behind, arms wrapped around his shoulders gently.

"So you got him into Sarah's clinic? Peter! We'll have to have him over for dinner so I can meet him." El looked excited, her gratitude towards Jacob more than obvious since he'd helped to save both Peter and Neal.

"Honey, you know he's an ex-con, right?" He gave Neal a look as if to talk some sense into El. Neal blinked back at him.

"Uhm, Peter... I'm an ex-con. You remember that right?" He shook his head at the agent facetiously, Peter smirking.

"Duh, but we have a relationship. I know you well enough that if you try anything you know you're going to get it." Peter grinned fiercely, Neal rolling his eyes and looking over at El.

"I suppose, but I would like to see Jacob again. He did save our lives..." Neal's voice trailed off, El looking at her husband in that way that always made him change his mind. Neal started to mimic it, the agent sighing.

"Stop it already. Fine... we'll have him for dinner... sometime. Just... so how are you doing Neal? We got off on a tangent and I forgot to ask." He patted the young man on the shoulder, Neal nodding stiffly.

"Like some one's pulling my strings when I don't want them to. Doctor said it should go away in another few weeks. I'm doing well and should be able to go home in another week once the spasms calm a bit more." He winced a bit, hands gripping the mattress again, back arched slightly. Neal had his eyes shut as the spasm overtook him a moment then relaxed. He felt a hand on his arm, opening his eyes to see Peter hovering over him.

"You ok? Should I call a nurse or doctor?" Peter looked a bit worried but Neal shook his head.

"No, I'm good. Just wish I could tell the puppet master to lay off." He grinned slightly, reaching for another piece of sandwich and popped it into his mouth. He chewed slowly before swallowing, probably because of the spasms. El helped him drink some water from a sippy cup the hospital gave them. It had penguins on the side, Peter smirking slightly.

"A cartoon of a bird for a cartoon of a con... interesting choice of cup there, Neal." Peter's tone was playful, Neal rolling his blue eyes at the agent sarcastically.

"Penguins are formidable in their own way. What other animal can swim in the frozen wastes in a tuxedo and still escape a 2 ton orca?" Neal grinned broadly.

"Are you saying I'm a 2 ton orca? Although in your case, I think my orca beat your penguin 2 to 0." He winked.

El blinked at both men, an expression of defeat on her face.

"I think we confused El, Peter. She doesn't know if we're arguing or not." Neal whispered in a stage-like fashion. Peter blinked and turned to hug his wife.

"We're not arguing honey. My orca beat his penguin, fair and square... twice!" Peter crossed his arms over his chest in triumph, El patting him on the shoulder gently.

"Yes honey, you're a mighty orca that needs lots and lots of coffee to defeat the wily penguin."

(The end)

Sorry... got a little silly near the end. I blame the weather!