(Chapter 9)

Peter let Diana drive his Taurus to the hospital while he rode in the ambulance with Neal. The paramedics were surprised at Neal's ability to remain kicking considering his state of exposure. They hooked him up to some IVs to keep him hydrated, placing a respirator on his face to help him breath when they found his lungs sounded a bit too wet for their liking. Peter just held his partner's hand and felt the ever so slight 'squeeze' back as Neal responded.

Neal looked so small and emaciated, his usually lanky form even more so after the past weeks. He wondered how his friend had survived for so long out here. Peter felt an almost fatherly pang of regret as if he had failed Neal in some manner. He felt Neal's fingers wrap around his ever so much tighter as if to say: You didn't fail me. Peter sighed, wiping a stray hair from the young man's brow and thinking how lucky he was to have found him when he did. Thinking of what otherwise could have happened just wasn't an option.

They arrived at the ER and Peter followed the gurney as far as he could till they made him wait outside the OR. They had to pump Neal's stomach a bit from all the cough meds he had ingested but otherwise they found very little wrong with him besides lack of food, water and a mild case of exposure. They began to fill him with fluids by IV when he was finally put in a room to keep him hydrated and some antibiotics for a minor infection they thought may have caused his initial fever.

Peter waited outside till they would allow him access, Elizabeth showing up along with Diana and Jones. He kept them up to date on Neal's status as he got it from the hospital staff. It was later that evening they finally allowed a short visit, Peter and El going in first. El had already contacted June who had let Mozzie know when he stopped by her home to ask about Neal. Both were going to visit Neal the next day.

El stood beside Peter, gently reaching over to hug Neal and kiss him lightly on the forehead. He was still very pale, his face flushed with warmth from what remained of his fever. The doctor had said he was relatively healthy for what had happened to him and once he was over the slight malnutrition and exposure he'd be just fine. The physicians had been surprised the overdose of cough medicine hadn't upset his system beyond some minor esophageal irritation that would heal up in no time. Peter had been happy to hear his friend would be ok, glad to finally see him in his own room resting quietly.

They talked to him a bit, El leaving at some point so the agents could enter. They all spoke to him with happy voices, wishing him to get well soon. Diana kidded about flirting with him a while back, dropping a light kiss on his forehead before she left, Peter the last one still in the room. He wanted to stay the night but the staff said they didn't expect him to wake up for a day or more so Peter reluctantly left when the time to visit was finish. Jones took Diana home in the FBI sedan and Peter had the Taurus back, El driving them home when he was too tired to keep his eyes open.

()()()

Peter went to bed almost immediately after arriving at their home, El insisting he sleep once had made the few calls to Hughes and others he was required to make. Once business was done, he changed clothes and slipped under the covers with his wife. He passed out while she stayed up for a bit longer reading.

He was dreaming, the tarmac there in front of them as he watched the figure of Neal Caffrey stroll passed him confidently, happy in a manner like he had never seen before. He knew how this dream ended opening his mouth to speak when he saw something different.

"Neal!" He stayed back watching the figure of Kate call as she ran off the plane and flew into Neal's waiting arms. He dropped his bag and swung her around, both of them laughing and smiling happily. Peter felt as if he were intruding, moving back into the shadows when he felt a hand on his shoulder and turned. He could just make out a figure in the darkness, one he had almost forgotten about. It was Sam Jackson. Sam looked the way he remembered him only more serene.

"Goru is gone for good. Neal did what he had to do to cleanse himself of the demon. He'll need time to heal but this dream... he deserves to at least feel that happiness for a moment." The spirit of the dead agent let go of Peter's shoulder and disappeared into the darkness. Peter felt like he should leave, when he heard someone call his name.

"Peter? What are you doing here?" Neal was looking at the agent, Kate clinging to him and smiling curiously. Peter felt like he was a third wheel, blushing a bit as he smiled back.

"I came to ask if you might stay. El... We wanted to have you for dinner." Peter wasn't sure how confident he sounded but he saw Neal blink as if surprised by the request, his blue eyes looking into Kate's.

"I guess we could..." Kate's voice was hesitant but she finally agreed when she saw how much it meant to Neal. They nodded, grabbing up their stuff as the scenery changed to the parking lot and Peter's vehicle. He watched Kate sit in the backseat, Neal taking the front passenger. Peter turned to his friend and smiled.

"I'm glad you came back, Neal. We missed you."

()()()

Neal opened his eyes and glanced around at the dimly lit room. He was in a bland looking hospital room, laying on a bed connected to IVs and other monitors, the soft beeping like a metronome in the background. Neal glances around the space finding himself alone and awake. His mind was quiet but the dream he'd had, it had soothed him after so many months of feeling guilty and beating himself up. He almost felt alive again and he was happy that Kate and Peter if only in his mind had made up.

He felt refreshed, his mind clearer than it had been. They were still no closer to finding Kate's killer but he no longer blamed Peter for protecting him. He was far from ready to hear the news and react well. When it came out it would come out and he would do his own investigation and hope that in time he and Peter would discuss it more openly. The music box would be found and the secret would hopefully reveal what was so important.

With these thoughts, Neal closed his eyes and fell back into a restful sleep for the first time in a long while, his dreams quiet except for the fantasy of he and Kate eating with Peter and El like family.

(The End)