"Agent Caffrey. Agent Caffrey. Can you hear me, Agent Caffrey?"
A voice was calling him but something was wrong. Neal couldn't figure it out.
"Where's the EMTs?" someone yelled. "Agent Caffrey, hold on okay. Can you hear me? Can you open your eyes?"
Neal thought about it but he felt good right now, safe. Some instinct told him that if he opened his eyes the pain would come back and he thought it would be better to let himself stay here where it was quiet.
"Where is he?"
Neal knew that voice. He couldn't place it. It was bothering him.
"Ah, crap." The voice seemed angry. That felt familiar. Anger seemed to fit the voice. "How is he?"
"I don't know, sir. I'm just trying to apply pressure to the wound until the EMT's get here."
"He looks like hell. How long are they gonna be?" Now the voice sounded worried. That also seemed to fit.
"They should be here any second now that the scene's...
"What have we got?" Another voice broke in.
"Not sure." Said the first voice. "He was lying here bleeding when I came in. I applied pressure to the wound and waited for you guys to show."
There was a momentary pause and then, "His blood pressure's bottoming out. Gary, finish that IV and squeeze as much as you can in. Let's get him in the truck."
"What's going on? Is he gonna be okay?" The familiar voice again.
"I'm his team leader." The familiar voice sounded upset. "Now what's his status?"
"Keep up and I'll tell you. Looks like a bad gun shot wound. The arm's broken and there's no exit wound. From that puddle he's been bleeding for a while, not too much flow but his blood pressure's low."
"Uh huh, okay, so is he gonna make it?"
Neal was quite interested in the answer to that questions and felt like he should say or do something but couldn't quite connect himself to what was going on.
"Okay, Gary on three. One – Two – Three."
"Diana, take over. I'm riding with Neal to the hospital."
A sound was bothering Neal. It was an annoying beeping sound. As he listened it seemed to be slowing down. He found himself wishing it would stop.
"Damnit. Got to get more volume."
"Neal!" The familiar voice suddenly seemed disconcertingly close. "Don't you dare think of skipping out on me, Caffrey. I swear, I don't care where you try to hide I will hunt you down, even if I have to chase you to the gates of hell itself. And I'm telling you if you make me chase you I will be VERY pissed. So, You. Stay. Put."
Neal tried. He somehow knew the person wasn't someone you messed with but he couldn't seem to hold on. Everything was moving all around him, fluid, he couldn't plant his feet. Sounds faded until he couldn't hear the voice's threats and even the annoying beeping stopped.
"No." Peter breathed as the heart monitor droned out a monotone.
"Sir, MOVE!" The EMT shouted and started administering chest compressions.
"Sir… SIR!" The EMT yelled. Peter shook himself and tore his gaze away from Neal's gray features. The EMT was gesturing at the balloon like thing attached to the tube he'd forced down Neal's throat.
"I need you to take hold of that black thing there, sir, and when I say 'Squeeze' you squeeze all the air out. Understand?"
"Did you understand me, sir?" The EMT asked again and Peter realized he couldn't have seen Peter's nod.
"Yes." Peter croaked, his throat dry. "Yes, I got it." He focused on holding the little black balloon.
"Squeeze." The EMT yelled, and Peter squeezed the air out.
Baby's black balloon makes her fly Peter thought stupidly. He noticed that one of Neal's eyes was cracked slightly open and wanted to reach out and shut it. He almost did but then it hit him what shutting a person's eyes for them signified and recoiled from the thought.
"Squeeze!" The EMT yelled again.
How much longer? How many more minutes till they reached the ER? Would they fix Neal?
As if to answer his question the ambulance slowed and tilted as the vehicle made a sharp turn. The doors opened and suddenly there were people everywhere. In seconds Neal was gone and Peter was climbing awkwardly out of the ambulance trying to follow.
Someone tried to stop him and Peter pulled out his FBI badge.
"My name is Special Agent Peter Burke and I have to stay with that man."
"I'm sorry Agent Burke, you're gonna have to give the doctors some space." It amazed Peter that a man in pink scrubs could still radiate an air of authority to rival his own.
"I understand that." Peter nodded. "And I assure you, I will stay out of their way but I need to stay with that man."
"Sir, if he's a witness or something he's not going to be able to talk to you until he's had time to recover…"
Peter interrupted him. "He's not a witness. He's a member of my team."
Peter wasn't sure what it was but he felt a moment of pure, wordless communication pass between him and the man in pink.
"Okay, just a minute. I'll see if I can get you nearby but if you even look like you're going to get in the way of the medical staff, I'll have security remove you from the premises. Understood?"
"I got it." Peter said with a relieved smile.
"Okay," The man in pink eyed Peter suspiciously and looked as if he regretted his decision. "Wait here a minute. I'll be right back."
Peter rested his hands on his hips for a moment and his head fell forward of its own accord.
"Special Agent Peter Burke of the FBI." A voice said, jolting him back into the moment.
Peter looked up to see the detective from the bank crime seen earlier that morning.
"Oh, um," Peter couldn't remember his name. "Detective..? I'm sorry, I've forgotten your name."
The detective smiled. "Ah, doesn't really matter. Chances are we'll never see each other again. I heard you found your pretty boy."
"Yeah, he's uh, he's…the doctor's are working on him."
The detective sighed. "That's rough man. Hey, I hope he makes it."
"If he doesn't, I'll kick his ass." Peter grunted.
Neal felt odd. He'd felt like this before. When was it? Slowly the memory came back to him. The time he'd snuck into a high end medical clinic looking for evidence and been caught and drugged and tied to an examination table.
Neal instinctively moved his hands to make sure they were free.
"Hey," Neal heard Peter say, "You there?"
Neal cracked his eyes open.
"Peter," His voice came out as a hoarse whisper.
Peter handed Neal a small cup of water and smiled. "You look like crap, Neal."
"Well, you look very blurry." Neal croaked and took several sips from the cup then lay back, closed his eyes and was still for a long moment. When he opened them he could see Peter was frowning.
"Uh, Peter, I can explain."
To his surprise, Peter laughed.
"Ah, Neal. I'll save you the trouble. We knew a lot going in and everything we were missing, Ariel filled in for us."
Neal grew tense. "Ariel?"
Peter nodded. "Don't worry. The DA cut her a deal. The only things we had on her besides the accessory to kidnapping were minor. She got off with probation. Elizabeth's taken quite a liking to her. She's setting her up with a GED exam. If she passes, El's pretty certain she can get her into one of the colleges in the city."
Neal sighed with relief. "She picked out a major yet?"
Peter only grinned.
"What?" Neal asked warily.
"Criminal Justice." Peter laughed.
Neal feigned despair. "Et tu, Ariel?" They both shared a chuckle.
"Speaking of El, is there any chance she might stop by?" Neal said hopefully.
"Oh, she's here." Peter said. "She's downstairs keeping Mozz company."
"He standing outside?" Neal asked.
"Yeah, won't come in. You're friend is odd, Neal."
Neal chuckled. "Mozz kind of has a thing about doctors…and hospitals. He doesn't exactly trust them."
"Mozzie has trust issues." Peter said dryly. "I'm shocked."
Neal chuckled carefully.
"You scared the crap out of me, Neal."
"Ah," Neal brushed off Peter's concern. "I knew you'd find me."
"Yeah, well, I almost didn't." Peter shook his head. "I'm sorry, Neal."
Neal smiled. "What do you have to be sorry about? It was my friends who nabbed me and my plan that blew up in my face."
"No, it was my plan." Peter insisted. "My idea to use you to help solve cases put you in danger and I didn't even see it. I should have been looking out for you, taken precautions."
"Me joining your team was my idea. In fact, I distinctly remember you brushing me off the first time I suggested it to you."
"Yeah, well, I came back after the…well, after, and talked you into coming back."
Neal opened his eyes wide. "Oh-kay." He said slowly. "Obviously recycling a brilliant idea makes it yours these days. If you want it to be your fault, I'm not gonna argue with you. I'm perfectly happy for you to be wrong."
Peter shook his head and smiled.
"Neal," He said after a moment. "I heard some of what you said."
Neal smiled, "I confess to any new crimes under the influence? Because if I did, I'm claiming diminished capacity."
"Neal for once can you just be serious? You almost died. No, you did die. I wanna say something so just.." Peter huffed a bit. "Just keep quiet for a second and let me say it."
"Okay," Neal nodded but couldn't keep a small smile from his face. "Okay, Peter let's get serious." And then he quite deliberately frowned.
Peter rolled his eyes. "What is that?"
"What?" Neal asked innocently. "I'm being serious."
"No, you're not you're making fun of me." Peter said.
"This is me being serious." Neal insisted. "You said be serious, I'm being serious."
Peter sighed. "I don't even know why I try with you."
"What I shouldn't frown when I'm serious?"
"You frown when you're serious."
"I'm just gonna say this, then I'm going downstairs to get Elizabeth. Would you just be serious and pay attention for this one thing I have to say?"
"Okay, Peter." Neal chuckled a bit ruffled. "I'm listening. I am."
"I heard what your friends were saying. No," Peter waved off Neal's interjection. "No, I heard it and I know it took a lot of faith on your part to keep trusting me. I wanted to say that I really appreciate it. I do trust you Neal and I'm glad you can trust me too."
Neal smiled and opened his mouth but Peter interrupted.
"I'm not done." He insisted.
Neal shut his mouth.
"If you ever, EVER die on me again I will send you back to prison so fast you'll set a land speed record." Peter bellowed.
Neal considered pointing out the fact that Peter couldn't incarcerate a dead body but decided against it.
And that's it! It's over. Done. Finito (that's probably spelled wrong!). I hope the ending didn't disappoint anyone and I thank you very much, (very, very much) for reading my story. =) TTFN!