Author's Notes: First of all I'd like to thank you guys for the continued reviews for this story! Whenever I get one in my email it always makes me smile and want to write some more for you guys. Shortly after the last chapter was posted my computer wouldn't load Fanfiction anymore which made it impossible to upload. A year went by and I was still having problems and had by then lost my muse completely. Early this past March I finally got Fanfiction working again and was able to write a short piece in regards to the season finale. I had been intending to write this chapter then however another roadblock (well some of you might see it as a block, ,my Supernatural readers probably don't) came and barred the way of any real progress with the White Collar stories. I got hooked on a TV show called Supernatural and especially hooked on an angel named Castiel. I've put those fics on hold for now until I can get some of these White Collar stories finished. There have been comments on the awful cliffhanger I left you with and boy have I felt guilty about not updating! Its not because of the comments per say but more of my writer's conscious.
The first thing you can thank for my re-entry into the WC world would be the smexy movie "Magic Mike". Not about Neal I know but damn... *clears throat* enough said when it comes to that... The second thing you can thank is that USA actually whumped Neal! I just about squealed when that happened! And hence the cruel WC muse was finally woken up. My writing style has changed since I've been gone but I can only hope that you guys will still enjoy it! As always I don't own White Collar I'm just dusting off the toys and putting them back in the sandbox.
The old man was muttering profanities to himself as he trudged through the thickening snow to his barn. His wife was yelling instructions to him from the front door of the rickety old house and he rolled baleful eyes up to the heavens. "Lord give me the strength to keep from making her hush." He mumbled jokingly. He'd never hurt his wife but sometimes he really did wish she would be quiet. She had been nagging him about dishes a few minutes ago and he'd hastily exited the room with the excuse of going to see how the chickens were holding up. Happy chickens meant that there would be eggs for breakfast in the morning and he intended to keep the birds happy. It was part of the reason why the excuse was one that she couldn't argue about him doing.
Henry was about half way to his barn when he noticed a strange lump of snow in front of it. He didn't have any bales of hay or bushes in that area so his interest was piqued. Cautiously stepping forward he studied the mound for a long moment before crouching down by it and warily started brushing the snow off of it. A tattered shirt came into view and before long there was a young man laying silently in front of him. His lips were an unhealthy blue and his skin held a deathly pallor to it. Stifling a gasp of surprise, Henry gently reached down and felt for a pulse. It was a weak flutter beneath his fingertips and he tried to think of a way to get the young man back to the house. If he stayed out here much longer then he would surely die; his body was no longer shivering to generate heat.
If he was in his prime then Henry could have easily picked him up and carried him to the house but those days were long gone. Deciding that moving him to the barn would be the best thing for now, Henry opened up the double doors and turned back to gently grip younger man under his shoulders before pulling as he backed up. Unsure of what else to do for now, Henry grabbed some of the old horse blankets and gently moved the man onto them. Then he grabbed some more and lay them over the slack form as if the kid was his son. "I'll be right back." He told him softly before trudging back up to the house. Henry never noticed an older man sneak out of one of the stalls and crouch down next to his young friend.
"Neal?" Peter's voice croaked out of his throat as he searched for his friend with a quick sweep of his eyes. There was no sign of his friend and worry spiked through his system as he carefully moved forward. He could remember Neal shoving him into the barn but he couldn't remember the younger man following him. Which could mean either one of two things. Either the younger man had crawled into the barn after Peter had lost consciousness or he was still out in the snow. The agent didn't know how long it had been since he'd entered the barn and the fear grew until his stomach felt like it was twisting in his gut. He clamored to his feet unsteadily and had to use the stall next to him for support. There was some sort of movement going on outside and Peter froze unsure of what to do. Had the men found them? Were they taking Neal right now? His heart rate picked up and the FBI Agent knew that he would be useless to his consultant if he was captured as well. The pile of hay wasn't the most inconspicuous of hiding places but it sure as hell was better then nothing. Peter hesitated for the fraction of a second before swallowing thickly and moving as quickly as he could to his hiding place. There was a questioning nicker from one of the horses and he closed his eyes and prayed that the mare wouldn't give him away. It was only a few minutes after he'd gotten settled into the pile of hay when the double doors opened up. Peter swallowed nervously before frowning when he saw a portly old man carefully dragging his missing consultant into the barn.
He didn't appear to be a threat and Peter breathed out a soft sigh of relief before closing his eyes when a sudden bout of nausea struck him. Swallowing the bile that had risen in the back of his throat he quickly took in Caffrey's condition. For a brief moment his hope plummeted. The younger man looked dead; his lips were blue and he was incredibly pale. Not to mention that he wasn't moving and at a first glance it looked like he wasn't even breathing.
The old man came back with a bundle of horse blankets in his arms and Peter watched with approval as the barn owner carefully made a makeshift bed for his friend. A few minutes later the old man had left, the barn doors shutting gently behind him and Peter crept out of his hiding place. He was fairly certain that the old farmer didn't have anything to do with Black Market ring and that he could be trusted. When he had reached Neal's side, Peter gently removed the blankets covering him so that he could check to see just how badly the former con artist was injured. He made his search brief and gentle so as to not aggravate the injuries and be able to cover him up again as quickly as possible. The con's healing ribs had at the least been cracked and set back any progress that had been made in the healing process. His breathing was a rattling rasp and Peter was concerned that the younger man might have a bad case of pneumonia. Knowing that his friend had probably been exposed to the cold for quite some time, Peter began to check his limps for any signs of frostbite. The tips of Neal's fingers had started to turn black and his hand was an angry red color. Peter swallowed at what that might imply about the younger man's ability to use his fingers effectively in the future. Knowing that Neal's blood would need some help getting circulated again the agent started to gently rub his arms and legs before positioning himself behind the younger man. Nausea hit him again and the agent had to pause in his ministrations in order to keep the world from spinning completely out of control. He needed to stay conscious… Neal needed him to stay conscious. Swallowing thickly and closing his eyes Peter carefully maneuvered himself so that he was behind Neal. Leaning forward he gently hooked his hands under the consultant's arm pits and pulled him so that he was leaning against Peter's body, his head resting on his chest. The agent ran his fingers through Caffrey's thick hair soothingly when the consultant shifted uneasily with a low groan of pain. "Its ok Neal, I've got you. You're safe…" The words left his lips soothingly as he tried to offer some solace to the younger man. Neal quieted at the sound of Peter's voice and stopped moving.
Trust; it was truly amazing what such a simple thing could do. Peter swallowed a bit thickly at the amount that Neal had just displayed and the agent would do his best to honor that trust. A yawn creased his features as he let his eyes slip shut and he slept. Peter would have normally fought off the sleep but with Neal being so close to him he would know when the youth woke up. Peter was a light sleeper when he was stressed or worried and both of those words currently defined his emotional state of being.
"Mary?" Henry called for his wife rather loudly as he opened the back door and stepped back inside the house. "Mary!" He tried again, this time quite a bit louder and was rewarded with a loud and somewhat cranky reply.
"Mary grab the old blankets in that chest and bring them downstairs!" Henry instructed without providing a reason while he started to get the dryer ready. The boy in the barn would be needing all the warmth he could get and this was one of the best ways to provide immediate warmth. "Throw them in the dryer and start it when you get down here, I'll be right back."
Henry snagged a fluffy pillow out of the guest bedroom on his way out the door before he trudged through the thick snow quickly. He paused in the entry way for a brief moment before shutting the door and scowling at the newest stranger. The man cradling the boy seemed to be sleeping and looked to be in as rough a condition as his companion. A stray twig crunched underfoot and Henry cursed mentally when it woke the older of the two companions up.
Wary brown eyes regarded him wearily before the man nodded. For whatever reason he looked like a prey animal trying to figure out if the strange creature in front of it was a friend or foe.
Henry held up the pillow in a peace offering, showing the other man that he meant no harm. "I thought this might be a bit more comfortable for him then the straw." He explained placidly. "My name is Henry and my wife's name is Mary."
"Peter." The tense reply came out a bit shorter then Peter had intended as he took the offered pillow slowly.
"I hope you don't mind my asking but what are you two doing all the way out here in this kind of weather?"
Peter stiffened slightly before sighing softly. He'd known that question was coming but he had been hoping that it would be a while longer before it was voiced.
Henry must have seen his reluctance to answer the question because he stepped back slightly, "I'm not meddling with your business, whatever it is…."
The cautious look in the old man's eyes sent bells ringing in Peter's head and he narrowed his eyes slightly, "What do you mean by that?"
"I'm not trying to cause any problems, just take what you need and go." Henry mumbled as he crept closer to the barn doors, a nervous gleam lighting up his eyes. "Use old Bell if you need transport but please," a note of fondness snuck into Henry's voice, "just return her to me unharmed as soon as you can."
"Do you think we're a part of the Black Market thugs?" Peter's voice lifted hopefully. If the man knew about the Market then perhaps he would help them out, especially if he wanted the scoundrels that ran it gone.
There was a nervous nod in response and Peter smiled in relief. "We aren't from there Henry, well we are but we weren't there willingly. They were trying to sell us when we busted out." The agent looked up at the older man and allowed a bit of hope to show in his eyes, "If you know about it then you can help us take them out of business for good."
Henry was silent for a long moment before he nodded and then frowned in confusion. "Wait, what do you mean take them out?"
"I'm an FBI Agent and this is my Consultant." Peter answered quickly, "I'd show you my badge but I don't… " he frowned as he tried to think back to where it was. "I don't know where it is."
Henry stood still for a long moment before muttering something about being right back and leaving. The door shut with a solid thunk and Peter shivered when the draft of cold air reached him.
Shivers ran through Neal's body in reaction to the sudden cold and for the first time in what felt like a very long time, Peter Burke felt his lips slowly pull back into a small smile. It was barely noticeable to those who didn't know him but it was there.
If Neal's body was shivering again that meant that the blood flow was starting to return to the surface. Peter hesitantly shook the younger man gently, "Neal? Neal if you can hear me open your eyes."
There was no reaction from the consultant and the agent sighed in disappointment. He knew that it was foolish to think that Neal would wake just because his body was starting to allow its blood to flow like it normally did. Sighing quietly, Peter waited for Henry's return. He had done everything he could do for Neal given the lack of supplies and his own physical limitations but that didn't mean Peter liked the situation any better then he had before….The last thought that went across his mind before he went to sleep was that it felt like he'd never get back home….
Author's Note: As I stated before, your reviews mean quite a bit to me and they're really the only thing that actually got me to sit down and write this chapter after two years... so please, leave me a review! What do you guys think of Henry? ^.^