"They said he should be better in a few days. They found an antidote to the poison from the man who gave it to him. He begged forgiveness for what he did. Dammit... why did this all have to happen?" It was Peter's voice that he heard as he woke up. The agent sounded tired but he sounded well, something that made Neal feel better as he thought back to the last few days. They had found Peter and he was ok! Vasily must have had a change of heart as Sergislev had. He felt his lips part as he sighed.
"Did you hear that, Peter... he's waking up! Neal... It's El." Elizabeth Burke's voice sounded relieved as he felt a hand gently caressing his hair. He felt as well as heard a low groan from his throat then another sigh escape his lips as he tried to wake up.
"Just take your time, Neal. We're here." El's voice continued to speak softly to him, her hand gently caressing his hair. He nodded ever so slightly, another sigh escaping his lips as he coughed and became aware of brightness, closing his eyes again.
"Turn the lamp off, Peter." He heard a rustling of sounds around him and a soft 'click' of something as he sensed the room grow darker. Neal slowly reopened his eyes, the light a little less glaring now as he shifted to focus on the figures around him. He was aware of some one's hand over his face, the motion of their fingers gently combing his hair. He smiled as he recognized the figure and blinked at them.
"El?" He rasped, his throat feeling dry and tight. He had remembered something about a dream and someone talking. His mind was a bit hazy as to what had happened. He turned at the touch of a much firmer hand on his arm. Peter sat there to his right, the agent smiling down at him tiredly.
"Hey buddy... We were worried about you there for a few." Peter sounded as if nothing had happened other than Neal being hurt. Then he remembered and reached up with a desperate hand to his friend's arm.
"Peter, you're alright..." His voice sounded hoarse as he became excited remembering everything. It was overwhelming, a coughing fit seizing him for a moment as he felt a hand gently pat his back as they helped him sit up. It ended after a moment and Neal looked up at those honest brown eyes curiously. Peter nodded.
"Yeah, Vasily led them to me. Told his men to stand down. After what happened, at least what I heard happened, he's become a new person. He's in prison for a while but he's a born again Christian. Mind telling me what happened in Sergislev's room? No body's really sure what you did but Vasily was ranting and raving about spirits and such. Nobody could understand what it was and they were shocked he gave the antidote for you and everything without so much as calling a lawyer. He almost seemed happy to go to prison." Peter ran a hand through his hair as he glanced down at Neal as if awaiting an answer. Neal thought about it a moment the little he knew and understood not knowing if he could really explain what it was had happened. He wasn't sure he believed it himself and he had been there.
"I can't really say. I guess I'm more convincing than I thought." He shrugged with a slight wryness to his smile. He really wasn't sure what to say, everything confused in his mind. He had been pretty ill when the incident happened so for all he knew it had been one big poison induced hallucination. He wasn't about to look up Vasily for confirmation, taking Peter's word for what had happened for now. Peter nodded, punching his arm gently.
"Yeah, I guess so. He practically begged to be put away." He arched at brow at him but Neal just shrugged. El cleared her throat to change the subject, Neal looking at her as she made a non-verbal motion to Peter who sighed quietly but nodded as he put on a fake smile. Something was up but Neal wasn't sure what.
"Oh, they said you can leave tomorrow if all the tests come back ok. It's been a couple of days since the incident. The antidote did most of the work so you healed up pretty quickly they said after that. All the blood work has been coming back negative for any further complications." He paused there but there was still this unspoken tension in the air that Neal could sense from El as she continued to look at Peter expectantly. He finally nodded reluctantly as he coughed and rubbed the back of his neck nervously.
"Something the matter I should know about besides the fact I'm apparently healthy and able to reform Russian mobsters?" Neal was trying to break the tension but Peter only half smiled before opening his mouth and speaking again.
"We were going to wait till you were out but... Sergislev, he passed last night." Peter's voice had gone down a few octaves, his tone reverent. Neal blinked unsure what to think of those words till it hit him. He sat up a bit straighter, El helping him with his pillows but he just leaned back after a moment and sighed.
"He saved my life. I don't know why but... he saved me." Neal looked confused if not saddened by the news. Maybe he had known remembering his dream that it was true but he had hoped the man would live. Peter patted his shoulder gently.
"I'm sorry, Neal. I know it's kind of uncertain this whole situation but he was in pain. He went peacefully in his sleep." Peter continued to keep his hand lightly on his shoulder, Neal nodding despite the shock of hearing what happened. Why did the man's death bother him other than the fact of their chance acquaintance? He felt a bit of confusion on the matter but he knew he would miss the man regardless of his past. He heard Peter cough and turned to look up at him again. Was there more? He saw something there in the agent's eyes.
"The doctors didn't discover this till after the fact but... Sergislev was dying. He had very little time and he knew it. They found out he was dying of some rare form of leukemia only found in certain regions of the Ukraine. Something to do with toxins in the water and air there. Perhaps that's why he was kind to you. He wanted to do something good before he left this earth." He mussed Neal's hair who just smirked a little back, although inside was feeling a bit of remorse for not being able to do more for the mobster.
A few days passed and Neal was out of the hospital. Peter came to pick him up, handing him a garment bag and some dress shoes he recognized as from his own closet. June must have sent them but why such fancy duds as these? These were more event clothes than every day wear. He glanced at the agent curiously who smiled enigmatically.
"Just put it on. I'll be right outside when you're ready." Peter was actually dressed pretty snazzy in a nice dark suit with a dark maroon tie. Something was up but Neal shrugged just happy to be leaving the confines of the hospital. He shrugged out of his sleep pants and tee and pulled on a clean tee, black socks and suit. He looked at himself in the bathroom door mirror and straightened up his collar as much as he could. The suit was a deep blue, not quite navy with a deep burgundy tie, white shirt and dark leather loafers to match. He took a few minutes to tidy up his hair and wash his face, brushing his teeth thinking they must be going somewhere important if June sent this for him. Once he was ready he turned to see Peter there quietly watching him. He wasn't surprised but still it was a bit odd to find his friend just there. Peter smiled in a fatherly sort of way.
"Ready? El's outside with the wheelchair. Hospital orders at least to the threshold of the hospital." Neal sighed but nodded, following his friend outside of the room as they took his stuff in hand and Neal lowered himself into the waiting chair. El looked dressed up as well, wearing a nice black dress with a matching coat and hat. He had never seen her wear a hat before but it was a nice addition. He listened to the squeak of the wheelchair and the soft chattering of his friend as they spoke to him about this and that on the way out of the hospital. At the entrance they stopped and he rose slowly, Peter running to get the car as he and El waited.
"So... where are we going?" He knew something was up and saw her peer at him without giving anything away. She gently took his arm in hers.
"You'll find out. Come on. There's Peter with the car." She walked him to the waiting Taurus as it drove up to the curb. She sat in the front as Neal slipped into the back and they took off.
The ride was relatively normal, the city passing through until they made a turn onto a more pastoral drive that led to somewhere Neal had been a few times before. He winced at the thought of going there and wondered now at the reasoning behind their visit. He grew anxious, sitting up and peering out the window nervously. Peter must have seen him through the rear-view mirror.
"Neal?" Peter's voice was soft, questioning as Neal turned to look at his friend.
"I'm ok. I just... it's too soon to come back here." He was thinking about when he had visited here not so long ago to see Kate's father's plot when she had left him a message. Her remains had been buried in an urn next to her father. Neal felt his body trembling at being in such close proximity to the woman he loved. He wasn't sure he could deal. He felt a hand touch his and saw El looking back at him.
"It's ok, Neal. We'll be here with you. Maybe we should have warned him Peter." She was talking to Peter, her back to him as she spoke quietly. Peter nodded finally.
"I'm sorry but I didn't want to scare you. I know how you feel about this place but I figured you'd want to be there. We can just pay our respects and go. The main group should be gone already. Jones was keeping tabs for me and texting me the info. I wanted to be sure everything was good before we came in." Peter kept his voice reasonable but the hint of worry was there. He was concerned.
"I don't understand... who is it we're going to see? Ka..." He couldn't bring himself to say it but watched as Peter shook his head. El looked surprised as well.
"Oh honey... I'm sorry. We... That's right. It's still so soon. Sergislev, the man from your case. His service was here today. It's just ending. Peter thought you might want to come. We didn't even think about the fact who else was here." Her face flushed with a chagrined look, her blue eyes looking at Peter who's reflection mirrored her look.
Peter parked the car just beyond a copse of small trees, a group of very brooding Russian types making their way across the idyllic roads of the cemetery in dark suits and veils in some cases. Once they had passed and left, Neal heard the buzz of a phone and saw Peter pull his from his pocket, eyes glancing down at the screen.
"Jones says the main party has left and only the preacher and workers are there. We can go in now if you want." Peter kept his voice neutral, Neal nodding after a moment as he reached for the handle and pulled the door open. He stepped out into the crisp Autumn air and heard the sound of gravel beneath his shoes as he walked passed the car and followed Peter towards the same place they saw the others leaving. They passed through a small meadow of dew touched grass, past various headstones till they came to the freshly dug and not yet filled grave of Alexandre Sergislev. Peter paused when he saw Neal stop a few feet behind him.
"Neal?" He called in that way when he knew the young man was upset. It made him think of a big brother looking out for a younger one. He just stood there unable to move. A hand touched his arm and grasped it gently. It was El, her face smiling at him softly as he let her lead him forward. They stood at the edge, the preacher nodding to them and smiling.
"You're a bit late for the ceremony but I was told there might be a few stragglers." He handed the shovel to Peter who nodded back as he walked to the grave, said a few quiet words and threw a bit of soil onto the grave. He crossed himself and then moved aside, El taking the shovel next and doing the same. She waited as Neal finally moved forward and his hand curled around the shovel handle uncertainly. She and Peter stood aside, talking quietly to the preacher as he stared down at the casket below. It was a nice mahogany box with a family crest of some kind he vaguely recognized as Russian.
"Thank you Alexi. I wish... we could have met under better circumstances. Spasibo..." He finally dug up a bit of the dirt and tossed it onto the box making a little prayer in his mind before returning the shovel to the preacher and walking away. Peter and El followed him after a quick farewell to the Priest. Peter caught up with Neal first, his hand gently touching his shoulder. Neal paused and turned.
"You ok?" Peter seemed unsure what else to say, Neal nodding quietly.
"Give me a few minutes?" He looked at Peter who nodded as Neal moved a few yards away to a familiar headstone. He dusted off the stone and adjusted the flowers already there. Mozzie must have come since he'd been too busy lately with all the excitement. Neal sighed, wiping at his eyes as he knelt there.
"I miss you. It's not the same without you here." He bent his head sadly as he felt warm tears fall down his cheek but he didn't cry beyond that. He finally stood up after a moment, touching his fingers to his lips and touching it to the stone. He turned and started to walk back towards the car, his eyes only looking up when he saw El watching him return. He wiped self-consciously at his eyes as he tried to pin on the usual smile he wore as his mask. It didn't help but it made him think he was happy if only for a bit. El smiled back but he knew she knew better.
"I was thinking Italian. What do you think?" She slipped into the car as he opened the back door and slid inside. He saw Peter, arm stretched across the back of the seat as he turned to look at him.
"Italian sounds great. Neal?" Peter was smiling at him with that brotherly grin he used when they were more equals. Neal nodded, leaning back in the seat and staring out the window.
"Sounds good to me. I heard there's a new place not too far from your house. It's outside my radius though." He continued to stare outside the window as he heard and felt the car take off. He heard a soft chuckle from the front.
"Not a problem. I think we can manage it this once. What street was it on?" Peter started to push buttons on the dash screen, Neal sitting up as he leaned forward to reach across.
"I think it was on Elm but I could be... OUCH! What was that for?" Neal pulled back his hand, rubbing it as El gave her husband a reproachful look for what he did. Peter shrugged with a 'what did I do?' glance.
"That's for reaching to mess with the map. Just give me the address already. I can manage." Peter's tone had turned to crotchety father again, Neal pouting a bit.
"What if I conveniently forget for that slap on the hand?" Neal mock glared at the agent, El nodding in agreement as Peter felt himself being ganged up on.
"Fine... I'm sorry. Bad habit since you like to press buttons and mess up my settings. So... where is this new place?" Peter was sitting back as Neal reached forward gingerly again, afraid of getting slapped on the hand but when Peter didn't, he leaned forward more and pushed at the screen.
"There! Just follow those directions." He looked pleased with himself, a confused look on Peter's face.
"Are you sure that's right, Neal? It says here I'm about to take a right off a bridge into the Hudson. I don't think those are the right directions unless you want us to go by gondola and this ain't no gondola." Peter smirked with a slightly irritated glance. Neal blinked looking again.
"No that's the underpass... there's a little turn around there. Mozzie said the spaghetti was the die for." Neal was smiling, El looking exciting.
"Sound intriguing!" Her voice rang out with excitement as she gently patted him on the shoulder, Peter nodding like the father of the group.
"Ok but if we end up in the Hudson, you're paying to have this thing cleaned up." Peter said in mock seriousness. Neal rolled his eyes.
"Consider it an upgrade to that speedboat you could have had if you went corporate."
Author's note: This was kind of hard to end considering the last chapter but I think it turned out ok. Let me know what you think and thanks for reading!