Peter moaned and Elizabeth put down the magazine she was absent mindedly flipping through. She quickly stood and leaned over her husband, gently stroking the side of his face.
"Peter?" His head turned towards her voice and Elizabeth, despite the past two days, allowed her hope to soar. "Peter, can you hear me?" His eyes remained closed but he wasn't grimacing and moaning as he had the last three times, when it was apparent the pain was too much and he was sedated back into oblivion. Elizabeth knew she should get a nurse but she couldn't bear to leave her husband's side. It had been two days since Peter had been shot twice and nearly died and all she knew was it was a case gone bad and Neal was under house arrest until Peter was awake and could verify what happened. She had tried to call Neal but he wasn't answering his phone and neither Clinton nor Diana would explain what Neal had done. Peter's eyes flickered as he fought to the surface and finally they opened, much to the relief of his wife.
"Peter." Elizabeth's eyes welled with tears and she wiped them away as she continued to caress Peter's face. He stared up at her, confused with unfocussed eyes. "El?" His voice was a hoarse whisper but it was music to Elizabeth's ears. He flailed his arm upward and she took a hold of his hand, squeezing gently.
"You're going to be fine" she assured him. Peter glanced around, and then back at his wife. "What…?" He shut his eyes, face contorted with pain.
"I'm getting the nurse" Elizabeth said as she shot out of the small, hospital room. She returned shortly with back up and stood in the background as they accessed her husband's condition. Her anxiety eased up when the doctor ordered morphine for the pain but didn't mention sedating him. A few minutes later, the drug was given and the room cleared. Elizabeth once again sat at her husband's side, holding his hand until the drug took effect and his pain eased immensely.
Peter licked his dry lips and almost immediately a straw was placed in his mouth. He gulped down some water and smiled weakly. "Thanks hon." He glanced up and down his body, focusing on the tubes in his arms and the huge bandages wrapped around his immobile right leg.
"What happened?" He saw a flicker of concern cross his wife's face and he turned his head, his mind trying to put the pieces of the past together. They were working a simple embezzlement case and Neal had double crossed him. Peter shook that thought out of his mind as he remembered the younger man coming to see him, confessing that he had tried to help a friend in the process of getting their man and the friend had double crossed Neal. Peter had been angry, had threatened to send Neal back to jail before calming down…they had worked all night to figure out how to use this to their advantage. But in the end, they had both walked into a set up. Peter had noticed the sniper first and managed to push Neal out of the way before the bullets hit and his mind went dark.
"Peter, can you remember?"
"A little" he admitted.
"What did Neal do?"
"Nothing" Peter lied, knowing it was best to keep this from his wife. "I need to see Neal."
"You can't." Elizabeth shrugged. "Reese made it quite clear Neal wasn't allowed to go anywhere until he talked to you."
"Then tell Hughes I want to talk to him." Peter bellowed before grabbing his side, in pain.
"Honey, take it easy." Elizabeth ran a soothing hand over his chest. "You are in no shape to talk to anyone at the moment. Neal is fine. You, on the other hand, nearly died. Do you even want to know the damage that was done to you?"
Peter shrugged. "Do I want to know?" he countered, again eyeing his right leg.
"Your kneecap was shattered" Elizabeth stated calmly, "but in time, you should get back full use of your leg." Elizabeth looked away and Peter sensed that wasn't the worse of it.
"What else El?"
"The other bullet entered your side and caused a lot of internal bleeding and they had to remove your spleen." Elizabeth's voice cracked slightly. "We just have to watch your heath better…but you'll be fine."
Peter reached up and cupped his wife's chin. "Are you trying to convince me or yourself?" Elizabeth pulled away angrily. "Peter, you almost died. Of course I'm upset and I'm worried and I don't know how I'm going to work and be here with you and the dog…" She paused, taking a deep breath. "I'm going to take Satch to my sister's, he'll be better there."
"Elizabeth." Peter reached over and grabbed his wife's hand. "You are not sending the dog away and you are not quitting your job. We'll figure this out ok?" She nodded hesitantly. "Peter you need to rest so you can get your strength back."
"OK." Peter was tired and he hurt, but he didn't want to admit it. "Ok, I will rest but when I wake up, I will call Hughes and ask him to come here." Elizabeth nodded before sitting down in the chair beside the bed, watching her husband.
Sleep did not come easily for Peter. Even with the pain and the drugs in his system, he was worried about Neal and what this was doing to him. This was Neal's fault and he knew it and he was sure Neal was blaming himself. All this time alone was probably eating away at his friend and Peter feared what he might do. Before Peter fell asleep, he had a plan and he hoped Hughes would go along with it.
Two days past before Peter felt well enough to make that phone call and it was late in the evening when Hughes finally showed up. "You're looking better" Hughes said as he entered the room. "How do you feel?"
"OK" Peter answered without much conviction. "About Neal…" Peter paused when his boss held his hand up.
"Peter, before you defend him, he's asking to go back to jail and I have to say I agree with him."
"No!" Peter knew that was the last place Neal wanted to be and he was letting the guilt get to him.
"It wasn't just his fault."
"I know" Hughes said abruptly. "And that's the only reason he's not in jail right now. Peter, what were you thinking? When Neal came to you, the whole operation should have been disbanded. I expect this from Neal, not from you."
Peter looked away. "Hindsight is twenty- twenty" he mumbled feeling both chastised and embarrassed by his boss's words. "I got arrogant" Peter admitted as he turned and faced Hughes. "Neal and I have made such a good team I didn't think anyone could con us. I screwed up."
"And where did that get you?" Hughes asked, not ready to let up on the subject. "Peter you are too smart and I expect more from you. Now give me one good reason why I'm not sending Neal back to jail."
"Because he's too good to sit and rot in jail" Peter quietly said. "Because he's my friend and I let him down" Peter added, eyeing his boss. "Reese, he never stays long enough to face the consequences of his actions. He pulls a con and takes off. It can be different this time."
"I'm not sure I understand" Hughes said. "What is your plan?"
"I want him around me" Peter began, smiling weakly. "I know how long it's going to take to get back on my feet and he won't see me struggling from jail."
Hughes chuckled. "You want to make him your nurse?"
Peter laughed, causing him to clutch his stomach in pain. "Don't…" Peter bit on his lower lip until the laughter and pain subsided.
"No. I want him to work with my team and help me when needed. Elizabeth is worried about feeding the dog, staying with me, working and I figure Neal could help after work."
Hughes mulled that over. "And if he says no?"
"He won't" Peter assured him. "The last place he wants to be is jail and we both know that. Let me talk to him and I'll convince him."
"I don't know." Hughes crossed his arms. "Can Jones handle him? Peter, one mistake and I will send him back and there's nothing you can do about it."
"I give you my word. He won't screw up."
Hughes sighed, unconvinced. "I'll have Jones bring him here tomorrow. You need to make sure he understands."
"I know. Wait!" Peter called out before his boss could leave. "Tell Jones Neal will have to get a valid driver's license and a bureau car."
"What? Peter, are you out of your mind?" Hughes rubbed his eyes wearily.
"The radius on his anklet will have to be readjusted to include the hospital and my house" Peter yelled as Hughes threw his arms up in disgust, leaving before Peter could add anything else.
Peter settled back against his pillows, rubbing his aching side. He wondered if he was putting too much trust in his friendship with Neal. No! Something good had to come out of this and he would make sure of that.