Another month passed since the incident at Peter's. Neal had been in a kind of funk but Peter made sure he didn't feel sorry for himself very long. He would conveniently show up on days when Neal had his appointments with the therapist. He didn't interfere, Peter would just be there when they were over. It became a habit, the two going for dinner at Peter's or just chatting afterwards. Neal seemed to be getting over the worse of it, his condition slowly dissipating on its own it seemed. Nobody was the wiser as they kept it secret.
Neal was working again not too long after the incident with Argheny's men. He had to actually but Hughes let him take time when needed for his sessions. The events of the past seemed to fade into the background as work took over and things went back to a semblance of normalcy. Neal was working more, showing up to do case files no matter how boring. Until they were certain of his stability he was taken off any high profile cases that didn't require his expertise. He had only been asked to go undercover once, Peter worried that stress would make the condition come back but nothing happened. Neal seemed to have come back to himself.
There were still signs of this other Neal that would show occasionally. Peter only noticed when it made itself known a few times when Neal visited him at home. Satchmo would sense it first. Peter really didn't understand how but the huge lab would start with a low growl, standing up to look at Neal. Luckily Peter could talk Neal down from the change, gently touching his friend on the shoulder. When Satchmo would stop growling Peter knew the episode was over. It worried him so he asked the therapist about it. Dr. Geran had been reluctant to say much considering the confidentiality of his work but had noted the agent's concerns, taking it into account. He asked him to bring the dog over for the next session to test a theory.
Neal was surprised at his next session when he found Satchmo in his rooms. The huge lab was playing with Bugsy, June's pug. She gave an excuse that Peter and El were out and needed a dog sitter. He didn't mind did he? She had them out on the terrace getting some fresh air when the therapist showed. June greeted the man as she picked up Bugsy and excused herself. Satchmo was still out on the terrace when Neal sat on the couch, took off his shoes and got comfortable. He was already aware of the drill.
"You've been doing very well, Neal. I think we're finally fighting this. Thank you for being as open as you have. It always helps." Dr. Garen smiled, seeing the look on Neal's face. The consultant was more positive than he had been and getting more relaxed every week they worked on the condition. It was just a matter of retraining his subconscious and changing his reactions. Neal nodded, laying back on the sofa with an almost bored look.
"I just want to get this over with. Get away from the past." He sounded a bit more testy than he meant to, looking up at the psychiatrist apologetically.
"Sorry Gene." Neal seemed a bit stressed, his body tense as he closed his eyes. Gene nodded.
"Not a problem. Hey doggie..."
Neal opened his eyes to see Dr. Garen petting Satchmo on the head, the big yellow lab looking at him curiously. Neal was watching the two a moment before he realized the doctor had asked him something.
"What did you say? I didn't hear you." Neal felt a bit distracted, his eyes on the dog a moment. Dr. Garen repeated himself.
"I know something of your past, Neal. Peter wanted to make sure you had a fair shot at being evaluated and helped considering everything you've been through. You have a good friend in Agent Burke." The psychiatrist was smiling, his hand moving from the dog to a notebook on his lap as he opened it up.
"Did you want to start where we ended last..." He stopped short as he heard a low growl erupt from Satchmo. The dog was curling his lips back as if at a dangerous animal, his eyes wide. Gene looked to see what was bothering the dog and noticed Neal moving to a kind of crouch on the sofa, his eyes staring at the dog in a wild manner. It was as if his eyes had changed color, almost silvery with a very small pupil in the middle. Satchmo remained on guard but the next sound didn't come from the dog.
"Neal?" Dr. Garen hadn't seen this side of the young man, their sessions being more serene and stereotypical. This was what he had been looking for but hadn't yet experienced. At least not on this level.
"Neal! Listen to me. Listen to my voice. You're a person, Neal. You're a human being." Gene kept talking, his voice firm but not angry. He just talked Neal down as much as he could till the young man's pupils started to normalize, his eyes became a much deeper blue and his body relaxed. Neal blinked at the psychiatrist, glancing around the room as he looked down and saw Satchmo still looking up at him with some trepidation. As he came back to himself, the huge lab relaxed and finally padded off to the terrace again. Dr. Garen looked intrigued, patting Neal on the shoulder gently.
"Welcome back. I see what your friend meant now." Gene saw Neal looking at him confused but he just smiled and nodded, writing some quick notes down.
"Let me see if I can explain this to you. You've heard of epilepsy?" He watched Neal nod back with a dazed kind of look. What ever had happened it took him a few minutes to feel himself again.
"People with that condition have seizures. Some blackout and have muscle spasms, others blackout and just have moments of amnesia or a loss of self. In some cases they continue what they were doing or act out of character with no memory of the event."
Neal listened to the doctor's words but was still uncertain how it applied to him. Dr. Garen seemed to understand.
"I think Neal... well I'm pretty certain you have a kind of epilepsy. It's not an official type and I think with time and medicine, you'll heal. It won't be forever. It's just past conditioning causing this. Your agent friend is the one who brought this to my attention. He said his dog would react when you had your episodes. It made me suspect you might be having seizures of a kind. Animals are very susceptible to those things." He smiled as he saw Neal nodding, looking over at the huge yellow lab laying out in the sunshine. It was making sense now. Satchmo was here because of Peter. He smiled thinking how sneaky June had been in explaining the dog's presence.
"So, this is curable? I can start doing my job again?" Neal was feeling better, thinking now he could go back out in the field. Long as his stress level was reasonable, he could do it. Nothing bad would happen if he was calm. Peter would certainly help him with that. He watched Gene nod.
"I think so. You'd have to talk to Agent Burke for the official word though but I will let him know if you like once we start your treatment."
About an hour after the session ended, Peter showed up, a firm but quiet knock on Neal's door indicating someone was there. Neal answered the door with a sleepy look. He'd been napping after the session, his mind and body still a bit out of it from his partial transformation. Satchmo padded up along side him looking somewhat excited. Neal smiled as he opened up the door and found Peter standing there.
"Hey Peter." He was smiling, moving aside to let the agent inside. Peter walked over to the couch and plopped down tiredly.
"Be glad you missed today. Nothing but meetings. So how was your session? I hope Satchmo didn't interfere." He turned to the dog as it approached and scratched him behind the ears. Neal shook his head.
"No trouble at all considering you left him here on purpose." His face held a smirk as Peter looked up with a guilty glance, blushing. He stood and walked over to the younger man as Neal poured himself a glass of wine.
"About that... I guess I just wanted to be sure. Help a bit. I wasn't trying to interfere or dig." He rubbed the back of his neck nervously but Neal just held up a hand.
"It's ok, Peter. Gene explained it all to me. He already started me on some meds. Shouldn't interfere with me doing work but they'll keep the proverbial beast at bay." He shrugged with a little wink as he said that. Peter just blinked before he smiled and nodded back.
"Good. So he figured out what was wrong? I'm glad. I used to have a friend who's dog would react similarly when he would have fainting spells. It just dredged up memories of that. It was back in college. He had to take the dog everywhere with him it was very debilitating." Peter chewed on his lip a bit as he watched Neal nod.
"Well he said mine was a more conditioned response than anything. Once they get that out of my system the meds won't be as necessary. They're a cushion until the treatment is finished. So... any plans? What's El up to?" Neal poured another glass of wine and offered it to the agent who shrugged and took it.
"She's out with some friends. Girls' night out. I have no plans other than to thaw out a frozen meal if I go home unless you have other ideas?" He looked hopeful as Neal leaned back on the kitchen counter deep in thought.
"Well... there might be a new Chinese place just out of my range. Mozzie told me about it. Sounded pretty good from the review he gave. He made a big deal about their gluten and lactose free menu. It has to be good." He rolled his eyes, Peter grinning.
"Ah, well... get dressed. Might as well try it out. I could use some Mushu Pork and Dumplings, Neal-san." He bowed his head with a grin, taking a small sip of the wine. Neal made a face.
"That's Japanese, Peter." He smirked, putting down his glass as he walked to the bathroom to freshen up. He could hear Peter calling over to him.
"We'll have to drop Satch off at the house first. Give him a quick walk."
Neal nodded as he stared in the mirror and smoothed back his hair. He tucked his tee into his jeans, brushing his teeth and walking back out. He slipped on a tan sueded cotton button up shirt he quickly tucked in, slipping on his shoes as he grabbed up his fedora. Peter made a face.
"Must you take that hat everywhere?" He put a hand on his hip like a father chiding a kid. Neal blinked.
"It's a calming factor, Peter. It makes me feel more human." He said it with a straight face, Peter glancing at him with a defeated look.
"Let's get going. Still have to walk and drop Satchmo off at home. Come on boy." He pulled out the lead, the yellow lab padding over obediently. Neal looked down at the dog, then back up at Peter but said nothing, both men leaving the room. As they made it downstairs, June walked up with Bugsy, the little pug wiggling in her arms like a hyperactive infant as he saw Satch below.
"I see you came to pick up Satchmo, Peter. He was nothing but a dear all afternoon. Feel free to drop him off to play with Bugsy any time you need a sitter. They get along perfectly." She reached down as she dropped Bugsy on the floor, petting the huge lab. Satchmo smiled up at her with his tongue lolling, sniffing at the pug as the little dog nudged him to play.
"I'm so glad you could watch him, June. Thank you so much. We appreciate it." He smiled at her, the older woman grinning back.
"Any time, Peter. I guess you're both going out?" She picked up the pug again who whined like a child. Both men nodded.
"There's a new Chinese place down the way. Going to see if it's good." Neal had taken his hat off in her presence, his landlady giving him a knowing look.
"The place Mozz was raving about. He said they had pretty waitresses." She winked at him, Peter watching the young man wink back as he leaned forward to whisper.
"Of course, but don't tell Elizabeth." Neal whispered loud enough to be heard. Peter rolled his eyes as June chuckled.
"Uh huh... always an angle with you Caffrey. Let's go already." He said in mock testiness. June hugged them both quickly before they left. Neal was grinning.
"I'm just saying what Mozzie told me. El might get jealous. Pretty waitresses and you didn't take her. Suspicious..." Neal was stifling a giggle.
"Keep it up Neal and I'll have that 2 mile radius reduced to my backyard and Satchmo's dog house."
Author's Note: Thank you for reading! I think I tied it all up pretty well by the end. Will be posting a new story soon and starting NaNoWriMo Monday. EEK! Wish me luck! :D