Neal was flipping his hat around like a kid who just learned a new trick. Peter rolled his eyes as they stepped out of the elevator and into the lobby of the FBI building. Neal finally tossed his hat jauntily up on his head, Peter tempted to knock it off but not actually doing it as he grinned with a fatherly look.
"Cartoon." Peter muttered as he smirked at the younger man. Neal just shrugged back.
"Maybe, but people like cartoons Peter. Ever watch Looney Tunes or Tex Avery? Classics!" He was grinning like a little kid, Peter rolling his eyes more as they walked out into the cool wintry air outside the building and headed around the corner to the garage.
"So are you the Roadrunner? Never mind don't answer that." Peter watched his partner and friend start to open his mouth but just smirk as they entered the parking garage and headed for the Taurus. Peter pulled out his keys as he moved ahead of Neal to open the doors. He turned when he heard voices behind him.
The voice wasn't familiar but it didn't sound friendly as the agent turned, keys still in hand and saw a tall man with a shock of white blond hair on his head blocking Neal's path to the vehicle. The man wore a dark leather duster like something out of some western but Peter could only see the back of the figure but the look on Neal's face was clear. The consultant was doing his best to appear calm while he tried to think if this was someone he knew from his past. It was apparent after a few seconds Neal didn't know the man but the man knew of him. Peter started to walk towards the man and his partner as he opened his jacket to loosen the belt on his holster.
"Is there a problem?"
Peter put enough emphasis that he hoped the man would turn to face him or at least acknowledge him but no such luck. He just saw the man raise a single hand, his right, as a dismissive gesture.
"This has nothing to do with you Agent Burke unless you wish to share his fate..."
The man sounded like some kind of officer if not a bounty hunter. Dammit! Who would send someone after Caffrey when they were protecting him. He was a Federal employee now at least while Hughes and Peter had something to say about it. The agent moved closer as he kept one hand on his gun at the ready.
"I don't know who you are or who sent you but if you know who I am, you know I can have the law here in seconds. Neal, come on."
Peter didn't want to deal with this person any longer than they had to. Neal didn't look comfortable either if a bit confused. If the ex-con knew who this was he wasn't showing it. Peter would have to ask him later but now he had to end this and quickly. Neal nodded at him as he tried to move around the stranger as if he wasn't there. He had barely moved a couple of feet when the man in the duster grabbed Neal around the neck, something like a taser popping up in his other hand as if by magic. It was too quick for Peter to act as the man pressed the item to Neal's bare neck beneath his coat collar. The young man winced as if he had been injected with something, pulling away as the man let go, a strange smile on his face. Peter could see him clearly now.
The man was young, not much older than Neal it seemed but he had a hard expression to his face as if he had seen too many things to forget easily. His eyes were a cold glittering greenish blue that made him seem less than human. He kept his hands in sight, the item still there. Peter could tell now it wasn't a taser but something else he'd never seen before but he had his gun out and was reaching for his cuffs as he walked forward.
"Neal? Get in the car..." Peter was approaching the stranger with the cuffs, gun out and steady. Neal didn't move, watching the scene as he rubbed at the place on his neck the item had touched. He didn't look hurt just confused as he stood out of arms reach of the man.
"You have the right to remain silent..." Peter started to quote the Miranda rights as he got closer, the stranger still smiling.
"He's been judged, Agent Burke. Unless he can prove his innocence, he's as good as gone. I'm only doing my job."
The man's expression was honest but grim as he quickly pressed something on his jacket and there was a flash of light. Peter was suddenly thrown back a few feet against a pillar as Neal ran towards him also tossed aside by some invisible blast. They both seemed blinded by the light for a moment looking up to find the man was gone. Peter groaned, his head having collided with the cement pillar hard enough to hurt. He slumped to the ground but turned his eyes to look for his partner. Neal lay stunned a few yards away by the Taurus, his eyes partially open from what he could see.
"Neal?" Peter started to try and drag himself up to a sitting position but his head was throbbing, body still stunned from the blast. He couldn't move much, his cheek laying against the cool smoothness of the asphalt.
"Neal!" He yelled hoarsely as he tried to sit up and turn his head. He winced, slumping back to the ground with a gasp. He felt like closing his eyes when he felt someone touch his shoulder.
"Peter?" Neal was there, a small gash across his temple as he looked down at the agent with a worried expression. He pulled out his phone and started to call 9-1-1. Peter lay there exhausted, his head aching as he tried to stay conscious.
"Youuu... huuurt?" Peter found it hard to speak as he tried to catch his breath but mostly he just felt a bit out of sorts with his head hurting. Neal kept a hand on his shoulder as if to comfort him but he thought the younger man looked more like he needed the comforting. He could hear him giving directions to the EMTs to the Bureau building before hanging up and calling another number.
"Jones? We're in the garage. Peter's hurt. Yeah... I called them. Hurry and thanks."
He heard Neal hang up, shift and then felt something pushed under his head. Peter noticed Neal didn't have his coat on anymore.
"I'mmm oookaaaay, Neeeal. Juuusssst tired." Peter started to close his eyes but felt another nudge.
"Stay awake, Peter. Please." Neal's voice sounded tight making Peter shift slightly to look at his partner better. The young man looked a bit pale. The agent lifted his hand to poke at the spot where the stranger had supposedly tased him. Neal moved back at first but the stopped when he realized what Peter was doing.
"I'm fine. Stay awake, Peter. I don't want Elizabeth to worry about you." Neal sounded upset but obviously concerned that the agent was hurt. Peter nodded, regretting it immediately as he groaned from the slight motion.
"Remind me NOT to do that again, Nee... awl." His voice was started to trail off, eyes too heavy to keep open. He felt someone nudge him but he was too tired to react, closing his eyes when the sound of sirens and the echoing of footsteps approached.
Neal was surprised at the stranger's swiftness as he felt himself grabbed in a tight headlock. He had barely moved one step before he felt himself grabbed and something pushed something against his neck. He felt a slight sting where he expected an electrical shock. It was almost like a quick little injection but it barely hurt as he finally pulled away out of arms reach. His hand rubbed at the spot thinking he felt something there like a thorn or splinter but there was little pain if any. Peter approached the man to cuff and take him in when something exploded, if you could call it that, and they were both thrown away from the figure. Neal initially saw Peter tossed back like a leaf in the breeze, moving to help him when the blast took him out and he hit the ground and rolled back towards the Taurus. He was blinded for an instant as if by a camera flash but soon the spots started to go away and he realized someone was calling his name.
He stood up and stumbled over to a figure in a tan trench coat laying at the foot of a pillar. As he got closer he could see the huge knot on the back of his friend's head. Peter was just conscious, his eyes fluttering between open and closed. Neal did what he could to make his friend comfortable forgetting his own discomfort as he pulled off his coat and pushed it under Peter's head. He called 9-1-1 and then Jones. It seemed like a lifetime before the paramedics arrived, Jones showing up about the same time. Neal jumped into the ambulance with Peter telling Jones to call Elizabeth if he could as they got the information on the hospital. He tried to keep Peter awake but the agent had passed out just as the ambulance arrived. He had checked his friend relieved to find he had a steady pulse and normal breathing. Neal worried as the vehicle ambled along, the paramedics keeping Peter comfortable, tracking his vitals while one had worked on the gash and few scratches he had obtained. His left shoulder smarted a bit so the medic gave him a sling thinking he may have sprained it if not bumped it in the fall. They suggested an x-ray.
At the ER, Neal was left behind as he watched Peter pulled into the OR to get x-rays and other exams. One of the paramedics tried to check his arm and he only agreed when he realized they were taking him inside where Peter was. The agent was just down the hall when he finally walked out of another small room with a set of four stitches along his hairline and his arm still in a sling. They had discovered his shoulder had been slightly dislocated but had popped back into place already so the physician told him to just keep his arm in the sling for a few days, giving a subscription for some ibuprofen for the inflammation. Neal barely heard the doctor speak, more worried for his friend than himself. He vaguely thanked the doctor before moving down the hallway of the OR to check on Peter. The agent was laying flat inside an MRI when he peeked inside the room. The agent was still unconscious as he watched them scan his head. Someone noticed his presence and asked him to go outside. Neal reluctantly was led outside where he bumped into Jones and Elizabeth.
"Caffrey... how are you feeling? How's Peter?" Jones patted him gently on his good shoulder as Elizabeth moved in, eyes slightly pink from crying as she hugged him. He shrugged uncertainly.
"They were giving him an MRI just now when they asked me to leave." He sounded a bit angry about being asked to leave, his worry evident as he comforted El. She moved away and took his good hand in hers as she led him to the waiting area.
"Sit with me, Neal. Tell me what happened." Jones flanked on his left as El leaned in, blue eyes querying him. He gulped, rubbing at the back of his neck with his free hand.
"I don't really know. Someone approached me in the garage. Peter came to the rescue then the guy grabbed me and Peter pulled his gun but the guy had some kind of device and it blew up or something. I'm not sure what happened. We were both dazed by the flash. Didn't see which direction he went." He shrugged helplessly uncertain what to tell them. He watched Jones rub at his chin.
"Hughes wanted me to get your statement but that can wait till we know Peter is ok. Diana's having the surveillance cameras for the building checked." He patted Neal on the arm sympathetically as they watched a doctor in scrubs but no mask come out of the ER. Neal tried to stand up but Jones pushed him back down gently.
"Take it easy, Neal." Jones stood walking over to grab the doctor as Neal watched and felt Elizabeth gripping his arm nervously. He turned and gently placed his arm around her as they waited to hear something. Jones was chatting the doctor up, both men walking towards them after a moment. The doctor smiled down at them both, holding out a hand as they shook and then he turned his attention to El.
"My name is Dr. Atkins. You must be Mrs. Burke." He sat on her other side and continued to smile although Neal could tell she looked nervous and worried. Her hand gripped his arm tighter.
"Your husband, he's going to be ok. He only sustained a minor concussion and his other injuries were minor. Looks like he got the wind knocked out of him. There's a few bruises but they will heal. We're going to keep him overnight and I'm almost certain he should be able to leave in the morning." The doctor looked across at Neal and patted him on the shoulder gently as he rose.
"They're putting him in a room now. I'll have the nurse come and show you to him in a few minutes."
El looked so relieved, her grip loosening on Neal as she rose to thank the doctor. It was while he sat there waiting that he felt a kind of twinge from the spot where he had been stung with the odd device of the blond man. It almost felt like a mosquito bite he thought, reaching up to scratch at it unconsciously. He could almost feel something in the small bump, a kind of electrical tingle moving from there to the rest of his body paralyzing him a moment as the world blurred around him and he found himself slipping into darkness. He didn't think he was fainting but it felt almost as if the world itself was disappearing or he was fading, a hint of nausea washing over him as he slumped back into the chair tiredly. The experience seemed to draw at his strength, his eyes rolling back into his head while he sat there and passed out.
Neal dreamed strange fuzzy dreams filled with fire and the feeling of pain. He floated through them, feeling as if he were passing through Hell itself as the heat seemed to sear at him physically till he wanted to cry out but soon the darkness took him in and he felt himself start to fade and the pain with it.
Peter remembered a bright light when he tried to approach the strange blond man. His mind had felt muddled, the flash stunning him visually and physically as he was flung back against something hard and solid. He heard the crack of his skull hitting the surface and was surprised when he hit the ground that he was still conscious. He was more worried though about Neal, wondering if the man had taken him since he sounded like some kind of bounty hunter or hit man. Peter was relieved when he saw Neal laying a few feet away, calling to him till he felt too tired to move or act. He looked up when he felt his friend's hand on his shoulder.
Everything after that was fuzzy. He remembered sirens and footsteps and someone talking to him that he suspected was Neal before he finally passed out. He was only vaguely aware of someone talking to him in his dreams, telling him something he didn't understand before even that faded to nothingness.
Peter woke up, squinting his eyes to adjust to the lighting. His vision blurred in and out of focus and his head felt like it had been through a rock tumbler along with the rest of him. He gave a quiet groan as he started to realized he was in a bed now and not his own. Peter saw another bed not to far away on the opposite side of the room with another figure he thought he recognized but his head was still a bit fuzzy. He tried to sit up but refrained from doing it when he felt the pain in his body and suddenly remembered the blow he took when he had tried to apprehend that blond guy.
He heard a familiar but sleepy voice, turning to find his wife across the room on the sofa. Elizabeth sat up and stretched, walking over to him tiredly. She took the chair beside him and sat close enough he could see that her eyes were slightly pink from crying, her cheeks tear streaked. He opened up his arms to hold her despite the discomfort and squeezed her tight. He felt too tired to speak, smelling her hair and feeling better.
"I'm just glad you're ok, Peter. We were so worried. Doctor said you should be alright but I wanted to see you awake." She hugged him tight, kissing him before continuing.
"Neal was worried but he passed out in the waiting room. Doctor said it was exhaustion and shock from what happened. He's been sleeping this whole time." She turned briefly to look at the younger man, her expression worried. Peter finally focused on the far figure in the other bed and now could tell it was indeed his friend and partner. Neal was sleeping but it was far from peaceful, his face tight looking although he was otherwise sleeping quietly.
"How long... since we were... brought... in?" Peter's voice was hoarse but he knew she heard him, her hand brushing at his hair as she held his hand.
"About 8 hours. It's almost 10 PM now. Doctor said you can leave tomorrow once you were awake and they checked a few things." She hugged him, kissing his lips. He reciprocated happy he was with his wife again. His thoughts were of her but they strayed back to the incident earlier that day and the man who had threatened Neal. His friend had seemed less than familiar with the stranger but there were so many things he didn't know about Neal and sometimes not knowing put himself and others in danger. He stared across the room at his sleeping partner, wishing he could ask the consultant more about his past but knowing Neal would never willingly give up anything he didn't deem necessary, his issues with trust almost as bad at Mozzie's.
"Peter, What's wrong? You seem tense." Elizabeth was gently massaging at his neck and shoulders but he just shook his head. He didn't want to worry her with his thoughts although she considered Neal family as he had started to do. The young man was a part of their lives despite his past but sometimes Peter had his doubts how much to trust in the wayward young man knowing what he did about him.
It was some time past midnight when Neal finally woke up. He had been having horrible nightmares about the blond man coming for him again only now he had him chained before a jury of people he didn't recognize and Neal was being read the crimes he had committed against humanity. He had struggled, trying to speak but nothing came out, his lips taped shut and something like rags stuffed in his mouth. He continued to fight against the chains where he stood but the blond man was vehement continually pointing at him and saying something about Neal being a curse to humanity and the cause of their current ills. The jury, a mere blur of face, seemed in agreement as the judge started to give the verdict. He could only hear hints of what was said as he tried to ask for someone to call his friends, Peter or El. They would speak up for him. The blond man laughed as if he'd heard something funny making a signal. A cloth sack was pulled over Neal's head and he couldn't see anything, the room uncomfortably silent.
"Let the judgment pass!"
He heard a voice shout as suddenly all the air seemed to be taken out of the room and he began to choke and struggled to catch his breath. Someone whispered in his ear through the cloth sack.
"Your friends don't trust you, Caffrey. They are the ones who will condemn you in the end."
Neal turned to try and see the speaker but the sack was thick enough he just saw a shadowy form outside, movement uncertain till he felt his nose pinched and he started to struggled in earnest.
"You will pay for your crimes. I'll make sure of it."
Neal could feel his chest tighten as he woke up and stared up into blue green eyes. It was the blond man again only he was awake this time and it was no dream. He suddenly felt as if he was strapped down though he could see that his body was unfettered where he lay in a hospital bed. Neal struggled but the man held his hand tightly over his mouth and nose.
"You thought you were dreaming? Trust me, that wasn't the worse of it. It takes only one person to condemn you for your crimes and one person to save you from that punishment. I only let you see what will be."
The stranger smiled at him coldly as he let go of his nose and mouth and another flash blinded him as the stranger disappeared. There was no blast this time but the light stunned and disabled him as if he had been hit hard, the air knocked out of his lungs as he gasped and wheezed helplessly. Finally he could move enough to tip himself over the edge of the bed and fall with a thud to the tiled floor below. He gave a weak groan staying where he fell till someone nudged him a while later.
"Neal? Neal wake up..."
He heard someone talking to him frantically as he started to come to from whatever spell he had been under easing up so he could give a soft groan in response. He felt a soft hand brush his hair and gently flip him over. Elizabeth Burke knelt beside him, her blue eyes worried as she gazed down at him. He heard another voice, some what hoarse speak from across the room.
"I pushed the nurse call El. How is he? Neal?"
Peter was awake? Neal tried to sit up but gave a groan as his body took a bit to recover. He lay back on the floor looking up to see Peter peering gingerly from his bed.
"It's ok Buddy. The nurse will be here soon."
Not too long after Peter said that the nurse showed up, looking at Peter first then downwards when the agent pointed towards his wife and Neal on the floor at the other end of the room.
"He fell out of the bed." Peter explained as the nurse came towards Neal and crouched beside him and took his pulse, checking his eyes with a small pen light and the stitches on his head to make sure nothing had been reopened, broken or otherwise damaged.
"I think he's ok. Come on."
The nurse and El helped Neal up to his feet long enough to ease him back into the bed. He looked at both women his hand clinging to El's as she remained by his side. He wanted to speak but he felt too tired, that spot on his neck bothering him still. He reached up to rub at it with his free hand when the nurse noticed and pushed his head gently aside to look.
"When did you get this? Looks like a bug bite but it's too spherical. Did someone inject you with something?" She was gently poking at the spot till he winced as he felt another kind of tingle go through him, a mild shock of static hitting the nurse who just dealt with it. He watched the room spin and vanish along with everyone in it and then everything phased back and he breathed heavily as if he had just been running. The nurse took his pulse again, checking his heart rate and seeing it was a bit fast.
"I'll be right back."
The nurse left the room with a strange look on her face as Neal looked at Elizabeth and then across the room at Peter. He still felt a bit out of it.
"It's ok, Neal. We're here." El kept her voice calm, patting his hand in hers and looking over at Peter with a worried look. He knew they were concerned for him as he tried to speak.
"Pe... ter... E... l..."
He could barely speak, his throat still hoarse from nearly being suffocated as well as whatever had just happened. His pulse was still racing a bit, El suddenly jumping as if in reaction to something.
"That was a big shock of static. Odd." She took his hand again rubbing it between hers as the nurse came back with a doctor. She was telling him something and they walked over to look at Neal's neck, Elizabeth moving aside. He watched her go back to stand with Peter as the nurse and doctor poked and prodded at him trying to figure out what was wrong when his vitals seemed to normalize and the tingling stopped. He felt his body relax and he slumped back against the pillows feeling better.
"Hmmm... never seen anything like this. Nothing in the bump and yet it feels like there is. It's not infected but let's put something on this just in case." The doctor patted Neal on the shoulder gently.
"You both went through quite an experience. Probably just a delayed reaction to the incident. We'll check everything in the morning to be sure. Make sure they rest." He smiled at Elizabeth as the nurse swabbed the area before putting a small band-aid on it. They both left after a few words leaving the three alone. Elizabeth yawned, kissing Peter and hugging him before she walked over to Neal and patted his arm.
"I'll stay awake for a bit more. I already slept a while. Let me know if you need anything."
She hugged him gently and walked back over to Peter who was looking across with a worried glance. Neal felt a bit uncomfortable receiving so much pity despite not knowing what he was dealing with. He finally closed his eyes and pretended to sleep, listening to his friends talking softly in the background. He tried to think who the blond man was, could be or represented. Peter had seen him so he was real but why was he after Neal?
It was a few days after they'd been released that Peter stopped by June's to see Neal that afternoon. Elizabeth took him since he was still supposed to be taking it easy if not resting. She stayed downstairs with June while he went up and knocked on Neal's door. It took a moment but he heard footsteps and then a hesitation typical of Neal. The young man was cautious.
"Who is it?"
Peter gave a little sigh.
"Who do you think?"
He heard a sudden scrabbling at the lock and knob and found himself looking into two bright blue eyes. They looked surprised a relieved look on them hidden behind Neal's usual mask. He smiled softly.
"Peter? Uhm... come in."
Neal spoke softly stifling a yawn as he turned and walked over to the sofa and plopped down tiredly. He was usually more personable but something had changed as Peter closed the door and walked over to join him. He noticed the apartment was a bit messier than usual, the bed sheets strewn aside. He noticed two empty wine bottles in the sink with a glass still full on the coffee table. Neal reached to pick it up, sipping at it as he looked up to see Peter watching him.
"You're looking good. How are you feeling?"
Neal sounded somewhat less than himself, stifling another yawn as Peter came to sit beside him. He turned to look at his partner as he placed a fatherly hand on his shoulder.
"I'm good. Get to stay home and watch my games but it's all good. How are you, Neal?"
He could see the wall go up as the young man tried to act normal but the lack of sleep was obvious. Something was bothering him. Neal smiled up at him as charmingly as he could.
"Good. Was thinking about visiting you the other day..." He left it open as if he couldn't think what to say or maybe it was the fact his eyes started to flutter closed and he almost dropped the wine glass as Peter took it from his eyes and placed it on the table. Neal woke up suddenly although he was far from it.
"Come on... get back to bed. You're going to sleep if I have to stay here and stand guard to make sure of it." He had moved to father mode as Neal gazed blearily at him then nodded.
"Fine." He didn't seem too upset but he wasn't happy as he rose with Peter's help and stumbled to the bed. He was wearing some loose pants and a tee as he slipped back under the covers and Peter tucked him in. Neal looked at him with a curious glance.
"Thank you for coming Peter. I'm glad you're ok." He was smiling up at him despite a somewhat drunken look on his face. Peter nodded, brushing at his hair till the young man slumped over and finally fell into a fitful sleep. Peter sat there till he heard footsteps and turned seeing El there with June. They were quiet when they saw him hold up a hand and he walked back over towards them. They went just outside the door and chatted in low whispers.
"How is he?" Elizabeth looked like she wanted to go in and watch over Neal like a sick child. Peter shrugged.
"He's upset about something. He was practically sleep walking when I was with him so I made him go sleep. June, have you noticed anything?"
Peter was worried and he saw a look on June's face that mirrored his own. She nodded motioning them all away from the door, her voice quiet.
"He's been pacing a lot at night and I see him out on the terrace late. He hasn't been out since you were both released. I've gone up when I thought he was asleep and found he's been drinking. I hate spying but something has been bothering him. Maybe he'll talk to you or Elizabeth?"
She excused herself when the phone rang leaving Peter and El outside the door to Neal's room. El made a motion and they both quietly went back inside the room. Neal was still sleeping, El walking over with quiet steps. She had barely made it to his side when he started to spasm slightly, his eyes fluttering but not opening. Peter moved over quickly as he saw the panic in his wife's face.
"Neal... wake up. Neal..." He reached to nudge his friend getting a slight shock as he got within an inch. El blinked looking at her husband and Neal who was starting to relax again, eyes still moving as a soft groan escaped his lips. Peter reached for him again but this time there was no shock.
"Neal, wake up!" Peter shook the young man harder this time and finally Neal's eyes opened and he looked confused a moment before blinking at them and sitting up.
Neal looked a bit bewildered if anything, Peter sitting on the edge of the bed and holding his friend's hand.
"You were having a seizure of some kind and you wouldn't wake up. Are you ok, Neal? I need to know if some thing's wrong."
Neal was looking at him, then at El before averting his eyes to the wall. He was putting up barriers again, Peter wanting to curse but he decided for once not to force the issue hoping that maybe Neal would talk to him later. He nodded, patting his friend on the shoulder.
"Rest then. I'll be back tomorrow. Ok?" He was trying to keep it simple hoping the young man would open up but those walls were still there. Neal nodded without giving him any sign of what was bugging him. Elizabeth hugged him and they left.
Author's Note: This is actually based in part on an idea HuffynDK offered. Let me know what you think.