Neal drooped at the other end of the desk, his head barely held up by his left hand and arm as his elbow started to slide on the desktop. The consultant was going to fall over and Peter was just waiting and watching as he tried to concentrate on the case file before him. He had to admit this was a boring case file even for his experience, Neal's plaintive plea for something more exciting echoing in his head. Maybe it was that memory that sparked him to be kind and cough, waking the young man from his stupor.
"I'm reading it Peter." Neal said somewhat testily, a yawn escaping as he leaned back and stretched. The agent smirked.
"Well stop reading it. We're going to get some coffee. Long over due." He saw the younger man blink up at him with those deep blue eyes and grin. Neal had his coat on in a heartbeat and flipped his fedora up onto his head. Peter rolled his eyes but said nothing as he grabbed up his own jacket and threw it over his sleeve, both men exiting the office. They walked down the short set of stairs to the ground level and walked towards the glass doors and elevators. Neal opened the door for Peter as the agent pushed the button on the elevator.
"I heard there's a new coffee place just up the street. Jones was raving about it yesterday." Neal said offhandedly as he twirled his hat around his finger like a hyperactive 2 year old. Peter nodded in reply as the doors opened they entered the elevator.
"That's why we're getting coffee. I'm hoping it will wake the dead. He said they had Italian Roast like June's." The agent's eyes almost lit up, Neal smirking at his friend.
"So you do like the little cups." Neal's eyes glittered with mischief, the agent looking at him with a little roll of his eyes.
They had to walk about half a block to reach the coffee shop, finally spotting it across the street from a nearby Deli. Neal looked excited, his pace quickening as he looked quickly both ways and started across. Peter took his time, waiting as a bicycle messenger zoomed between him and Neal causing him to stop short. Neal turned half-way across and shouted.
"Hurry up slow poke! Last one in pays!" His blue eyes were twinkling, the agent hurrying to catch up when he saw it. His mind went into overdrive as he pushed himself forward, sprinting with everything he had towards the consultant. Neal had already turned half-way around, his attention on the coffee shop again when Peter shoved him hard towards a parked car. He heard a small grunt of complaint from the con before the sickening crunch and pain as something smashed into him.
Peter didn't feel anything, his mind in a kind of nowhere place as he detached from the situation and watched himself roll over the hood, bounce off and hit the asphalt. He saw the scene move in slow-motion as if he could turn it back with a remote and start it over again. Neal turned, his mouth gaping in a silent scream, all sound apparently drowned by the weird bubble of time Peter was trapped in.
He could just make out the younger man calling his name and faceless masses stopping to see as the car sped up and quickly left the scene of the accident. He found himself looking to identify the occupants of the car but the windows were tinted so he looked for plates but they were blank. Agent mode was in full swing as he took down make and model of the car and tried to get a hold of himself long enough to keep it all in his head. As the car left the scene and disappeared around a corner, everything started to move faster and he found himself hearing sounds again but now he was looking up. He felt confusion, eyes staring upward at someone who was out of focus.
"Peter! Peter!" Someone was holding him, shaking him as they trembled and then everything went black.
Neal was holding the limp form of Peter Burke in his lap as he sat on the side of the street, warm tears falling from his eyes. People approached him but he shrugged them off as he held the agent close to him, a phone pressed to his ear.
"9-1-1 what is your emergency?"
He heard the crisp yet polite tone of the operator as he held the phone in his blood soaked hands. There was blood all over him as he held his friend close, resting the agent's head on his lap.
"9-1-1, what is your emergency? Hello? Is anyone there?"
He couldn't speak, someone gently taking the phone from him and he looked up. Diana stood there, crouching beside him as she pushed the phone to her ear and started to speak.
"There was a hit and run. My boss is badly hurt. We need an ambulance over here stat! He's a federal agent." She kept her tone even and calm despite her own pale glance downward at her superior. Neal started to take off his jacket, using it to wrap the agent's head as he tried to stop the bleeding. His eyes were red and watery, a sniffling sound coming from his nose as he tried not to cry but couldn't help himself.
"Peter..." He murmured sadly, doing what he could to make his friend and partner comfortable. Diana put a gentle hand on his shoulder as she hung up the phone and handed it back. Suddenly he had a thought, looking up at the agent with a tragic look of horror. Elizabeth! She didn't know. Diana gave him a curious glance before realizing what it was he was thinking.
"I'll call. Just stay with him. Talk to him." She patted him on the shoulder again and walked a few feet away. He watched her a moment before his eyes moved back to the agent. He checked for a pulse again and continued to feel a slow but steady beat. Neal could see the slight rise and fall of his friend's chest which meant he was breathing although a bit shallowly he could tell when he listened.
The agent had pushed him out of the way and saved his life. Why? What had possessed him when he had Elizabeth? He held onto the agent gently, one hand holding Peter's limp hand in his own. Diana crouched down beside him again.
"Jones is going to pick up El and tell her what's going on but I told him to wait till we get Peter to the hospital. I also contacted Hughes but he's in a meeting so I had to leave a message." She looked unsettled by the last part as did Neal. Sirens drew their attention as they looked up to see a few cops show up finally, two holding back traffic and onlookers while another walked up to them and crouched beside them.
"What happened?" The officer held up his badge, Diana doing the same and he nodded. He looked at Neal but the young man wasn't very responsive, his attention on his injured friend. Diana stood up with the officer and took him aside talking to him. Neal was only just aware of what was said. The officer nodded, moving aside as they saw more lights and sirens, the ambulance finally there. Neal felt a hand on his shoulder again.
"Caffrey, the paramedics are here."
The car zoomed past as they heard the crunch of a body hit the hood and roll off. They saw the horrified look of a man staring down at someone on the street as they quickly turned off the main street and vanished. One man pushed a cell to their ear.
A voice spoke coldly as the person nodded.
"We did as you told us but something happened."
There was silence before the voice spoke again.
"Tell me he's dead. That's what I want to hear."
The voice was now menacing if not angry. The man on the phone started to gulp, the other occupants looking a bit nervously at him.
"Someone... pushed him out of the way." The man's voice was full of terror as he waited for a reply. There was another moment of silence before the cold angry voice spoke yet again.
"So he's alive. Finish the job."
The voice was even colder now but the man in the car continued despite his fear. He had to say what happened.
"We... hit someone else." The man heard a loud frustrated intake of breath before an answer came.
"I don't care. I just want HIM dead."
The man in the car nodded, afraid of saying more but knowing he must.
"Sir... We hit his keeper. The Federal agent." The man cringed waiting, all the men in the car looking nervous as he finished speaking.
There was silence again and then a sigh of some kind on the other side.
"Idiot! He'll be under watch now by the others. Get back here at once!"
Neal paced the hospital waiting room, bothering every nurse or doctor he saw for information about Peter. Diana was with him, having given him a ride to the hospital. The paramedics had deemed Peter's condition too critical to have anyone in the ambulance but staff. It was all Neal could do not to hit someone when he heard that. Diana had taken him aside after finding out which hospital they were taking the agent to. She tried her best to calm Neal down but he was too upset about what happened to relax. Four hours went by and he was still in the same bloody clothes although his jacket had disappeared with Peter, since he had used it to wrap the agent's head wound.
"Neal, relax! Jones is bringing El in a few minutes. You need to get cleaned up. When they have news about Peter, they will tell us. Badgering them won't help anything." She was trying to be calm but he was starting to get on her nerves even though she felt very much the same way. Neal just glared at her with icy blue eyes as he continued to nervously pace the floor of the waiting room. Jones finally showed up with Mrs. Burke, Elizabeth looking pale and terrified of what she was going to see. Neal wasn't sure how to approach her, Peter's blood on his clothes still. He felt self-conscious.
"Neal?" He heard her voice call to him but he didn't want to turn around. He was afraid of her reaction and his own. He was the reason Peter was hurt. He felt her hand gently grasp his shoulder.
"Neal... tell me what happened." She was begging him but he was afraid to face her. Elizabeth moved so that they were mostly face to face but his eyes remained averted. It didn't matter when he heard the gasp and looked to see her staring at his blood soaked clothing. He crossed his arms trying to hide the stains but she just grasped his hands in hers.
"Oh, Neal..." She gasped, looking at him with pity and something else. He had been the last person with Peter before he was hurt. He flushed, unable to deal with his emotions.
"Neal... talk to me. Please." She was begging him but he had no words. He was angry at what happened. He was anxious to know how his friend was and wanting to lash out at the world for this injustice. He was a con and he was alive and well while an honest, law-abiding man lay dying somewhere in the hospital. He felt something warm and wet roll down his cheeks as he moved away and sat on a nearby chair. He didn't mean to be cold but he couldn't deal with this.
He watched Elizabeth staring at him, his body twisted enough in the chair to only get a vague side-long glance of her. He felt too much guilt to speak. He heard Diana talking to Elizabeth, telling her what had happened and what the situation was. He heard someone crying but he didn't turn. He couldn't or he would break down. Someone touched his shoulder and he jumped, turning to see Diana there.
"What's wrong with you? I know you're hurting... we're all hurting but you can't ignore us!" She hissed at him but he just stared up at her and glared, his feelings of guilt making him angry at everything. He stood up, the agent moving back with a cautious glance at him as if he might strike her. He turned his angry look at Jones and El before he stormed out of the waiting room and ran down the hallway. He thought he heard someone calling but he didn't stop to see who. He just ran till he found a spot and leaned against the wall. He was tired, exhausted and weary, sliding down to the floor and curling up into a ball in the corridor. His eyes shut and he passed into a light but restless sleep.
Neal dreamed of the accident, seeing when he had turned to good-naturedly tease his agent friend at being slow to cross the street. Peter had mockingly glared at him as a bike messenger cut him off before he started forward. Neal had started to turn by then, making his way towards the coffee shop just a few yards away now. He thought he saw other agents from their division inside, his attention taken from the road and his friend for just a moment. It was then he heard the quick footsteps behind him and felt the hard push forward, a hand firmly touching his back as he was flung off balance towards a parked car. He hit the fender, turning to see who had pushed him when he heard the loud crunch. His eyes looked to see Peter flung up onto the hood of a speeding car, rolling up and over the top and then down hard at Neal's feet. There was a sickening thud as the agent hit the asphalt and Neal screamed. His voice called to Peter to wake up as he fell to his knees beside the fallen man and tried to rouse him, blood soaking his hands as he did so.
He was screaming his friend's name in horror, his body trembling.
He was murmuring in his sleep, twitching when he felt someone gently touch his shoulder.
"Hey... Sir... Wake up. Sir?"
Neal slowly opened his eyes and looked up to see a nurse crouched beside him looking worried. He scooted away, but she stayed, looking at him worriedly.
"Are you hurt?" She was looking at him with concern and then he remembered his clothes were still covered with blood. Peter's blood.
"Sir, are you ok?" She reached for a cell phone at her side when he saw another figure come up behind her and gently touch her arm.
"He's with me. We were waiting for news about my husband. Neal..." Elizabeth Burke stood there looking as strong as she could but for red rimmed eyes and a pale face. The nurse nodded but stayed as if uncertain what to do.
"Is he hurt? His clothes are covered in blood." The nurse was still holding her cell but Elizabeth shook her head.
"No... it's..." She paused unable to speak a moment before she continued.
"He was with my husband. It's not his blood. Neal..." She was calling him again, holding out a hand for him to grab. The young man took it reluctantly as he stood and averted his eyes from both women. Elizabeth excused them both and led Neal back towards the waiting room. They bumped into Diana along the way but they all remained quiet as they reentered the waiting area and Jones looked up. He had remained behind in case someone had news on Peter.
"You found him!" Jones said, everyone a bit on edge if not quiet. It had been a long day since the accident with all of them waiting to hear what was going on with Peter. Neal slumped into a chair, Elizabeth sitting beside him her hand entwined in his still. She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight, Neal just sitting there till he finally hugged her back, feeling one of her hands brushing his hair.
"I'm sorry... It's all my fault. I wasn't... paying attention." He said as he thought back to how he had turned in the road to look at Peter, his attention on teasing his friend. He felt a hand grasp his chin and turn his face till he was looking at Elizabeth. Her eyes were runny with tears.
"No... Diana told me she saw what happened." She paused, moving her hands back to herself as she wiped at her eyes and nose. Neal stood up and grabbed a box of tissues from a nearby table before coming back, handing it to her. She nodded a thank you.
"Diana saw? I wondered how she showed up so fast. She must have been at the coffee shop." His mind was running through what happened despite the conversation, returning when she spoke.
"She said the car came out of nowhere but it was pointed at you till Pe..." El choked on her husband's name and started crying in earnest, Neal finally having enough strength to take her in his arms now and comfort her. She buried her face in his shoulder and wept as he felt a few stray tears escape the dam he tried to hold up. He didn't want to cry but he felt he had to.
"He pushed me out of the way. I don't know why." His voice cracked and she looked up at him with a kind of icy glare.
"Don't say that, Neal! You know why!" She seemed angry, upset at his words and he cringed as if being chided by a parent. He felt a flush to his cheeks as he saw her manner soften and her hand brush a tear from his cheek.
"He'll be ok, Neal. Peter..." She stopped as footsteps approached and a doctor in scrubs appeared. The man's expression looked grim but hopeful as they glanced over at him. Diana was already approaching him as El tried to wipe at her face and nose. Neal felt a chill wash over him hoping the news would be good.
"I'm looking for the family of Agent Peter Burke?" The doctor was looking between the four figures, Diana talking quietly as she made a motion towards Elizabeth and Neal. The doctor nodded and walked forward as he took a seat across from them.
"Mrs. Burke I presume?" He was reaching out for her hand, Neal putting a protective arm around her. El nodded, her body tense as she waited for what the doctor had to say.
"We just got out of the operating room. Your husband is stable but he sustain quite a few injuries." He paused as she held a hand to her mouth and nodded, stifling a few cries as Neal held her but then nodded for the doctor to continue. Elizabeth was being stronger than any person should have to be under the circumstances. The doctor held one of her hands in his.
"We... lost him a couple of times before we were able to get him stabilized but he seems to be doing better now. We have him in ICU on a respirator. He lost quite a bit of blood from the head trauma and broken ribs. One lung was punctured but we have it fixed and it seems to be holding. Until he wakes up we won't know the extent of the head injury. You can go see him. I'll have a nurse take you there." The doctor squeezed her hand in his as gently as he could, the look on his face speaking more than any words could. Neal felt sick all over again, getting up and making his way to a wastepaper basket to throw up. Someone was beside him gently rubbing his back and helping him to stay upright.
"Neal... are you ok?" It was Elizabeth, her concern for him making the guilt that much more sickening. He was too tired to shrug her off and let her help him back to a chair where she offered him a tissue and he wiped his mouth. The doctor was watching them as he talked on a nearby phone.
"The nurse should be here shortly to take you to your husband." He nodded at them before leaving the waiting area. Neal slumped in his chair, stomach churning the more he thought about what the doctor had said. He heard a sniffling from beside him and saw Elizabeth trying to her best not to cry. For a moment he realized how selfish he was being and sat up despite his discomfort and held her, letting her lean on his shoulder and cry.
Neal sat outside in the hallway as Elizabeth went into ICU and sat with Peter. The agent was barely visible from outside the glass room with all the machines and monitors surrounding him. Neal didn't want to look, his stomach still threatening to act up on him again as he sat there. He had noted a men's room on the way up as they neared, uncertain of how he would feel. Diana and Jones were with him, Jones sitting on the edge of a chair while Diana stood and leaned against the wall. Neal closed his eyes trying to think how things could have been different but nothing changed. He kept seeing the car hit Peter. He shivered, wrapping his arms around himself and slumping back into the chair as if he could meld with it.
He opened his eyes to see Elizabeth sitting beside him in the next chair. She was looking at him curiously. Neal just stared back uncertain what to do but knowing what she wanted without having to hear her say it.
"I'll go with you. Ok?" She stood and held out her hand, Neal taking it and standing up as she lead him towards the glass room. Diana was in there with Jones, both agents looking up and leaving as El and Neal came inside. El pushed him into the chair, walking around the other end and gently kissing her husband on the forehead.
"Neal's here, Peter. Be nice." She hugged him as gently as she could before leaving them alone. Neal felt a kind of panic come over him unable to deal with seeing his friend so fragile looking. He was going to get up when he heard a low moan. Neal paused, looking at Peter. The agent didn't move but his eyes were fluttering slightly.
"Peter?" Neal wasn't sure what to think as he heard another moan and peered outside at the agents and Elizabeth. Maybe Peter was in pain? He reached across for the nurse call when he saw Peter's eyes flash open. Brown eyes stared up at him without seeing it seemed then closed just as suddenly. Neal froze, uncertain what had just happened when the monitors started to alarm. He quickly went for the nurse call, Elizabeth and the two agents coming in.
"Neal, what happened?" El looked at him but he was pale and confused looking.
"I... heard a moan and was going to page the nurse when... his eyes opened a moment then closed and this." He looked frightened, everyone turning as they heard noise. The doctor from earlier and a few nurses were coming down the hallway. Diana and Jones left the ICU to let them in as Neal and El moved aside.
"Mrs. Burke... What happened?" He was looking at her and Neal who still had bloody clothes on. She looked at the con then the doctor.
"He made a sound then opened his eyes while my husband's partner was here. Then everything went crazy. Is he ok?" She sounded terrified but the doctor just did what he could to check why the alarms were going off, as he checked the respirator and other attached monitors. Both were soon politely ushered out of the room as they tried to figure out what had set off the alarms. Neal sat with El in the hallway, Diana excusing herself for the evening as she put her cellphone away. Christie had called so she needed to go but would be back later. Jones had gotten a message that Hughes would arrive soon. He had only just gotten the message about Peter being in the hospital.
Everyone looked up as the doors to the ICU opened and the nurses and doctor flooded out. They didn't look upset, the doctor actually relieved. Neal was up first as he walked over to the doctor.
"Is he..." Neal paused as the doctor smiled and patted him on the shoulder, his eyes looking the younger man up and down.
"He's fine. Not sure why the alarm went off but he seems to be good. Maybe his trying to wake up caused a spike in his pulse and set off the monitors. Now... why don't you go home and get cleaned up." The doctor gave a knowing look to them all, Elizabeth moving over to Neal and nodding.
"Neal... go home and wash up and rest. I'll call you if anything changes." She squeezed his arm gently as the doctor excused himself. Jones stretched and yawned but looked like he wanted to stay despite the long wait.
"I'm going to wait for Hughes and then leave." The agent walked over and patted Neal on the shoulder, the consultant nodding as his eyes went back towards the form of his friend in ICU. Reluctantly he said his good-byes and left the hospital, hailing a cab outside. The doctor had a nurse meet him before he left, giving him a white lab coat to wear so he could hide his bloody clothes. Neal wrapped the coat around himself as he slipped into the cab and leaned back in the seat. His cheek lay against the glass of the window, his blue eyes staring out into the evening but seeing nothing. His mind was still remembering the way Peter had looked when had tried to wake up and he shivered.
Time seemed to pass in weird intervals, the cab suddenly stopping as he realized he was finally home. Neal paid the cabbie and sprinted cautiously across the street to June's. He was just about to unlock the door when June opened the door.
"Neal?" She was looking at him curiously, noticing the white lab coat and his disheveled appearance. He didn't want to say anything as he slipped inside and she closed and locked the door behind him.
"Neal... what's wrong? I thought you were going to be here sooner. Mozzie..." She didn't get to finish as he interrupted her.
"Mozzie's still here?" He asked, pausing and turning around. She nodded and he sighed having forgotten he had promised to go out with his friend. He shuffled tiredly as he turned back and started up the stairs, June following up till the banister.
"Neal... tell me what's wrong." She was looking up at him as he stopped his trudging climb up the stairs. He was exhausted and tired, weary from everything.
"I will..." He simply said as he continued up the stairs and into his room. The door was open and he closed it, leaning back against the wooden frame and sighing aloud.
The voice broke through his exhaustion but he didn't want to respond as he slipped off his shoes by the door and started to walk around to his bed. Mozzie was sitting on the couch, a glass of wine in his hand. He looked and sounded a bit sloshed although he had only said two words. Neal just ignored his guest while he slowly removed the white lab coat and started to remove his shirt.
"Whoa, Neal. I don't need a strip tease." The little guy stood up and started to walk out of the room when he saw the shirt on the floor and stopped.
"Neal, why is there blood on your shirt?" Mozzie sounded a bit nervous, Neal remaining silent despite everything. He pulled his pants off till he was just in his boxers. He went to the wardrobe grabbing a pair of sleep pants and a tee along with his robe.
"Neal... answer me!" Mozzie was next to him now, no longer uncomfortable with the younger man's partial nudity as his concern took over. Neal just shrugged him off.
"Not now... let me clean up and I'll tell you." Neal's tone was tired more than angry as he trudged over to the bathroom in this boxers and closed the door locking it. He hung the robe by the shower as he ignored his face in the mirror and stripped down his last bit of clothing and turned on the water. The water was almost scalding, burning at his skin but it felt good as he stood there and tried to relax and forget if only for a moment. He closed his eyes and shuddered as he saw Peter's bloody face there.
It was all he could do not to slide to the floor and cry but he had to let it out somehow as tears escaped his eyes as he stood in the shower. 20 minutes later he exited the shower and dried off, pulling on the robe and staring at himself in the mirror. His face was pale, cheeks sunken in as he looked at a shadow of a man. Neal did what he could to fix his hair to some semblance of style before he left the bathroom and crossed the room. Mozzie was gone and his blood stained clothes were too. He didn't care as he pulled on clean boxers, his pajama pants and tee. There was a knock on the door a few minutes later as he headed over and opened it. June stood there.
"Neal, you need to let me know what's wrong... Now." Her tone was firm and he waved her in, his eyes averted as he walked over to the couch and plopped down. He heard the door shut and June's heels across the wooden floor as she came to sit beside him. She grasped his hand in hers and made him look at her.
"Now... what's wrong? What happened?" She looked upset and worried, one hand brushing hair from his face as he tried to speak and not cry.
"Peter." He stopped, his throat tightening but he had to let her know. He had to talk. June made him look at her again, her hand gently grasping his chin.
"What happened, Neal. Tell me." She put her arm around him and he finally broke down and told her.
"He's in the hospital! He pushed him out of the way and... now he's in ICU because of me!" He stood up and moved away but she just stood and hugged him.
"Neal... it's not your fault. I'm so sorry." She hugged him tightly and he let her, his head leaning on her shoulder as he started to cry. June patted him gently on the back.
"It's ok, Neal... just let it out. I'm sure he'll be ok. Peter's a strong person." She smiled at him as he looked up and sniffled.
"But I should have been hit by that car... not him." Neal sniffed, wiping at his nose and eyes. June waggled a finger at him.
"Don't think like that, Neal. He saved you for a reason. Peter is your friend, you know that." She was firm as she spoke and he nodded back as he realized she was telling him true. Peter cared enough to push him out of the way and risk his own life. It didn't make him feel any less guilty. He looked around curiously.
"Did Mozzie leave? I was going to apologize." His voice was a bit off, his head feeling light if not fuzzy. June seemed to notice his reaction and shook her head.
"No, he's downstairs. He brought your clothes down and put them in the washer. He seemed a bit worried which is why I came up here." Her voice was motherly as she gently brushed his hair and he nodded vaguely at her, eyes closing. His body felt incredibly exhausted suddenly as he leaned over and curled up with he head on the armrest of the sofa. He felt June stand up and something warm draped over him.
"Just rest, Neal. I'll come back later with something warm for you to drink."
Author's Note: This was a story idea given to me by GeorgiaMomma. 2 Chapters for the holidays. :D