Ask Neal how much he remembers and he'll say nothing.
Ask Peter how much he remembers and he'll tell you everything though he doesn't want to talk about it, nor does he want to think about it.
He can tell you on that day Neal was impatient as they walked to a small café after a boring morning going through files. Neal was walking ahead as Peter took his time, enjoying a sunny break in the week long period of thunder and lightning.
Peter remembers the screeching tires as the car veered around the corner and he'll never forget the look on Neal's face when the car hit him. Peter ran to his friend, and he knew it was bad as Neal lay motionless with blood pouring from his nose and mouth.
Neal spent a week in ICU with his skull open as they allowed his brain to heal and waited for the swelling to go down. The doctors refused to give a prognosis, only stating that no two brain injuries were alike.
Peter remembers the first time Neal squeezed his fingers on command and the day his eyes opened. As soon as he was stabilized and his survival no longer in question Neal was moved to a rehabilitation center and his therapy started immediately.
From the beginning they were hard on Neal as he struggled to regain skills we all take for granted. And he was emotional, and he would get upset easily…June and Elizabeth took it in stride and comforted Neal when needed, but Peter would walk away…until one day he entered the room to find Neal crying uncontrollably in Mozzie's arms. Peter figured if the little man could handle it, so could he and he did his best; Peter spent the most time with Neal and he always knew when Neal was getting frustrated and sure enough, the tears would come. The doctors said this was normal and would lessen as time passed, but Neal had to complete the task no matter how long it took.
After two months Neal was allowed to go home and Peter put together a rotation so he was never alone. On those days that Neal wanted to be left alone, there was always a place to sleep in June's mansion.
At three months Neal wanted to go back to work but the doctors felt it was too soon and the stress would do more harm than good. Peter knew he wasn't ready but Neal wouldn't listen to him and after one emotional outburst he agreed to abide by the doctor's decision. The fact that Peter talked to the doctors ahead of time and that it never crossed Neal's mind only solidified Peter's point that Neal wasn't ready yet.
So Neal decided he would only wear suits, even if he couldn't work. Only problem was he couldn't put his tie on and no matter how many times Peter showed him, Neal insisted it was wrong and the morning ended with Peter yelling, Neal crying and both on opposite ends of the apartment…each trying to calm down. Neal had apologized first and asked Peter to call Doug Braden. It took Peter a few minutes to recall that Doug was an agent in the terrorist division and after Peter questioned Neal, the younger man had explained that Doug always wore European suits and he would know how to correctly put on a tie. Peter had to laugh and roll his eyes; only Neal would remember something like that. It took a few phone calls and a final awkward one before Doug agreed to come over.
Peter stood in the background and watched intently as Doug repeatedly and calmly showed Neal how to tie his tie, until something finally clicked and Neal was able to do it himself. It was at that point that something clicked in Peter also and he realized that Neal might never be the same but he was determined that Neal would regain his life, even if things were more difficult.
At work the next day Peter took Doug to lunch to thank him and learned that Doug had a son with Down's syndrome and he learned early on that patience was the only way to teach him.
At four months, Neal was beyond bored and frustrated to the point he started taking walks during the day, and Peter spent most of the day tracking his anklet and calling him, worried that Neal would get lost or get himself in trouble on his own. He talked to Hughes who agreed that Neal could work from home so Peter brought files for Neal to go through. The first day he stayed with Neal and he was pleased to see Neal's mind was still there, though he definitely tired more easily.
At five months, Neal was allowed to go back to work, though on a limited basis. Peter sat in the car and waited because Neal insisted he wanted to get ready on his own and demanded that Peter not come into the house. Peter checked his watch and shook his head. Neal was late but Peter knew he was worried about the first day back.
They had had a long talk the day before on Neal keeping his emotions in check and he knew the younger man was worried that he would lose control and Peter would get angry. Peter finally convinced him that it wasn't about anger, that it was ok for Neal to cry in private and cling if he needed to but it wasn't acceptable in the work place and he would have to learn how to console himself inwardly and not let his composure fall.
Peter checked his watch and decided Neal had two more minutes before he would go in. Just as Peter was turning the car off, the front door opened and Neal walked out, casually heading towards the car, looking impeccable as usual.
"Morning" Peter said as Neal slid in.
"Hey." Neal mumbled before fumbling around with the seat belt.
Neal shrugged as he leaned back and settled his eyes out the window. Peter glanced worriedly at Neal before pulling out into traffic. At the next red light he noticed Neal's thumb twitching. It had started shortly after Neal woke up when he was nervous or upset and it was something Neal couldn't control and the doctors couldn't explain. Peter had taught Neal how to tuck the thumb in to keep it hidden until the twitching had stopped. But he didn't this time and Peter knew this was Neal's way of showing how he felt. Peter reached over and gently grabbed Neal's wrist and massaged the errant thumb eliciting a small sigh from the man beside him.
"Neal" Peter said as he parked the car. "If you start to get upset today tell me you're thirsty and go to the bathroom and I'll come find you and we'll deal with it together. Is that ok?"
Neal nodded though he made no effort to leave the car.
"Neal, you're ready for this and you can do it. It's time to take your life back." Peter got out, walked around and opened the passenger side, and held his hand out. Neal glanced up and smiled weakly before taking the offered hand that hauled him upward.
"Thirsty" Neal mumbled as they entered the building, trying the safe word out.
"Neal." They had taken only two steps out of the elevator before they were mobbed as agents greeted Neal as if he were a long lost friend. Peter felt Neal tense beside him but after a few handshakes and friendly hellos he relaxed and they made their way towards his desk.
"Who did this?" Peter glanced around and then back at Neal's desk, decorated with balloons and a welcome back sign. Diana shrugged as she clearly eyed Jones as the culprit.
"Hope you like cake for breakfast" Diana said as she pointed towards the meeting room. "We have an hour to celebrate before work" she added as the two men glanced at each other.
"Works for me" Peter said, smiling. "Just don't tell Elizabeth" he quietly added to his partner.
"Tell me what?" Peter spun around to see his wife nearing him.
"I'm here for Neal's welcome back party" she answered before Peter could ask.
"Caffrey!" Only one man bellowed like that and they turned to see Hughes walk up.
"Welcome back son." He took Neal's hand and gripped it warmly. "Peter, you have one hour and then business as usual."
"Yes sir. Ok everyone, let's go celebrate." Peter watched the crowd pile in and then turned to his friend who stood nearby.
"You ok?" Peter asked for the second time that morning.
A small smile spread across Neal's face. "Never better" he answered, grinning. "Let's go before the cake is gone." Peter watched him walked away, looking as normal as ever. Peter knew they had trying times ahead of them, but for now, the world was right again.