(Chapter 6)

Neal woke up, thinking he'd felt someone nearby. He had fallen asleep on the couch at some point uncertain when as he noticed the light scent of a familiar perfume fill the room then fade almost immediately. It seemed to inspire him as he moved back over to the easel, put on a fresh canvas and started to paint again. When he was finished some time later he marveled at the portrait of Elizabeth Burke, hair braided and wearing a lovely green dress. He was thinking of a fairly recent time when had posed as Peter. It had felt nice to have someone who was his own if only for a little while. He gazed at the full portrait along with background that had sprung onto the canvas and filled it with life. He could almost hear her voice as he imagined the sparkle in her blue eyes.

The young man sighed, feeling trapped in this golden cage he'd always liked. He glanced down at his anklet but it was offline, not that it mattered when he was trapped in his apartment. He tried the main door again but it refused to budge although the knob did turn a bit. He sighed again knowing it was useless to hope he'd get out, remembering how he had tried to pop the pins out of the hinges and they'd just regenerated. Whatever nightmare this was, it was pleasant on the surface but annoyingly frustrating to his usually calm self. He grew angry, throwing a glass across the room and then some other items before finally sitting down on the couch and curling up once more.

No matter what he did or what he broke, when he turned back to look at the item it was in its original spot, neatly piled, stacked or hung and unbroken. The fact nothing changed here bothered him most of all. If this was heaven it was far from it. If this was hell... it was far more insidious.

He heard something outside the French doors, watching a pigeon land on the terrace and walk around. Neal found himself at the doors immediately, pulling the curtain aside and pulling the door... open. The pigeon walked awkwardly towards him as he caught it, holding it in his hands. This was definitely something different as he noticed a note on its leg and untied it. He opened up the small piece of paper and saw a message that made his eyes widen.

It was a very brief feeling but he found himself looking down at someone, their face turned from him and leaning over to kiss someone who lay still on a bed. It was just a flash as he saw the figure leave the room and his eyes moved to the person on the bed. Their face and eye lids twitched every so slightly, hand moving a moment then they were still again and he found himself back with the pigeon in his room at June's. Neal felt dizzy, his hand releasing the bird as it flew away into the fog that surrounded him. He tentatively moved out onto the terrace, moving towards the edge but feeling a kind of trepidation as his first inclination was to run back into his apartment. He continued forward, seeing the fog and nothing else as he peered over the building's wall. There was a soft breeze regardless and he thought he heard some faint city noise before he walked back to the wrought iron table, sat down and just listened.


At home, Peter finished eating the last of his mushu pork, his appetite a bit better than it had been. Elizabeth was reading through a client file and picking at her broccoli beef when she looked up to see him staring at nothing.

"Peter, honey..."

He blinked and turned to her with a soft smile although she could still see he was upset Neal wasn't awake. They were considering Mozzie's intervention idea although people had been going to visit Neal on their own once he'd been put into a private room. Diana and Jones had gone as had Reese. June had gone to visit a few times to take clothes and to make sure he was doing ok. It broke her heart to see the young man so quiet and still, El promising to visit with her soon as possible. It had been a crazy month for both her business and everything that had happened with Neal and Peter with that last case.

"Was just thinking. I keep wondering, if he is still with us what he's seeing or doing. I hope he's at least having a good dream if nothing else."

Peter didn't seem his usual roll with the punches kind of self and it worried her. If Neal didn't wake up soon or ever for that matter... She couldn't think of it, but it would devastate Peter's world more than it did that Neal was unconscious and hurt. The two men had become more than just co-workers and she had been happy to meet the curious young man who showed up on her doorstep one day to ask for her husband. At first she had just been flustered at his handsomeness and charm then curious and fascinated to know this was the man her husband had chased for so many years. Neal had been so different than her idea of a typical criminal besides the fact he was young and good looking. She noticed his gentleness immediately and never felt threatened by him or intimidated. He had protected her numerous times from danger as well as Peter and this last time was no exception. She hoped he would wake up soon from wherever he was and rejoin them.

"I'm sure he's have a great dream. Probably why he doesn't wake up. Mozzie may be right about his hiding away."

She took another bite of her food as Peter looked at her with a nod and that soft smile still on his face. His eyes expressed other thoughts but he was quiet and they went back to their lunch.


Neal found it relaxing the first few times to go out onto the terrace and feel the soft breeze on his face, whipping at his hair sometimes and to hear he thought, the sounds of the city he couldn't see. The fog remained without even a hint of building or anything he knew surrounded June's home. The pigeon never returned which bothered him because he had been happy to receive a message brief as it had been. He grew fidgety again and started to paint more intricate combinations on the canvas and paper he still had (which was the only thing that never seemed to end along with food and wine.) He soon had some full sized versions of everyone he knew from Elizabeth to Peter. He moved them around the space and it made him feel less alone. He still wasn't quite certain what to think of this place. He knew it was possibly a figment of his imagination but he strayed from that thought to keep from going nuts. This was all he had and he wasn't going to give it up any time soon.

The sun never set nor rose and it was always gray and foggy outside so he wasn't sure how much time had passed since waking up there. He made tick marks on a calendar but realized each time the marks would vanish so he quit trying. Here time seemed to stand still and nothing changed. He only ate because he knew he needed to and the wine, it was just to make him feel better, imaginary as it was. He never could get drunk on it but it made him feel better thinking it could happen. He would just have to sit it out for now until something changed again. It was all he could do.

He was sitting out on the terrace, wind lazily whipping at his hair, eyes closed as he relaxed. He thought he heard a voice in the background.

Are you certain about this? I know I owe you but he's FBI!

Neal's face twisted slightly as he listened to the man speaking. He didn't recognize the voice as anyone he knew.

I've already kept him comatose this long. They're going to get suspicious at some point. You're going to prison as it is. Why kill him?

He listened, his face tight as he did so, eyes shut tightly as he continued to listen to the man speaking.

Fine. Just don't... you'll guarantee you won't hurt my wife and daughter? I've already done more than what you wanted to keep them safe.

The voice paused and seemed to be listening to someone else then answered back.

This is the last thing I do for you. Don't ever call me again!

He heard a beep like a cell phone and it made him wake up, opening his eyes and looking around the fog surrounded terrace. He heard a sound of flapping wings and turned to see a pigeon, the same one land on the table beside him. He caught it easily, noting it had a new piece of paper tied to it's leg as he removed it and let the bird go. He unrolled the small note and opened it up.


He stared at the letters uncertain what they meant but he wasted no time in working on them as he went for a pen and paper and started to try and decipher the code.


Peter had an odd dream. It was a couple of days after the initial talk with Dr. Andres about Neal and the subject of the ex-con's power of attorney. Mozzie was still looking into Neal's possessions that he knew of to see if he might have created a will or some other document to say what to do in case of his death. Nobody wanted to think about it as Peter prepared to go back to work soon. Reese had given him some more time off but he would have to go back to the Bureau soon. His bruises were starting to fade, his aches and pains too and the knot on his head had finally shrunk down to almost nothing.

The agent thrashed in his dream, face tight as he seemed to be listening to or seeing something he wasn't happy about.

Peter found himself standing in front of June's home. The door was open and he walked right in. It felt odd not to ask her permission but the house seemed to be dark and empty, his feet leading him inside to the foyer and immediately up the stairs. He kept thinking about when he had fallen down those stairs as he mechanically walked up each step, the feeling of something dreadful waiting for him up top. Neal wasn't here. He couldn't be. It was a dream plain and simple but there was more to it as he approached the top step and found himself before a familiar door. He reached up to knock and the door creaked open before he could touch it. There was a cold shiver that ran down his spine as he quietly pushed the door open a little wider and peered within.


His voice sounded too loud in the empty space, no sign the young man was around as he explored the empty room. He found some paintings he'd never seen before that appeared to be of everyone Neal knew including Peter and Elizabeth. He stared at the one of his wife and was fascinated by the accuracy and beauty of it. Neal had definitely caught his wife's good looks and soft expression in the portrait. He was about to move closer to take a better look when he heard it.

Peter? How...

He turned to see Neal sitting out on the terrace, pen and paper in hand as he seemed to be working on something. The young man looked surprised by his presence as Peter moved to join him but found the doors shut to him suddenly. He pulled on the handle for the French doors but they wouldn't budge.


The young man was on the other side staring through to him, clear as day. Their eyes met and Peter saw a kind of fear in those deep blue eyes. He didn't understand what was going on as he started to pound on the glass hoping to break it but without success. Neal held up a hand for him to wait, coming back after a moment. He held up the note with the odd letters on it.

It's a code I think. Help me solve it.

Peter glanced at the odd array of letters although minimal and nodded as he quickly wrote them down in a notepad he always carried, pushing it back into his pocket.

Are you ok?

Neal nodded making a motion around.

I can't leave. I only just got out to the terrace recently. I think someone's keeping me here, Peter. I heard someone talking. They were afraid.

He was about to say more when everything went still, Neal's lips moving but he couldn't hear what the young man was saying. Peter tried to listen but everything had gone silent, the room fading away as he suddenly found himself awake and staring up at the dark bedroom ceiling.

"Peter... are you ok?"

He turned to see El looking at him in the darkness of their room. She was just a silhouette in the night but her voice soothed him.

"I'm not sure. Was I talking in my sleep?"

She nodded her head and he sat up, turning on a light as she sat up with him.

"You were talking to Neal. You said his name a few times."

He nodded at her words when he remembered the note he had written in the dream. The paper Neal had showed him with the odd letters. He grabbed a small note pad by the bedside and quickly wrote them down as El glanced over his shoulder.

"I... I was at June's I went inside and up the stairs and Neal's room was empty. I found a bunch of portraits of all of us. There was a particularly beautiful one of you..."

She smiled, hugging him close as they cuddled and he continued to tell her the dream.

"I was going to get closer to see it when I saw him. Neal was outside on the terrace working on something. He seemed surprised I was there but relieved. I moved to join him and the doors closed, blocking my exit. I could see him clear as day on the other side. He looked so afraid and lonely I wanted to break the doors down but they wouldn't budge. He showed me a note and then I woke up before he could tell me anything else. I keep thinking this means something, I just don't know what I'm missing though."

She nestled close to him as he tried to sort out the dream.

"You're working on ways to bring him back... and you miss him. I miss him too, Peter."

She kissed him and he reciprocated, eyes turning slightly to see the note on the nightstand before he turned out the light and they curled up together to go back to sleep. His mind was trying to puzzle out the dream and why it had felt so real. He was missing something, Peter knew that as he gave a little yawn and quickly fell back to sleep.


At breakfast, Peter sat at the dining table gnawing on a piece of toast while a pad and paper sat beside him. He was doing everything he could to figure out the code but it wasn't making any sense.

"Honey, visiting hours start soon. You should go visit Neal. I have a few things to do here with my next event but I'll join you in about an hour."

Peter looked up at his wife as she walked by. They hugged, El planting a kiss on his cheek as she sat near him. She had a large folder in her hands and a cup of coffee.

"What kind of event is this one? That seems like a lot for just one person."

El shrugged, taking a sip of her coffee.

"Wedding. Double wedding actually. Two couples who have been friends and want to renew their vows together. I think it's sweet."

She was smiling as she grabbed some toast and nibbled on a piece, reading the files.

"Does sound nice."

He started to think about Neal and the look on his face when he visited after the last big assignment. He'd seemed sadder visiting with them after that. Peter knew he was thinking about Kate and what could have been and this double wedding event reminded Peter of how the young man had been so much lonelier lately. He finished another piece of toast, gulped down the coffee and stood.

"I'm going to head for the hospital. I'll see you in about an hour, hon."

He leaned over to hug and kiss his wife on the lips, both smiling as he left their home.


At the hospital Peter felt a kind of depression hit him. He wasn't sad about visiting his friend but knowing he might never wake up... Peter pushed the thought aside as he entered the hospital lobby and moved quickly down the corridors towards his friend's room. Maybe he would wake up today. He could only hope as he made his way to the door and opened it up.

He wasn't sure what he was seeing as he saw Dr. Andres turn to look at him guiltily as he entered the room. Something felt wrong as he moved forward only to have a strong arm wrap around him, holding him in place as an even larger hand covered his mouth. He struggled but the man holding him was stronger as the doctor looked at them both with fear.

"Mr. Burke..."

Peter saw the frightened look on the doctor's face curious what was going on when he felt the grip on him tighten, the man holding him obviously trying to suffocate him.

"This is the agent Vicconi spoke of? Good... give him the shot, doctor."

Peter struggled but his nose and mouth were covered making it hard to breath as he watched the doctor's uncertain look.

"I can't give this to him. It's poison! This wasn't the deal."

The doctor looked ready to mutiny when he heard the man holding him hiss something threatening.

"Then I guess your wife and daughter will die."

Peter watched the doctor debate the syringe in his hands, one he had been about to inject into Neal's IV. Finally Dr. Andres nodded with an unhappy glance at Peter as the goon pulled his head aside to bear his neck. The agent kept struggling despite it being hard to breath, wincing as the needle broke through his skin and he felt something cold injected into his body. The doctor moved away once the act was finished, a defeated look on his face. Peter wondered what he had been injected with as his body started to go limp, a cold icy feeling spreading from the spot of injection.

"It's a slow acting poison. He won't die right away."

He felt the goon nodding as he dropped Peter to the ground, pulling the agent's arms tightly behind him.

"Hand me something tie him with, doctor."

Peter could just see the doctor comply, moving to a drawer and pulling out some zip ties, gauze and medical tape. The goon took them and Peter felt his arms secured at the elbows, the gauze stuffed into his mouth till it was full and then tape pulled over his lips. He felt another couple of ties pulled around his ankles.

"Now, you finish your job here with him before we go."

Dr. Andres looked reluctant but finally turned, filling a new syringe with the same stuff Peter could feel flowing through his veins. He struggled to stop the doctor but the goon held him firm, squeezing his nose to keep him still as Peter fought for breath.

"Hurry up doctor. You're going to help me with the agent here, tie up all the loose ends before you can see your family again."

The doctor nodded unhappily, injecting the liquid to the IV and turning as he threw the items in the trash. They pulled out a wheelchair, placed Peter in it and covered him with a blanket to hide he was tied up as they left the room.


Neal was beginning to feel the cabin fever hit him hard as he lay there on his bed and stared up at the skylight lazily. There was nothing to see as he turned back to the scattered papers around him trying to figure out the letters and their meaning. It should be easy but it wasn't as he threw the pencil aside and rolled onto his side.


The young man perked up at the sound of his name. He sat up and looked around for the source of it.


He slipped off the bed, walking towards the French doors when he saw Peter standing outside near the wall. The agent turned to look at him, walking towards the interior of the apartment.


He moved to open up the paneled doors when he found they were locked again. Neal pulled on them but he couldn't get them to budge. Peter frowned looking at the locked door then back up at him, brown eyes worried.

Neal, listen to me. Listen very carefully.

The young man nodded, as they both leaned close to the glass.

I think I know what the note says.

Neal nodded, waiting for Peter to tell him when the agent turned around to see something else. Neal couldn't see anything at first then he realized what was wrong. The fog was slowly eating at the scenery, the perimeter of the terrace slowly disappearing as it headed towards them. Peter was trapped as he turned around, a desperate look on his face.

You have to... it's important that you...

Peter words were breaking up as Neal tried to listen, pushing on the door and hoping it would open up as the fog continued to move closer and Peter began to fade away.

You have to... Neal...

The terrace was suddenly gone as was Peter, nothing but fog there as Neal moved backwards from the French doors which were slowly dissolving as was much of the room into that thick grayness. Neal had no where to run, seeing the portraits of his friends started to fade into the mist with only the main door to move towards. Neal was scared. He didn't know what he should do, fear overwhelming him as he reached back and felt the door open. He peered into the hallway, that dark blackness that seemed so much deeper than the fog threatened to swallow him. He moved closer to the door as all but a small portion of his apartment remained, the fog covering it all.

It was now or never as he turned and took that first step into the darkness...

It felt like he was falling and yet there was a sense of weightlessness as well as he finally touched bottom and gave a loud gasp. Neal felt his eyes open and where he expected darkness or the fog he found himself looking around a blurry scene. His eyes showed him a white sterile room with the minimal of decorations. He was laying in an unfamiliar bed as he glanced around and saw IVs and other things poking out of his arm. A mild panic overwhelmed him as he recalled Peter being swallowed up by the fog. Neal pulled the IVs from his arms, removing the monitors and made an attempt to get out of bed. He fell to the linoleum floor with a thud, making an effort to raise himself up. Neal reached up to the nightstand to get some leverage and knocked something off.

Neal pulled the item closer with some effort and saw it was a cell phone. He wasn't sure why but he started dialing a familiar number, pushing the phone to his ear as he lay tiredly on the cool floor.

"Burke Premier Events, Elizabeth speaking..."

Neal didn't know what to say, or if he could. His mind was still confused by everything as he opened his mouth and tried to speak.

"E... l?"

He heard silence on the other side.

"Who is this? Hello?"

Neal tried again, uncertain he could speak again but he had to try.

"El... Ne..."

He heard a gasp on the other end and then an excited Elizabeth talking back to him.

"Neal? You're awake! Where's Peter?"

She sounded happy beyond words but he didn't know where his friend was as he lay there but something told him Peter was in trouble.

"Pe... no... t... her..."

He was gasping for breath now, the effort of trying to speak tiring him out. He slumped on the floor, dropping the phone as he started to pass out. He could hear El in the background talking but everything faded into the gray fog of unconsciousness as he passed out.


Peter was wheeled to an elevator and taken to a dimly lit section of the hospital. He was feeling a bit of discomfort now as the drug or poison as the doctor said took effect although a bit slowly. He mostly felt cold as the drug seemed to lower his body temperature and he shivered in the chair as he was pushed along and they entered two double doors. He was roughly lifted by the goon and placed up on top of a metal slab, eyes looking around to see where he was. On a nearby slab sat another person but they were covered with a cloth and that's when he realized where they were.

"You're going to perform an autopsy on Mr. Burke here. Once you're done, your family will be returned to you."

Dr. Andres looked terrified as he backed away from the man but found a gun pointed at him.

"You'll do this or I call my friends and Vicconi has your family killed. He already gave us our orders. You just need to comply with yours."

The doctor shrank away against a wall, his face pale.

"I never agreed to any of this. You said to keep the other man in a coma that was it. I wasn't told I would have to kill anyone! I can't do this! I won't do this!"

Peter heard the goon cock the gun and move closer to the doctor as he watched the man turn his attention from him.

"Kill him or I kill you and Vicconi's men kill your little girl and wife. Are you willing to go knowing you killed your family?"

The doctor looked horrified as Peter saw the debate in his eyes. It was all the distraction he needed as the agent made one big roll to his feet and rammed the goon. The doctor moved out of the way as the gun went off and Peter knocked the gun man to the ground. The gun went flying across the floor as the goon got back up and quickly kicked Peter in the side. The agent groaned through his gag, the goon lifting him up by the neck and strangling him.

"You Feds are like cockroaches. You should all be stepped on."

The man's grip tightened around his neck as he was raised up high enough that his feet were dangling now. Peter couldn't breath and with the poison in his system it was getting hard to stay conscious. Something moved in the background behind the goon but he couldn't see what as his vision began to tunnel to gray and finally dissolve to black. He thought he heard a loud report just as the last breath left his body and he fell unconscious.


Elizabeth didn't want to hang up so she moved to the phone on the wall and called the hospital. She asked them to check on Neal and to page his doctor. The doctor was not answering his phone so they said they would check on Neal while she waited. She told Neal to hold on as she put him on hold and called Reese. He seemed worried by what she told him and said he would send Jones and Diana to check it out. Once they were finished she went back to Neal but he was no longer responding to her, only a raspy breath on the other end letting her know he was still there.

It wasn't long before she heard voices and footsteps and someone picked up the phone. They didn't answer as she hoped, hanging it up. In and instant, El grabbed her stuff and ran out to hail a cab to go to the hospital herself.


Peter? PETER!

He was calling for his friend in the darkness but unable to find him. Slowly the scenery turned to that of the bottling plant and he realized this was a horrible nightmare. He didn't want to be here.


He ran through the plant looking for his friend when someone gently touched his shoulder and he saw the agent standing behind him.

I'm right here.

It was more than he could stand as he grabbed up the agent in a hug. Peter hugged him gently back and they stood like that a moment before they pulled apart.

I was so afraid I wouldn't see you again. The fog...

Peter held up a hand.

It's ok. I just came to tell you to look after Elizabeth for me.

Neal blinked, a cold feeling washing over him. Why would he take care of El if Peter was ok?

What's wrong, Peter? Why are you asking me to take care of El?

Neal moved closer but Peter was fading away.

The note was very simple, Neal. You know what it says. Just read it...

Peter faded into the background as the bottling plant began to fade as well. Neal found himself trying to remember the letters: A E P W K U







He glanced at them a moment, his eyes opening to glance up into to light blue eyes hovering over him. He knew who this was but for an instant his mind was a blank slate.

"Neal... hey."

Neal... that was his name wasn't it? He was confused, his mind a jumble as he started to fully come to and nodded up at the woman before him.

"El... iza.. beth..."

She smiled at him with a nod as he said it and he felt memories returning to him slowly, surely. She leaned over and kissed his forehead as he felt himself smile up at her.

"They said you're doing better. They're weening you off the drugs the doctor was giving you. It's nice to see you awake again."

She was carefully fluffing his pillows and asking him if he wanted anything. He was thirsty so she got him a cup of water and he had three before he felt better and El seemed satisfied.

"I feel... like... I've been a... sleep... a long... time."

He stretched a bit and winced, his chest still healing where he'd been shot originally. It had healed more or less but it had barely been a month since the incident in question. He saw he was hooked up to all the same monitors and IVs again after he thought he had left his bed.

"You have been. You only woke up briefly but that was a week ago. It was lucky that you did."

She sounded more upbeat than he thought she should be, his memory trying to remind him of something.

"Lu... cky?"

She nodded, hugging him gently. They both turned as the door opened to the room and a familiar figure walked in. Neal's eyes grew wider as he tried to sit up, falling back to the mattress when his body didn't react the way he wanted. El tried to soothe him as the figure came closer and patted him on the arm gently.

"Hey buddy. I guess you're feeling better?"

Neal nodded, his hand reaching up to grasp Peter's as the two men were finally reunited after what seemed forever. Elizabeth decided to excuse herself a moment as she left the room and the two men alone. Peter took her place at the chair and sat. He looked a bit worse for wear with some fading bruises and a tired look about him.

"Everyone's going to be happy to hear you're awake. Jones and Diana have been asking about you. We were wondering when you were going to join us again. Mozzie thought you were hiding."

Peter rolled his eyes as Neal smirked slightly.

"Hid... ing? More like... trap... ped. How about... you?"

Neal had managed to sit himself up a bit more as he talked to his friend. Peter shrugged, a look in his eyes that expressed more than words.

"It's been a long month. You would have been back sooner but Vicconi coerced your doctor into keeping you drugged and comatose. It was dumb luck on my part I came in when it was going on."

The agent ran a hand through his hair nervously, eyes looking around the room a moment before returning to Neal when the young man put a hand on his arm. Peter looked uncomfortable but he continued.

"They had his wife and daughter hostage or he wouldn't have done it. He gave you some kind of anesthetic instead of the poison Vicconi wanted. Knocked me out good for a couple of days before I came to. You pulled out your IVs before it got to you. The nurse found you on the floor because you tried to leave your bed and somehow called El on the doctor's cell."

Neal looked surprised his memory spotty about everything.

"I don't remember any of this. I remember going to the bottling plant but that was the last thing."

Peter blinked back at him.

"Probably best. You did a lot of sleeping. Your new doctor says the rest did your body some good despite the real reasons behind it. They're going to start you on some rehab to get you back in shape. A month asleep isn't good for muscles."

Neal made a face but nodded, a yawn on his face as he started to feel a bit more tired than he'd like. Peter mussed his hair but he didn't mind. He was too tired to mind, happy his friend was here. Something told him that was good enough for now even if he didn't know why.

"Ti... red..."

He felt his eyes close, watching his friend nod and smile.

"Rest Neal. I'll be here when you wake up."

The young man nodded his head as he fell asleep.


Dr. Andres was put on administrative leave since he had been drugging Neal illegally. He had been under duress, the doctor thoroughly apologizing to them both when he had the chance. His daughter and wife had been found and freed after Neal's call to El which had sparked her calling Hughes and sending out their team. Diana and Jones were out there quickly with more agents finding Peter unconscious in the morgue along with a freaked out Dr. Andres and a dead gun man. The physician told them what was going on and they managed to use the cell from the dead goon to find his family and free them. For his cooperation he wasn't arrested but put under protective custody as was his family till after the trial for Vicconi and Gerald. Agents had been left to guard Peter while he recovered from the effects of the anesthetic Dr. Andres had injected and the kick the goon had him. El stayed in the hospital with her husband till he woke up. It had been a pretty nerve wracking time but they still had to wait for Neal to wake up. Once the ex-con was awake, everything was better. Things seemed to calm down and the trial for both Gerald and Vicconi were done which made things even better. Peter left much of what happened out since Neal's memory was spotty at best. If the young man requested the information he'd tell but so far he hadn't.

It was another week before they felt Neal was strong enough to leave the hospital. They put him through a short rehab schedule to get his muscles back up to strength. El and Peter came to give him a hand as did June. Once he was up and hobbling on his own short distances, the doctor allowed him to go home with instructions for stretches and exercises to get back into shape. Peter suspected Neal was faking everyone out as he noticed the tired look beneath the shiny smile he flashed the doctor, nurses and therapist. It faded once they were alone and Peter glanced at his partner curiously. He never mentioned it knowing Neal wanted out of the hospital if nothing else. El was going to be home that first week after he was released so Neal stayed with them. She helped him with his exercises and they walked Satchmo up and down the block till he wasn't hobbling so much and his body seemed to be firming up some, the little bit of sallow color leaving his cheeks. He seemed happier but it was apparent he missed his apartment at June's so Peter took him at the end of the week back to his own place.

"Feels like I never left it."

Neal felt a kind of flash back of having been here while he was out of commission but it didn't make much sense to him. He had this odd urge to look for some new portraits he made but when he didn't find the items where he thought they'd be he saw the look on Peter's face.

"Missing something?"

He shook his head before walking over to the terrace doors and gingerly touching the lock and knob. They opened easily, something he thought they wouldn't do. He shrugged the feeling off as he moved across the Spanish tiled surface and made his way to the wall. The city looked beautiful from here and the view was more than welcomed. It was a hazy day but he could still see far enough to make himself content. Peter had joined him and stood a few feet away.

"I still say it's cappuccino in the clouds up here..."

Neal turned to his friend and smiled as they just stared over the city a moment and then moved back inside as they heard a knock and June showed. She had a small tray of snacks and what smelled like her famous Italian roast. Peter perked up immediately which made Neal grin as they helped her with the tray and sat out on the terrace talking and getting back into the swing of things. He had really missed June and she was happy if not a bit tearful at his return. She kept insisting she hadn't move a thing, Neal hugging her. It was good to be home he thought as she went to answer the phone and left the two men alone.

"Thank you Peter. Mozzie said you came back for me."

The agent blinked.

"You spoke with Mozzie? I didn't realize he had come by and Elizabeth didn't say anything."

He looked a bit embarrassed but Neal grasped his arm and made Peter look at him.

"He says everyone else was ready to give up but you kept looking for me. Said you brought Satchmo and everything."

The agent nodded, his face flushed slightly. He was obviously uncomfortable thinking about what had happened. Neal noticed, patting his friend on the arm, the look between them more than words could say. Peter seemed a bit flustered as he redirected a bit.

"So... did you want to walk down to the park. Exercise and all."

Neal nodded as they both stood, cleaning up some of the food and plates before they headed into the apartment and then downstairs. June watched them with interest, moving over to smile at both of them.

"I guess you're leaving, Peter?"

She seemed disappointed as he nodded.

"Actually we're just taking a walk to the park."

Neal had cut in, his old smile back on his face as if he'd never been away. He had quickly returned to himself despite his long nap and injury. Peter worried about him some but June seemed happy, as he was, that the young man had come back to them.

"Sounds lovely. Mind if I join you?"

They shook their heads as she ran to grab a shawl. They spoke in the meanwhile about this and that, Peter bringing up work when Neal asked about how everyone was.

"Hughes has me on desk duty at the moment but once you're up and about we'll be back on cases. My little search for you got me in trouble although it was more with the higher ups than Hughes."

The agent's face flushed a bit as Neal blinked back and smirked slightly.

"Well it happens to the best of us. We all do something we might regret."

Peter blinked back at him.

"I don't regret what I did."

Neal was surprised or maybe he wasn't to hear that Peter cared. June came and they started on their way. Neal looked down at his anklet a moment, a new one having been put on him after his hospital stay was over. It had seemed such a nuisance before but now...


He looked up to see them waiting for him as he nodded, catching up.

(The End)