A White Collar short story:-Poison

Disclaimer:- I don't own White collar, or any of its characters. This story is written as an homage to the brilliant creators of this show in the hope that they won't mind.

Author's note:- apologies to those of you who've been waiting a long time for an update on my other White Collar Story but I haven't written anything in over a year. This is the story that broke my muse back in so I hope that you'll forgive me. An update on all of my other stories will be coming soon. Let me know what you think - J

Ps I'm English so I've only seen season 1 (You will now have to imagine the low growling of frustration coming from me as I typed that!)

pps those who are familiar with a certain 80s cop show about friendship may notice a little nod to S & H here.

Written for Sarah because I owe her.


Peter wasn't sure what made him turn, as far as he was aware there had been nothing to indicate that there was something wrong. At least nothing that he should pick up on, no sound, no interrupted conversation not even a hitch in breathing, or at least no awareness that that was what had alerted him. There was nothing tangible, no visual clues, because Neal was behind him and Poulson, the man he was currently holding at gunpoint, didn't so much as twitch. So there was no reason, except that he knew that there was something wrong, something wrong with Neal. He had to turn, had to divert his focus from Poulson, had to break the rules, break with his training, because Neal. . ."Neal!"

The exclamation got no response from the young consultant, who was barely managing to stay upright, his skin, which only moments earlier had a healthy tan, now looked gray and beads of sweat formed on his forehead, his normally crystal clear blue eyes had clouded in pain.

"Neal," Peter tried again, all thoughts of his prisoner forgotten as he stepped back towards his partner, struggling to figure out what had happened to him in the minutes since he'd last looked at him, he scanned for any obvious injury but there was nothing, nothing but the obvious distress, nothing but the pain.

Peter's eyes moved to wider sweeps as he moved quickly back to his friend; he was looking for any threat, any danger, any reason, but there was still nothing.

Neal tried hard to respond to Peter, tried hard to make sense of the sudden pain that seemed to spasm from every muscle in his body. "Peter I," the next spasm hit and the pain was excruciating, Neal curled his arms protectively around his stomach, trying to ride it out, thought disappeared, the ability to communicate a luxury he no longer possessed, because his whole world shrank to just the pain.

Peter reached Neal just in time to grab him as the younger man's knees buckled. It was awkward because he still held the gun in one hand.


The gun!


Peter turned back toward the man he had just arrested; he had to swing Neal round with him so that he could hold him up and turn the gun back on his prisoner at the same time. "Don't move, Poulson."

"Why Agent Burke, I wouldn't dream of it," Poulson stated his tone smooth and charming and entirely inappropriate.

It was wrong; so wrong and Peter was about to challenge him on it when Neal jerked in his arms, this time there was no stopping his descent to the floor, Neal had lost any strength that he'd had, and with his awkward grip Peter couldn't support him on his own, all he could do was control the fall so that Neal didn't hurt himself as he went down.

Neal let out a sound that was part way between a moan and a yell and curled further in on himself as pain burned through his body. He was barely holding on to consciousness, fighting to make sense of things, fighting to get back because he needed to. . .

Peter settled Neal as gently as he could on his back, pushing his hair back from his eyes. He pulled his own jacket off, slightly awkwardly over his gun hand and folded it under Neal's head, before looking up because there was a small part of him that was trying to drag his attention back to the man he had arrested because there was something. . .

Poulson still hadn't moved, wasn't moving from his spot across the room, whatever he was up to it didn't seem to involve doing anything while Peter was distracted, so Peter ignored the nagging whatever it was because at the moment Neal needed his attention. There was still no sign of what was causing his young friend's pain; He checked again, more closely, feeling along Neal's arms and across his chest, even as he continued to curl away from him. "Neal," he tried repeating, but there was no response, no marks, no injuries, just the clear signs that Neal was in agony. Peter pulled out his cell. He needed an ambulance, he needed back up.

"Your young convict doesn't look at all well. Can I help?" Poulson asked.

Peter paused in the action of dialling he looked up, his eyes narrowing as he met Poulson's gaze and suddenly the nagging voice was screaming at him 'he did this; it was him.' "What did you do to him?" He asked.

"Me, nothing, I have not touched him, nor have I been closer than ten feet to him since you arrived. You know that, you have been with me the whole time."

Peter stood levelling his gun once again at Poulson. "But you know what's causing this; you know what's making him sick."

Poulson gave a slight flicker of a smile. "I know that if you complete that phone-call then he will be dead before the day is out and no one will ever be able to tell you the exact cause."

"Except for you."

"You'll never be able to prove that agent Burke." Poulson allowed himself another small smile.

"I can try," Peter stated.

"Then by all means go ahead. Arrest me for handling stolen property, smuggling, whatever else you have, or think you have, on me. Arrest me for murder if you think you can prove it, but I promise you, you will never know how he died." There was a small nod in Neal's direction on the word he, not that there would have been any doubt who they were talking about, but Poulson was doing everything he could to make this personal, Hell this was personal!

"He's not dead yet," Peter said, unable to keep the concern from his tone, unable to stop the worried glance down to where his partner fought against the pain.

"It's only a matter of time unless. . ."

"Unless what?"

"Unless someone can provide you with an antidote to whatever he has ingested."

'Ingested' Peter didn't need more than the word for his mind to flash back to Neal picking up the porcelain statue, the conversation between Poulson and Caffrey ringing clearly in his head.

"Of course if that was the original sixteenth century piece that was stolen from the Louvre in 1912 then it would have some restoration work done to the young man's hand." Poulson had stated.

Neal had tested it in the only way that porcelain would be tested by an expert, with his teeth, the repair would feel soft compared to the original porcelain which would be hard. Neal had looked at Poulson with a slightly surprised expression. "And that hand has been repaired," he stated

Poulson had put his hand to his mouth. "Oh my, so you mean I could have brought a stolen item?"

Neal had nodded, his expression quizzical as he'd tried to gauge his enemy "And you knew that it was stolen," he stated, sure now of his conclusion.

"My dear Mr Caffrey, I'm sure you're mistaken."

"About that and the ten other items I've seen so far that have been reported missing from galleries across Europe in the last hundred years?" Neal asked, he pointed. "Like the framed pencil drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci stolen from the museum of Science and Technology in Milan, or the alabaster statue reported missing from the Acropolis museum in Athens, or maybe those two paintings," he'd pointed back to the previous room, "stolen from the Tretyakov Art Gallery in Moscow in 1981. Do you want me to go on?" he'd asked not really expecting an answer. "And that's just the items you have on display."

Poulson had paled a little further with each point on Neal's list, looking guiltily at each of the art works; finally he turned to face Neal again. "Well aren't we the clever little thief," he'd stated, all pretense of civility momentarily forgotten, "but you may just live to regret that."

"Is that a threat," Neal had asked, squaring up to Poulson.

Peter hadn't been idle during the exchange he'd already drawn his gun and decided it was time he joined in. "I think at this point I should tell you that you're under arrest and that you have the right to remain silent. . ." Peter had completed the Miranda rights stepping between Neal and Poulson before their mutual staring match got out of hand.

Once he'd finished reminding Poulson of his rights Peter pointed out that they had enough for a warrant to search the rest of his extensive collection based on what Neal had already spotted. Sometimes it was useful having his encyclopaedic knowledge of even obscure pieces of missing art, sure Peter was intelligent and he could learn within certain parameters what he was looking for as each case presented itself, but Neal, he could spend the rest of his life writing pieces about stolen or missing artworks for Wikipedia and still never get all of the knowledge in his head out into cyberspace.

Peter had just been about to see if Poulson wanted to waive his rights to a lawyer and save them all a lot of time and expense by just admitting to what he had when he'd realised that there was something wrong with Neal

Something that Poulson had planned, something Poulson had set up long before they had arrived.

Poulson had, practically asked Neal to put the statue in his mouth and whatever poison he had painted on it. . . . "The statue," Peter said, meeting Poulson's gaze once more.

"Very good Agent Burke, but knowing that won't help you; an analysis of the poison would take too long to be of any use to him." Poulson nodded in Neal's direction again and Peter followed his gaze.

Damn, Neal, if anything he looked even paler now, his skin covered in a thin sheen of sweat, Peter had to do something, trouble was he had no idea what to do to help his friend, the frustration and helplessness made him want to cry, the anger at Poulson made him want to fly across the room and throttle the smug SOB, but instead he dropped back down next to his friend.

It was as if Neal sensed his partner's return before it happened, by the time Peter got down to his level, Neal had opened his eyes and turned his head making several uncoordinated grabs before making contact with Peter's cuff, when he finally got hold of the fabric he tugged on it, pulling Peter's wrist closer then grabbing it and clinging tight, as though the grip would lessen the pain.

"Peter," he managed to grind the word out, because Peter was his one constant in a world that suddenly consisted of nothing else but pain and confusion, but Peter would stop it, Peter would help, if anyone could pull him out of this it would be Peter, if anyone could help explain what was happening to him it was Peter. "What. . ." He managed the second word but it took a lot out of him and his brain couldn't formulate the rest of the question even if he'd had the breath and the energy to say more, another muscle spasm and he was left holding on and riding it out again, but now he had Peter back.

'Back?' had he gone somewhere? No but. . . The short gap when Peter had stood to confront Poulson had been enough in Neal's confused state to make him feel utterly lost and alone. He'd felt Peter's presence leaving his side, the reassuring grip on his shoulder had lessened and then gone leaving him with just the pain, and it was too much, because he couldn't take it, not alone, not without. . . Peter, he'd needed Peter and even if he'd been able to make sense of the fact that Peter was still right next to him, albeit standing, confronting Poulson, but still right there, it wouldn't have been enough because Neal needed Peter, touching him, reassuring him, he needed his friend right there, right now, anything else just wasn't enough because more than a foot away and he couldn't focus, not in direct contact with his skin and he couldn't feel it above the mind numbing gnawing pain. So to him Peter had been gone. . briefly? For hours? Time didn't really have any meaning, all that mattered was that Peter was here now and he didn't want him to go again. His grip on Peter's wrist tightened. "Stay," he barely whispered, "Don't go I. . ." and that was all he managed as the muscles spasmed again.

Peter couldn't bear to watch and simultaneously couldn't look away. He would have hated to see anyone in so much pain, but to see Neal's always expressive face contorted in pain like this to have his friend hanging onto him as though his life depended on it and possibly it did, it was too much and when Neal began to beg him not to leave him. His eyes turned to Poulson even as Neal's grip became bruisingly tight on his wrist once more. "What do you want?" he asked resignedly.

Poulson began to smile but stopped himself as Peter's defeated expression began to darken, No reason to gloat on the Agent's defeat, that kind of thing could be dangerous and Poulson was too intelligent to let emotion prevent him from getting what he wanted. In fact he usually used emotion to do just the opposite. "It's very easy Agent Burke; all you have to do is let me go. I have contingency plans for just such a day as this already in place. You let me leave and I will call you as soon as I am out of American airspace and tell you where the antidote is."

Peter's eyes narrowed once again. "You expect me to trust you?"

Poulson thought for a moment. "I expect you to realise that you don't really have any choice," he stated. "Besides, I'm a lot like your young friend there, a man of my word. If he gave you his word on something, something this important, would you trust it?"

"You are nothing like Neal Caffrey," Peter almost spat, "He would never hurt anyone, never even threaten. . ."

"Are you sure of that?" Poulson asked, "Even if his freedom were on the line."

Peter met Poulson's gaze. "I'm sure," he stated.

Poulson shrugged. "More fool him, I guess that's why he lost nearly four years of his life to prison and ended up tied to an FBI agent like you," there was a short pause, "but you still haven't answered my question, because like it or not there are a lot of things that I and Caffrey have in common, forgery, theft, handling stolen goods. . ."

"So now you admit it all?"

"Only because it won't matter,"nh Poulson stated. "Men like Caffrey and I live by a code, not the same as yours, but a code none-the-less, so I ask you again, would you trust his word?"

Peter hated that he even had to think about his reply because instinctively he knew the answer was yes, bottom line, no question, if Neal gave his word on something he would do everything in his power to deliver on that. Trouble was years of FBI training, years of working White Collar bringing down con-men and liars that were so adept it was difficult sometimes to believe that their lies were lies even when you knew the truth, had made him mistrustful, add to that Neal's sometimes inventive way of interpreting what his promises meant, and it wasn't such a black and white question to answer even on a good day, and with his partner dying slowly and painfully next to him, this definitely wasn't a good day. Neal squeezed his wrist again and gave out a slight gasping moan, causing Peter to look at him. "It's OK Neal," he said softly, " just hold on it's going to be OK," his words had the soothing effect they were intended to have and Peter felt Neal relax slightly as the latest wave of cramps passed. He looked up at Poulson, not even remotely successful at hiding the hate in his eyes. "Yes," he stated. "I would trust his word."

"Then you should know that you can trust mine," Poulson said.

"How about we just go with 'I don't have any choice.'" Peter had as much trouble hiding the sneer as he had the hate.

"As you wish," Poulson gave a slight nod. "So we have a deal Agent Burke? You will do nothing to prevent me from leaving the country and as soon as I am clear I will call you with the location of the antidote."

"So long as we understand two things," Peter stated, "First, if he dies there isn't a place on this earth where you can hide where I won't find you." Anyone who felt that Agent Peter Burke was too soft or amiable to be an effective FBI agent would have retracted all of their doubts on hearing him deliver this threat. The steel in his voice, the underlying power and determination, the sense of real danger that emanated from him made Poulson swallow uncomfortably.

"And the second?" Poulson asked trying to hide the fear.

"I'm going to get him to the hospital," Peter stated. "If you're right and they can't help him, at least they can make him comfortable until you call." Peter glanced down at Neal and then back at Poulson "And that is non-negotiable."

Poulson considered for a moment, then gave a nod. "As long as I am allowed to leave, what you do is up to you. Just make sure that nobody stops me, or you will be sentencing him to death."

Peter looked back at Neal giving what sounded like a heavy sigh. "Just go," he said, "the sooner you do the sooner we both get what we want." He placed his gun on the floor and used his now free hand to take hold of Neal's.

"Very well, expect a call in four hours."

Peter looked back at him, unable to contemplate Neal in this much pain for that long. "Four hours?" he asked plaintively.

Poulson couldn't help himself; he had to have a little empathy for one who was so clearly sharing his partner's pain. He wasn't sure what he had expected when he had formulated his 'what if' escape plan all those years ago, Perhaps detached concern for the suffering and death of another, but not this, not this level of connection, not this level of shared pain. "He has at least eight," he stated, "he's young, strong, maybe more. I just need time to get clear, then I'll call."

"Just go," Peter was beyond caring what the other man had to say. He pulled out his cell phone and dialled 911 "Hello, this is agent Peter Burke I have an agent down and need an ambulance and paramedics at. . ." He didn't give Poulson a second glance, wasn't sure when the man left, his entire attention was on Neal.


Poulson had been right in his analysis, without more to go on the doctors confirmed that they wouldn't be able to isolate the type of poison quickly enough to do Neal any good, the doctor promised to keep trying, and that they would do everything possible to make him comfortable, but the bottom line was that Neal was dying and there wasn't a damn thing the doctors could do about it and both the doctor delivering the news and Peter already knew that, and despite that they were both pretending to have some hope, for their own sake, for each others? If it wasn't so tragic it would be laughable.

"Thank you doctor," Peter said, because what else could he do but thank the man for trying to help? "Can I see him now?"

"Yes, we're getting a room ready for him but I'll have one of the nurses take you through. It's against protocol really but he's been asking for you. If you'll just wait here someone will come for you." The doctor made to move away but Peter stopped him.

"Doctor Keele?" Peter waited for the man to turn back. "Does he know?"

The doctor gave a slight nod "I've been through it all with him."

If Peter was hoping for some kind of indication as to how Neal was handling the news, he didn't get it. In fact he didn't get anything more, as Dr. Keele gave another slight nod his expression schooled to sympathy, then left; not that he blamed the man, delivering this sort of information to patients, their relatives and friends, had to be one of the worst parts of the man's job. On the thankfully more limited occasions that Peter had had to deliver tragic news, at least less frequent in White Collar than in other departments of the FBI, he'd experienced firsthand the emotional impact that such news had on those delivering as well as those receiving. It was not an experience that you would willingly prolong,

"Agent Burke?" The nurse was standing next to him before Peter even noticed him. The young man gave a slightly forced smile. "I've been asked to take you to Mr Caffrey."

Peter nodded his thanks as the nurse led the way. He was steeling himself for what he would find, the wait for the paramedics and journey to the hospital still grating on him; Neal had suffered at least another half hour of agonising spasms before he'd finally lost consciousness about ten minutes before they reached the emergency room. In all that time he'd clung fiercely to Peter forcing the paramedics to work around him. Peter had been glad when they'd finally arrived that Neal hadn't been awake because he wasn't sure he could have handled Neal trying to hold onto him as they wheeled him away. It was hard enough to watch him go as it was, but he knew he had to, knew he had to let the medics do their job. Still staring at the closing doors. . .

An opening door was in front of him now and Peter took a deep breath as the nurse stood out of his way to allow him to enter. He was slightly shocked to see Neal sitting up with his feet dangling over the edge of the exam table, hunched slightly forward.

"Hey," he said, moving swiftly into the room. "Should you be sitting up?"

Neal turned his head and forced a slight smile, "Not going to make much difference if I'm sitting or lying," he stated "Hi by the way," he added as Peter stopped in front of him.

Peter studied him, he was still way too pale, his eyes too grey and there were still small creases etched into his normally smooth features indicating deep pain, but compared to being curled up in agony, or unconscious, Neal was looking positively healthy. "You're. .er. .looking better," Peter said, because hell what did you say to someone dying from an unknown poison. "How're you feeling?" If Peter could have kicked himself he might well have done so because really he needed to say more, needed to be more help, needed. . .but he also genuinely needed to know how Neal was feeling, so he had to ask, however trite the question.

"Fine," Neal said, "the doctors have got me on some great meds, some real doozies, if only we could market them then we'd be rich, oh but hang on people do, only it's illegal so I guess that's that idea. .

"Neal!" Peter interrupted and Neal went quiet looking up at him. "Really, how are you feeling?"

Neal held Peter's gaze for a moment, OK so he'd given his partner the opportunity to avoid the elephant in the room but it didn't look like he wanted to, part of Neal appreciated that, part of him was disappointed because spending his last few hours on earth pretending that it wasn't his last few hours on earth would definitely have been more fun, and Peter generally wasn't that comfortable dealing with feelings so if he'd just wanted to pretend. . .

Neal looked down. "They gave me muscle relaxants and something for the pain. It's eased it off some. . .a lot actually, but if they give me anything stronger it'll probably knock me out and I didn't want. . .I wanted to be awake for as long as I could so. . ." He looked up to meet Peter's gaze. "I want to go home," he said plaintively, "Will you take me home?"

Peter started to protest. "No, you need to stay here so that the doctor's. . ."

"They already told me they can't do anything," Neal interrupted, "I don't want to die here. I don't want to die in a hospital. I want to be on my balcony with a view of the sky and the city, please Peter," Neal locked his gaze onto his friend's barely holding back the tears that filled his eyes, "Please," the begging tone enough to break stronger men than Peter and then the whispered, "I don't want to die here," was the final nail in the coffin of Peter's resolve.

"You're not going to die." Peter stated with conviction. "We're going to get the antidote and you're going to be fine. You are not going to die anywhere."

"Antidote?" Neal asked confused.

And that was when Peter realised that Neal had been too out of it to hear any of the negotiations with Poulson. He didn't know about the antidote, didn't know that Peter had let Poulson go in order to secure it for him, didn't know that the doctor's weren't his only hope. So Peter explained.

"You just let him walk away?" Neal asked, his tone incredulous, because really, this was Peter, Mr By-the-book FBI agent, the man who believed in following the rules whatever the cost, the person who never did anything wrong, never cut corners, never went against the establishment unless. . .unless it was to help him, because Peter would break the rules, had broken the rules, for him, for Neal, for his partner, for his friend.

Peter nodded. "He's supposed to call me with the antidote in," he looked down at his watch, "about two and a half hours. All we have to do is sit tight until then." Peter tried to give the statement total conviction; because at this point he had to believe that it was true. Had to believe because anything else meant. . .

"And what if he doesn't," Neal asked.

Peter met his gaze. "He gave me his word, said it was as good as yours." Peter waited a beat. "So I have to believe that he meant it."

Neal stared at his friend and in that moment knew that his faith, his need to believe in Poulson's voracity had nothing to do with what the man said and more to do with a refusal to believe in anything but a positive outcome. Peter believed that he was going to survive this and for his sake Neal would too, or at least he could pretend.

"So is there any reason why we can't wait for this phone call at my apartment?"

Peter looked frustrated, he wanted Neal here where the doctor's could look out from him and deal with any change in symptoms, where he would be. . ."No, no reason," he said standing. I'll see if I can find someone to help get you signed out." He turned as he reached the door, "But the second we get that antidote you're coming back here to get checked over."

"Yes mother," Neal said, his smile slightly off but no less genuine for it.

"Now we both know that your mother was far shorter and prettier than me," Peter said and closed the door.

Once outside he stopped and rested his head back against the wall closing his eyes, his hand still holding the door closed, letting out all of the emotion that he'd been holding in, hiding from Neal, because he had to keep believing, had to keep things as normal as possible for the kid, because until they had that antidote, Neal was dying, and he wouldn't give up, would do everything in his power and more to save him, would stay with him no matter what the next few hours bought, but damn if he would let him see this weakness, this moment where he genuinely allowed the 'what if' to take hold, because Neal needed him to be strong. So now he had to let the weakness out, let two, maybe three tears run down his cheeks, let his mind contemplate for just a moment losing Neal to this, no more than a moment though, he couldn't let the thoughts take hold for more than that or he might not be able to pull himself back. So he took a deep breath, scrubbed his hands across his face and squared his shoulders, finally letting go of his grip on the door handle to Neal's room, he moved away to find the doctor.


The doctor hadn't been keen on letting them go and now Peter could see why. Neal was having trouble with his coordination and the pain spasms still caught him off guard at times. The random sweating was back and Peter wanted nothing more than to use the cold damp cloth he had to try to make Neal more comfortable, but Neal had made it quite clear that he wasn't ready to lie down and die, at least not yet, and as for letting Peter act as nursemaid. . .

Neal stood by the balcony wall looking out at the city, trying to hide the fact that he actually needed the wall to help hold him up. "Will you tell Elizabeth. . ." he began but Peter interrupted.

"We agreed that we're not going there. . ."

"Unless Poulson doesn't call," Neal completed the sentence. He turned his gaze away from the sights of the city and to Peter. "It's been five hours," he said quietly, turning away again as he found himself unwilling to deal with the emotions he saw in Peter's eyes. "I don't think he's going to call, and I'm not sure how much longer. . ."

"No," Peter stated fiercely, "You are not going to give up."

"Hey, I'm not giving up," Neal stated placatingly, "Just trying to be pragmatic like a certain FBI agent I. . " He didn't get any further as pain lanced through his stomach causing him to catch his breath. He bent forward, clutching the wall, riding out the waves of pain, his hand once more scrabbling wildly to find Peter. A strong hand gripped him, guiding his hand until he had a firm hold on his friend.

"I think I may need to sit down now," Neal said, looking up at Peter as he tried to catch his breath. Peter did not get a chance to reply as Neal's eyes rolled backwards and he collapsed into his friend's arms.


Peter felt as guilty as hell. Neal had specifically told him that he didn't want to be here, didn't want to die here. Hell he'd begged Peter to not let him die here, but Peter hadn't been able to take it, hadn't been able to just sit on the balcony at Neal's home with his best friend dying in his arms. He couldn't just sit there and do nothing, even if there was nothing he could really do. So he'd called the ambulance, got Neal back to the hospital and now he was hooked up to a ventilator and monitors and IVs, not that any of them were doing any damned good, Neal was still dying. Good news was that it didn't look like Neal was ever going to wake up again, so at least he would never be aware of Peter's weakness, of his betrayal. Yeah, that was the good news, the bad news was, that because of his pointless useless optimism, he'd never let the young consultant say what he needed to say, give his goodbyes, he'd cut him off and prevented. . .Peter fought back the tears because he knew that once they came he was going to drown in them, and he had a few more hours of this nightmare to endure yet, a few more hours of watching Neal slowly slip away and. . .

The ringing of his cell barely penetrated Peter's morose state, when it finally did he answered it almost automatically, "Agent Burke,"

"Ah, Agent Burke, it is good to know that you are a man of your word."

Adrenaline shot through Peter's system so quickly that he could feel the rush as his body responded."Poulson?"

"Yes, you sound surprised, I would have thought that you'd been expecting my call."

"I was two hours ago," Peter stated bitterly, unable to control the hate in his voice despite the fact that he was talking to the man who held Neal's life in his hands. The past few hours had drained him of all emotional control.

"I know I do apologise it took me longer than expected to get out of the country, but now that I am. . . "

"Tell me what I need to know," Peter practically growled into the phone.

"I could," Poulson stated "but I think it would be far more efficient if you allowed me to speak to Mr Caffrey's doctor."

"Hold on," Peter said and practically ran out of the room.


Two hours later and Peter was sitting next to Neal's bedside once more waiting for him to wake up. The poison had been identified and an antitoxin administered. Poulson had been true to his word and had given the doctor's all that they needed. Dr Keele was cautiously optimistic that Neal would make a full recovery. All that was needed now was for him to wake up.

"Hey," the word was spoken softly but it was enough to pull Peter back from wherever his brain had been while he sat and waited. His eyes focussed on one of the best sights he'd seen in a long time. Neal's eyes, once more clear and blue were staring at him, slightly confused but still amazingly clear and alive and. . .

"Hey," Peter gave back.

Neal glanced round, "hospital?" he asked a slight accusation in his tone.

Peter tried to hide the guilt. "Poulson gave us the antidote," he stated, "You said I could bring you back when. . ."

"But you brought me back before you got the antidote," Neal stated.

"How did you. . .?" Peter started, but then caught the slight twinkle in Neal's eye. "Oh right, you didn't know until. . ."

"You just gave it away," Neal confirmed. "Sometimes you are such an easy mark," he stated affectionately.

Peter stared back at him feeling he owed Neal some sort of explanation. "I couldn't. . " he started.

"I know," Neal stated, letting his partner off the hook. "It's OK." There was a pause. "So Poulson came through?"

Peter nodded, "Kept his side of the bargain," he looked down at his watch "Shame I didn't keep mine, he should be being arrested right about now."

Neal looked confused, "But how?"

Peter smiled, "Poulson's plane was in international airspace when it had to turn back because one of the passenger's was taken seriously ill with a suspected heart attack. Description of the man said he was about 5'8" balding, glasses. . ."

Neal smiled, "Mozzie," he said softly.

Peter gave his own smile, "Imagine how Poulson is going to feel when he finds out his plane turned back and it was a false alarm."

Neal gave an even broader smile, "I really feel for the man," he said, looking up sincerely at Peter he asked. "Can I be the one to tell him?"