NOTE: So, in the first chapter I said Elizabeth was out of town, but then I had her show up at the hospital. I will fix the error later, but for this chapter, Elizabeth is still out of town
Peter had been sitting in the uncomfortable plastic chair at Neal's bedside for only a little over an hour and already his back was sore. He had spent the better part of the past hour holding Neal's hand and rambling pointlessly about anything and everything, from their most recent case to a baseball game he'd watched last week. Peter wanted nothing more than to leave. To leave the horrible excuse for a chair, leave the stuffy hospital room, leave the hospital in general. Hell, he wanted to be as far away from this hospital as he could be. He was even beginning to think he should have just agreed to go that wedding with Elizabeth and skipped work for a couple of days. Who cares that he wasn't exactly close with the soon-to-be newly weds, that he didn't even particularly like them? He could have gone - and he should have - because if he had then he wouldn't be stuck in a hospital, in a room that smelled heavily of disinfectant and lemon pledge, sitting on a chair that is probably less comfortable than the linoleum floor. He wouldn't be here and that is what he wanted. No, he wouldn't be here, but Neal would. And no matter how much Peter wanted to, he never could leave Neal.
A nurse entered the room, sparing Peter a small smile. He walked quickly to the opposite side of Neal's hospital bed and began checking machines and tampering with the many tubes connected to Neal.
"Can he hear me?"
The nurse's head snapped up immediately at Peter's question, the surprise he felt at being addressed by the agent evident. Peter himself was surprised, he hadn't intended to actually ask the question he had been thinking since he first entered the room.
"He might be able to. There's no way to know for sure," the nurse responded sympathetically as he continued to check on Neal.
"Yeah. Yeah, I figured."
Noticing the hint of disappointment in Peter's voice, the nurse cast a glance back at the agent. Upon seeing the crestfallen expression, he decided to go against his better judgment and add, "Your friend will be alright."
Peter tore his gaze from Neal to stare at the other man. "That isn't what the doctor said."
Knowing he should not continue, but feeling sympathetic, the nurse said, "The injuries won't kill him."
"If his injuries aren't serious, then why is he in the ICU?"
"His injuries are serious, but not fatal. As long as your friend doesn't give up, he will be able to pull through."
Peter nodded, going back to staring intently at Neal.
"It could help," the nurse blurted out.
"The talking. It could help."
"If he can hear you, it's important he knows he isn't alone. It might just give him the strength he needs to get through this."
Peter said nothing and didn't bother to look away from Neal.
Finishing his ministrations, the nurse made his way to the door, but stopped short when he heard Peter speak.
"Of course, sir."
Peter turned in his seat, the plastic creaking. "Could you tell me about his injuries? The doctor didn't say much."
"I'm terribly sorry, but we can only release details to family members, sir."
"He's my son."
"I thought he was your partner."
"It's more than that. He might not be biologically related to me, but he is the closest thing I have ever had to a son."
The nurse hesitated, but complied. "He's got three broken ribs, two others are cracked, and the rest are bruised. He has a deep wound on his left side that required 18 stitches. There was glass in the wound. His right ankle is broken. His right wrist is fractured The most troubling injury is the large laceration on the back of his skull. He seems to have lost a significant amount of blood and the head trauma is severe. But if he makes it through the night, his chances are pretty good."
Peter nodded solemnly, letting the new information sink in. "Thank you."
The nurse looked at the patient lying motionless on the bed and moved back towards Neal. He glanced from Neal to the clipboard he had been holding and back before excusing himself and hastily leving the room.
The nurse left Peter to return his attention to Neal, but only for so long. The doctor entered, addressing Peter. "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Peter stood, clearly anxious. "Is he okay?"
The doctor hesitated. Not long, but Peter caught it. "Like I've already told you, he is stable but critical."
"I keep hearing that but I still have no idea what the hell it means!" Peter growled out, trying not to shout.
"Sir, I understand your frustration, but we cannot allow visitors right now."
"Can I ask why? If his situation hasn't changed, why am I being kicked out?"
"He is being placed under a mandatory suicide watch, sir."