Faint laughter rang in Neal's ears as he slowly opened his eyes. Peter and Elizabeth were sitting in the chairs near the wall working intently on a crossword puzzle. He just lie still and watched them as he took in his surroundings. He felt like it was all familiar but hazy. He thought Peter and Elizabeth had both been there for a while, both holding his hand. Mozzie and Sara's voices echoed distantly. They had both been here too, but he wasn't sure if it had been at the same time.
At the moment, the room was dim, but not dark, suggesting that the curtains had been pulled but it was still light outside. There was a distant feel of chaotic energy coming from the hallway which suggested that he wasn't too far from the nurse's station. The faint scent of tulips wafted over him as he reached for the glass of water sitting next to him and then tried to push himself up to sitting.
The glass of water fell onto the floor as he was jerked back by what he realized was a set of handcuffs. He already had them off the bed rail by the time Peter had made it across the room. He gave Peter a disapproving glare, "Really?"
"Not my idea. Believe me," Peter said as he wiped the water off the floor and went to refill the glass. He set the glass back down in front of Neal as he took the seat next to the bed. "Drink that."
Neal watched Peter suspiciously as he took small sips of water. The lines in Peter's face showed signs of tension and weariness, which Neal realized almost definitely had something to do with him being here. As upset as he was about the handcuffs, he decided Peter really deserved the right to explain.
"Neal, somehow, even when you're delirious, you manage to go off book with things," Peter sighed as he reached into his pocket. Then he held up a small black box; if Neal didn't know better, he would have thought it was a ring box.
Actually, he really didn't know better, "Peter, what will El say? She's right there, you know."
Elizabeth didn't say anything, but she had her hand over her mouth, giggling at the two of them. Peter shrugged them both off with a look of annoyance and opened the box, which Neal now noticed had FBI emblazoned in small letters on the top, before setting it in front of Neal. It appeared to be the gems that had been forged by the FBI.
"Why are you showing these to me?" Neal asked as a foggy memory of blue light being cast against a silver surface sprang to mind. The cogs in his mind were spinning rapidly, putting together what Peter was about to tell him.
"You stole them, though I'm positive you don't remember doing it. Now, I pointed out to everyone that you were working with the FBI, the gems weren't real, and that you were delirious. And yet, they still refused to let you be here unrestrained once they found those in your coat pocket. Now the museum's doing a thorough inventory of their collection, and let's just say it's probably for the best that you have to stay here for another day or two. Because you can't go anywhere else."
"Of course," Neal said, trying his best to look put out although he was currently having trouble imagining himself moving. He ached everywhere, and he was having trouble gathering his thoughts. "So in the museum...I know I was there..."
"That's questionable," Peter muttered.
"But I'm kind of fuzzy on the details. Can you fill me in on what happened?" Neal asked.
"Well, some of the story has to be told by Sara or Mozzie, but I'll tell you what happened in the museum now; then you should probably get some more rest, seems to be the only thing that's doing you any good," Peter said, rubbing his hand along Neal's shoulder. "This is the first time you've been completely lucid when you've been awake."
"How long have I been here?" Neal asked, realizing that the concept of time had sort of been eluding him.
"Almost two days," Peter said, wincing slightly.
"And you felt the need to destroy an arguably already patchy outfit on my account? I'm touched," Neal said casually, gesturing to Peter's unkempt hair and rather rumpled shirt. Then much more quietly, he added, "You really didn't have to stay."
"Yeah, I did," Peter said, squeezing his shoulder lightly. "I would have stayed anyway, but ever since we left the weapons gallery, you've been, well, really protective of me. You asked Sara, Mozzie, El, and at least one of the nurses to check on me."
Neal closed his eyes for a moment and let the disjointed memories of the past few days congeal, some of his heightened concern for his partner coming back to him. Then he said, "The thief. He slit your arm with his sword," and added sheepishly, "or, at least, I thought he did."
"He did," Peter said, rolling up his shirtsleeve revealing the stitches as Neal grinned. Then, keeping his tone level, he said, "Now any idea why you were chasing a thief through a museum when you should have been sound asleep on my couch? Normally I'd be angry about this sort of thing, but from what Dr. Casey tells me, your fever was too high for you to have been thinking rationally, so I'm really just curious."
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Neal said before he was overtaken by a sudden coughing fit. Then with Peter's hand firmly gripping his shoulder, his voice a little more ragged, he said, "I'm not sure I'd believe me."
"Well, that might be a first," Peter said, his eyes lighting with a smile. "But try me."
Neal, after taking a few more sips of water, told Peter everything he could remember about his dream. Then in an strangely uncertain manner, Neal looked up at Peter and then shook his head, "I was just sure that there was something off about the museum wall in the photo you left on the table... you don't have the photo with you do you?"
"No, I don't. I can bring it by with me later tonight if you want," Peter said.
"Probably better than if I tried to go solve this mystery myself right now," Neal said, laughing lightly.
"Yeah, I think I'd feel a lot better if you didn't. It's bad enough when you go rogue when you aren't delirious," Peter said.
A few hours after Peter had left, insisting that Neal needed to get some proper rest, without him and El there to distract him, Mozzie and Sara stopped by.
Neal gently prodded them into telling the story of what had happened before they had found him succumbing to the museum's floor as he gratefully accepted the herbal tea that Mozzie had brought for him.
"I was just finishing up some paperwork for the audit that Sterling Bosch was doing on the pieces in the private collection, when Mozzie came to meet me at the museum," Sara said.
"I was going to tell her how to get to Sunday," Mozzie said. "Sans sonnett even."
Neal blinked, mildly surprised, "Moz, that's where you actually live. Well, mostly."
"From Thursday to Friday," Mozzie said. "Well, when I'm not at Monday."
"And when you aren't at June's," Neal supplied. Then after thinking for a moment with his eyes closed for a moment, "Having your girlfriend over to your own house, that's big of you."
Even though Neal was sure he had, Mozzie acted as though he didn't catch any trace of sarcasm in that last statement, looking at Sara, Mozzie said, "I certainly hope you do."
"I wish I wasn't about to say this, but I really do," Sara said, sounding slightly annoyed. "Of course, since you broke on this, I have to too."
"A matter for another day," Mozzie said. "For now, we ought to tell Neal about the fire."
Sara gave a slight sigh of relief before giving Mozzie an amused glance, "And about how you're terrified of beetles."
"It's perfectly reasonable to be afraid of scarabs gathering en masse when there are cursed statues on the loose, so to speak," Mozzie said, a shadow casting over his eyes.
"As we were walking away from the museum, first we noticed the FBI van doing surveillance. We didn't worry too much about that really. Then as we got a few blocks from the museum, where Mozzie was going to give me the first set of instructions," Sara started.
"I couldn't just tell her how to get there," Mozzie said in response to Neal's caustic glance. "You need to be cautious about these things."
"So you were walking because Mozzie refuses take a taxi so close to a tourist attraction?" Neal asked.
"Well, after the whole medallion debacle you guys told me about, I'm not sure he wants to take a taxi anywhere," Sara said. "But anyway, as we were walking, we started to notice a trail of beetles in the sidewalk. I didn't think much of it at first, but Mozzie..."
Sara just shook her head, half laughing and half closing her eyes in apparent disbelief.
"They were everywhere. Swarming like a proverbial plague," Mozzie said.
"I wouldn't say they were swarming, but there were enough of them that I thought it was odd. So with him still trembling on the sidewalk," Sara said with a nod to the side towards Mozzie, "I followed them to a reasonable distance from a parked car, where a disgruntled man was yelling something about statues in Arabic into his phone."
"Unaware that you know some Arabic?" Neal asked, nodding along drowsily. He was doing his best to follow the story without falling back asleep. He took several cautious sips of the herbal tea, hoping it would help.
"Those two years in college apparently weren't for nothing," Sara said, grinning. "But it seemed that our thief had left two of the statues and a case full of beetles with an Egyptian man that lives in the area."
"Using the Egyptian man as a fall... guy and driving up the street value... of the authentic statue, in one move," Neal said, grinning brightly. He was still fighting sleep, but he felt more awake.
"Impressed?" Sara asked.
"I might be if he hadn't been... so careless at the museum; I need to see the picture Peter has again, but if he left an employee record there and was... using gallery wall storage space, like I suspect he was, it's going... to be easy enough to find the real gems and the remaining statue. Also, I'm not sure I understand the beetles," Neal said, slowly string his words and thoughts together between coughing fits. Sara leaned down to brace him, giving him a few worried looks.
"There was a note on the case our thief put the statues in saying that they needed to be returned to their native and sacred land or a plague would befall New York," Mozzie said, moving warily towards the back wall, as far from Neal as possible. "It was but the beginning."
"I wish I could explain them better than that," Sara said. "Unfortunately, a rational explanation hasn't come my way yet."
"We called the Suit, and he sent some unknown Suits out to us," Mozzie said.
"Then, once we explained what was going on, they told us to go back and give a fuller report to Jones and Diana," Sara said. "Then, as we were walking away, we heard a loud popping sound of glass catching on fire."
"Apparently setting a fire inside the car was the Suits' best idea for getting rid of the beetle infestation," Mozzie muttered. "The poor Egyptian man and his car."
Neal nodded in agreement, infinitely glad that he worked with Peter, Diana, and Jones who were all too smart to have done something as rash as that.
"It did get rid of the beetles," Sara offered in a weak and half hearted attempt at coming to the FBI's defense.
"What about the statues?" Neal asked.
"I will grant that they took those out first," Mozzie said, waving his hand circularly as a light tap sounded on the door of the hospital room.
"Are we interrupting something or just missing a retelling?" Peter asked warily, as he and El poked their heads around the corner.
"You're in luck, Peter, we just got to the end of the story," Sara said.
"Good," Peter said as he handed the photo to Neal. Then in response to Neal's slightly dazed look, he said, "I've heard this story four times, and only once officially."
"You've all been the highlight of hospital staff entertainment," El said as she pulled two chairs away from the wall and closer to the bed.
"A tale of cursed... statuary would be somewhat scintillating," Neal said as he gave the photo a few cursory glances, a diminished twinkle blossoming in his glassy eyes, "And if the FBI hadn't already caught the thief and weren't about to find the inlaid gems and the authentic statue..."
"The statue's value would have skyrocketed," Peter finished, as Neal nodded. Then looking down at Neal with a knowing smile, "You know where the statue is?"
"Look closer... at the photo, right next...to the door to the private collection," Neal said. "You almost can't see it. I just ...looked at it for so long..."
"There's a slit in the wall. You think there's an opening there, for more storage space?" Peter asked as Neal nodded. "I'll put Jones and Diana on this."
Peter blinked blearily. He thought he might have heard his cell phone ringing, but he didn't feel particularly motivated to answer it. Neal was fine. The case was closed. To the best of his knowledge, the curse of the Kouroi hadn't come to fruition. He then realized that even if he had wanted to answer his phone, in the unlikely event that the plague or some other ill had befallen New York, he was currently incapable of moving.
He had, apparently, spent from exhaustion, fallen asleep on the guest bed along with Neal. And now, Neal's sleeping form was pinning his left arm to the bed. Peter rolled his eyes. Leave it to Neal to complicate his life when he wasn't even awake.
There was a faint tap on the door followed by El asking, "Hey hon, are you or Neal awake?"
In a vain attempt to not wake Neal up, he gave what came out as an affirmative grunt in response.
Neal stirred, rolled off of Peter, and looked up, looking helplessly disoriented until he saw Peter. Relief washed over his features and he relaxed back against Peter's side.
Peter sat up and tousled Neal's hair, "Sorry that the view out our window just leads into our neighbor's garden."
"I'll try to reign in my disappointment," Neal said lightly.
El stood in the doorway, smiling, before clearing her throat. "Diana just called to say that the museum finished authenticating the statue and the gem insets; it's being sent to the Egyptian Museum next week along with the forgeries. No need for you two to come in today; they want you both to get some rest."
"Both were real?" Neal asked, though it was more of a statement. El nodded. "Knew it."
Elizabeth gave Neal his antibiotics before giving Peter some Ibuprofen, despite his protests that he didn't need anything.
After swallowing his medicine, Neal gave El a long calculated looked, "Elizabeth..."
Peter and El, unused to Neal starting a thought without completing it, gave him a quizzical, prompting look.
"Elizabeth, you didn't... you didn't kiss me on the forehead last night, did you?" Neal asked, stringing the words together quickly as Peter started to stare at the space between them uncomfortably.
"No, sweetie, I didn't," El said as she sat down on the edge of the bed. "Why?"
"Just a dream then," Neal said, seeming to think it over as he stared down at the comforter.
"A dream?" Peter prompted.
"A beautiful, dark haired woman kissed me on the forehead," Neal said, and then he hesitated for a few beats before continuing, "...then told me that the curse wouldn't claim us now. It just felt really real. But I guess it's still the fever. Come to think of it, I think she said something about the statue being returned to their rightful home."
"That is how Moz said the curse could be broken," El said with a slight giggle.
"Maybe he was right," Neal said. He was trying hard to ignore the lingering sensation of lips ghosting over his forehead like a gentle breeze. He pressed his eyes closed again and tried to find his memory of the half dream. He remembered now. The woman, who, to his credit, didn't look unlike Elizabeth, had a small blue diadem that matched the eyes of the kouroi; a tall man trailed behind her.
"Please don't tell me you believe in curses now," Peter said with a groan.
"Curses would make life more interesting," Neal said.
"Because our lives are so dull without them," Peter said.
"I'll leave you two to debate this one," El said as she made her way out of the room, wondering mildly if Peter could provide Neal with a better explanation for his dream.