"Peter Burke, stop staring out the window and go get him." Peter glanced over his shoulder and wearily eyed his wife, who stood with hands firmly on her hips and glared at him. He turned back to the scene outside; the snow swirling in blizzard like winds just starting to coat the streets and his partner standing slightly behind a tree across the street.
"Why is he here?" Peter wondered out loud, "and why he is standing out there?"
"Go get him and you'll find out." Elizabeth tossed Peter his coat.
"Satch, let's go" Peter said once he was fully dressed for the weather. The dog looked at him with eyes that said no way before rolling over and going back to sleep.
"Even he knows better than to be out there." Peter toed his boots on and then opened the door, turning his face away from the fierce wind. A few minutes later he was face to face with his CI who was covered in snow from his head to his feet.
"Well, it must be Caffrey the snowman." Peter chuckled. "Neal, let's go inside before you freeze to death." Peter grabbed his arm and practically pulled him across the street and into the house where Elizabeth waited, holding several blankets.
"Are you crazy?" Peter dumped him onto the sofa. "Neal, its Christmas. What are you doing outside my house in a blizzard?" Peter paused long enough to realize that Neal was in no condition to answer him.
"Let's get you out of the wet clothes" Peter said in a calmer voice as he kneeled to the floor and eyed the shivering man before him. Neal pulled back, eyes wide as he stared up at Elizabeth.
"No" he managed to eke out with his teeth chattering.
"El, please go upstairs and get a pair of my sweats." Peter waited until she was gone before turning back to Neal.
"The pants have to go. We can do it quickly and have you covered up before Elizabeth gets back, ok?" Peter took the slight nod as a yes and he struggled, with little help from Neal, to pull the wet trousers off.
Peter deemed the turtleneck salvageable and tossed the blankets over Neal before Elizabeth returned.
"Peter, dry his hair with this." Elizabeth handed her husband a towel before bending down and placing slipper socks on Neal's feet.
"Doctor, will he live?" she asked casually, hoping to ease the tension permeating the room.
Peter leaned back on his heels and studied his partner. "I hope so" he said with a slight smile. "I'd hate to lose the best asset I've had in years."
"He doesn't mean that" Elizabeth said as she lightly tapped her husband's head. "You're more than an asset and he knows it." She dropped the sweatpants in Peter's lap. "I'll be in the kitchen preparing dinner."
"She's right." Peter watched his friend, pleased that the shaking had lessened. "Neal, what were you doing out there?"
"You invited me to dinner" Neal answered with a surprisingly clear voice.
"And you turned me down" Peter countered a bit defensively. "Did you have a change of heart?"
Neal shrugged. "The house was empty and Mozzie always disappears around this time."
"Why didn't you call me? I would have picked you up."
"I don't know." Neal hugged himself fiercely as a few more tremors racked his body. "After everything that has happened I wasn't sure you wanted me here."
Peter sighed. "I wouldn't have invited you if I didn't want you here."
"I wouldn't have invited you if El wasn't ok with it." Peter took a deep breath and nervously wiped at his face. "I figured with the holidays and the new year, it might be a good time to put everything behind us and start over. What do you think?"
"I'd like that." Neal fidgeted with the blanket, as he avoided Peter's gaze.
"Neal, why were you standing outside?"
"I was having a debate with myself" Neal admitted with a weary smile.
"The cold" Neal answered. "My thoughts were so incoherent I couldn't understand either side. Peter, how'd you know I was out there?"
Peter pointed towards Neal's ankle. "You're lucky that device is so accurate. I got a call from big brother. I told them you'd be at my house and they were wondering why the anklet was outside of my house. So I looked outside and there you were."
"Lucky me" Neal muttered as he pulled the blankets tighter and momentarily closed his eyes.
"Don't fall asleep" Peter warned. "You'll miss a good dinner if you do."
Neal nodded but it was hard keeping his eyes open. So much weighed heavily on his mind these days that sometimes sleep was the only peace he had, though most nights sleep was hard to come by.
"Hey, I meant it." Peter shook him gently. "Are you ok?"
Neal nodded. "I don't sleep well" he admitted.
"I wonder why" Peter put forth with a knowing smile. "Neal, we don't blame you for what happened. It's about time you stop blaming yourself."
Neal looked away. "I wish it was that easy." He glanced at Peter. "I brought Keller into your lives..."
"And you helped get him out" Peter interrupted as he stood with a slight groan. "I'm going to help Elizabeth with dinner. Get dressed and dry your hair before she yells at both of us." Peter tossed him the towel before walking away.
Elizabeth put the last of the dishes away and eyed her husband. "That went well, don't you think?"
Peter nodded. "As upset as you were this morning when everyone cancelled on us, yes I think it went well and Neal seemed more himself."
"Stupid weather" Elizabeth muttered. "I really miss my family on days like today."
"Sorry hon." Peter wrapped his arms around her. "We'll get together with them next week ok?"
"Yeah" she said with a slight smile as they headed towards the living room.
"I can't believe he slept through every movie" Peter said, eyeing the prone man on the couch.
"Especially with you laughing the whole time" Elizabeth retorted.
"It's a classic...there's a reason it's repeated over and over."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes as she led him towards the staircase. "If we had to be snowed in on Christmas I'm glad Neal is here..." she paused glancing over her shoulder. "But we could have had a lot of fun if we were alone."
"We can still have fun" Peter whispered.
"You're too loud" Elizabeth said with a shake of her head.
"I am not."
"You howl like a wolf."
"I do not." Peter protested to no avail.
"Ask the dog" Elizabeth suggested. "There's a reason he's always scratching at the door" Elizabeth said as she headed upstairs.
Peter thought he heard a muffled snicker. "El, I'll be up in a minute. Need to check the doors." Peter waited until he heard the bathroom door shut before grabbing a pillow and throwing it at Neal.
"Ouch. You didn't have to do that."
"How much did you just hear?" Peter neared the sofa.
"More than I ever wanted to know." Neal propped up on an elbow. "A wolf?" he asked, trying hard to keep the laughter at bay.
"You breathe a word of this and you'll be in the archives for the rest of your sentence. Understand?"
"Scout's honor" Neal said holding up his hand.
"You were never a scout."
"Well, not a real one."
"Of course. I don't want to hear this do I?" Neal shook his head no.
"Besides, no one would believe me if I did say something." Neal ducked when another pillow came flying his way.
"Elizabeth was right" Neal said quietly. "If I had to be snowed in, I'm glad it was here." He looked away, suddenly feeling vulnerable with that little confession and thankful it was too dark for Peter to see his face.
"You might not feel that way tomorrow" Peter said to break the awkward silence.
"What happens tomorrow?"
"We'll be shoveling the sidewalks" Peter responded as he eyed the still falling snow. "But Elizabeth makes homemade hot chocolate and it's wonderful."
"Sounds good" Neal said while yawning.
"Peter..." Neal called out before the agent walked away.
Peter smiled with a slight shake of his head. "Same to you partner." He walked upstairs feeling better than he had in a long time and hopeful that things would finally get back to normal.