Summary: A bullet to the brain can rock your world, and not in a good way either, so when Neal wakes up with nothing but his own name, a paperclip and three caps, he knows he's screwed. Complete and utter AU set in a post-apocalyptic world.
Rating: T, likely to change to M in the future
Based on the PC game Fallout: New Vegas. And no, I don't own White Collar, just the computer this was written on and a version of the game.
This is unbeta'd, so all mistakes are completely mine.
Peter squeezes his eyes shut. He's not a squeamish man, but there's a difference between shooting ghouls and super mutants, patching up a scrape or a bullet wound sustained by Maggots or Raiders, but this...this is something different. This is Hughes digging around a man's skull. He can feel the instruments moving beneath his fingers as he holds the hole open for Hughes.
Hughes dabs one of his surgery cloths, which is really just a sheet that had been torn to shreds a few years back when Peter, Diana and Jones had a bad run in with some super mutants who happened to be in a breeding pack, upping the number of the usual two, to around ten. Diana and Jones got away with scratches from being swiped at, but Peter, ever the leader, had to protect his group. He took a blade to the thigh, three broken ribs; a broken wrist from being grabbed and literally thrown across the field and a nicked femoral artery, which was expertly patched by Diana until they could get Peter back to Hughes.
Hughes chewed his ass out for weeks while he was recovering. Diana and Jones refused to move him over to June's, even though they knew she had more than her share of available rooms. Some sort of eye-opening epiphany was expected of him. Needless to say, that didn't happen.
"Almost there." Hughes mumbles and digs in more, pulling Peter from his thoughts. Peter can see the muscles in his arm moving. Thank goodness he's not the one on this table right now, especially not once he's been manhandled by Hughes.
"Are you even sure this guy's going to make it?" Peter asks, curiosity getting the better of him.
"I hope so Peter, because-" Hughes pauses and pulls his arm back, the strange looking instrument moving with him until Peter can see a shiny red bullet pulled from the hole on the right ride of the guy's face. "I didn't just pull a shitty bullet from his brain for him to just die." Hughes finishes. Peter isn't listening anymore, instead he finds himself staring at the killing instrument Hughes just pulled out.
"He'll have one hell of a headache; I can assure you of that." Hughes sets his instruments down and walks over to his little supply cabinet for some gauze, cotton wool and tape.
"He's a lucky guy if he ever wakes up." Peter whispers, brushing some hair off of the young man's forehead. Hughes nods, knowing exactly where Peter's thoughts have run off to. He steps back over to the young man, swiping some antiseptic over the wound, placing a bit of cotton wool over the wound, securing it with some tape before starting with the gauze. Peter can see Hughes' mind working, before he speaks.
"What exactly happened? Where did you find this kid?" Hughes inquires.
"Diana and I were sitting down at June's when I heard a pop. I went up to Cemetery Hill. I thought that might be the most likely place anyone would shoot something in the middle of the night. When I got there, I saw three guys; two were pushing this poor John into what they figured to be his resting place and took off." Peter wants to rub his hand over his face, but he's not in the mood to smear himself with blood.
"Where did they go?" Hughes asks before pulling his gloves off. Turning around, Hughes wets a rag in his little sink. Hughes and June's Bar are the only places in Eadon who have running water. They have to caps to pay the government for it, the rest of the community, not so much.
"I don't know. I just saw that they went out of town. Probably back to New Vegas. The one guy, he's definitely in charge, kid doesn't look like he's ever spent a night out in the desert before." Peter takes the rag Hughes offers him and starts wiping his hands, desperate to get all the blood off.
"But you can't be sure?" Hughes presses. Peter knows why Hughes needs to know. He's the town sheriff and doctor. He's been on Peter's back about settling in Eadon and taking up the position of sheriff permanently, but Peter refuses every time. This place has too many ghosts lingering around.
"No, I can't be sure. I'm making an educated guess that they've left town. Trust me, if they ever come back, you'll know immediately that they haven't come to Eadon for the scenery or the giant lizards that seem to populate the water supply over the hill." Peter snarks, handing Hughes the bloody rag. Hughes pulls a face, but doesn't say anything.
"How long are you in town for?" Peter knows Hughes wants to ask something else, but he doesn't. He steers the conversation to something far safer, something that won't make Peter glare and storm off.
"A few days. Diana and Jones need some time off, seems I've been working them far too hard." Peter lets out a chuckle that's far from amused.
"Well, it's not their fault you've got the stamina of a mule." Hughes is blatantly teasing Peter. It earns him an eye roll.
"Help me move him to the spare room." Hughes points down at the young man and moves down to his feet. Peter should have known Hughes would leave him the bulk of the weight to carry, not like this guy is heavy at all. He's a little stick of a thing.
"Renting my room out already Reese?" Peter grins and moves to pull the young man up so that he can slide his hands beneath his armpits. Hughes grins back and shakes his head.
"You didn't have a bullet in your brain." Peter lets out a chuckle, one that he actually means as they lift the young man off of the cold, hard metal table and down the hall into the spare room with the soft mattress.
Someone is sitting on his head, or has pushed his or her fingers into his eye sockets and is poking his brain repeatedly with very sharp fingers. Hell, maybe it's a combination of the two. A terrible combination. Neal groans trying to shift his head away from whatever it is that keeps assaulting him.
There's something soft beneath his body. The material is scratchy against his palm. 'Open your eyes' Neal tells himself, but his brain protests painfully against thinking, let alone moving. Neal groans again, but doesn't attempt to move. Sleep beckons him closer, whispering sweet words of bliss. He's just a man, so he takes sleep up on its offer.
Someone is tapping his shoulder. Neal can't move his arms without his head screaming like a harpy in his ears. The tapping is persistent though. Neal groans again, forcing himself to tell the hand to go away, but all that comes out is a garbled "zz ff." He's pretty sure he said buzz off by the sound of the humming now filling his ears. The annoying tapping goes away and Neal lulls himself back into his dream as sleep takes over him once more.
When Neal finally opens his eyes, it sure as hell isn't because he wants to, but because he's forced to. An old man in a faded pinstripe button down keeps bothering him, keeps making him talk even though Neal told him he doesn't want to talk. His head is trying to kill him and he wants nothing more than to sleep.
A little while later, the badgering old man leaves him alone, leaving Neal to sleep. The only problem is, once Neal feels sleep taking him again, the old man is back. With friends no less. Neal's not really paying any attention to anything being said, but he can hear muffled voices, one belonging to the old man, the other is one he's never heard before in his life, but thinking about voices he's heard makes his head hurt. He doesn't like having his head hurt this badly, so Neal clenches his eyes shut and reduces his thinking pattern to 'breathe in, breathe out' only.
After dragging the young man into the spare room, Peter made his way back to June's. He earned himself a few odd looks, seeing as there's pretty much a blood bath on his shirt, but Peter ignores the looks, like he always does. Diana wanted to ask questions, interrogate him as to why there's a huge bloodstain on his shirt, but Peter just told her he's going to bed and they can talk in the morning.
The next morning, after little to no sleep, Diana is at his door, knocking politely. He knows immediately that Jones is not with her. Jones would just have banged on the door continuously until Peter yelled at him to stop. The contrast between Diana and Jones is well, immense. Diana creates the impression of a cold, ruthless gun wielder, but she's one of the nicest people Peter has ever met, and in this new world of theirs, that's saying a lot. Jones is brash, hard and has only a small amount of tact which he depletes once having finished trading with Sara.
Groaning, Peter gets up and opens the door. It has no lock, but Diana seems to have the courtesy to knock instead of barging inside.
"Morning Boss." Diana smiles and walks to the small window located on the far wall. The room is nothing to brag about. It only contains a single cot, a basin and a window. Nothing more than a trader needs.
"Morning Diana." Peter mumbles and sits back down on his unmade bed.
"Didn't sleep either?" Diana asks, pushing the window open. A hot desert breeze slowly, almost lazily enters the room, alleviating some of the stuffiness.
"No. These cots don't seem as comfortable as I remember them." Diana laughs lightly at Peter's snarky comment.
"They never were comfortable. This is Eadon, not New Vegas." If she could have said anything more obvious, Peter swears he'd guffaw.
"And what a pity that is." Peter replies, running a hand down his face.
"Care to tell me now why there's a huge bloodstain on your favorite shirt?" It's clear that Diana is done beating around the bush, she wants answers and she wants them now.
"Found the sound, kid with a bullet in his head. I took him to Hughes and it turns out that the kid's still alive. He bled all over my shirt when I carried him to Hughes' house." Peter sighs and rubs at his eyes again. It feels like someone threw handfuls of sand in his eyes, Peter knows this feeling, because a few Raiders have done it before.
"Ever the hero, aren't you Boss?" Diana winks and smiles. "At least you saved a life. I was stuck waiting for Jones to get back and when he did, the poor guy looked like he'd been mauled." Peter wants to kiss Diana right now. She's always known when he doesn't want to discuss something, and she backs off immediately.
"I'll never understand his and Sara's 'relationship'." Peter even uses air-quotes. "She does need to stop mauling him though. He is the face of our little merchant enterprise and it doesn't do good if he looks like a rat did a tango on his face and neck." Diana laughs loudly at this and walks back to the door.
"Yeah, I agree with you on that one Boss. Come on, I'll buy breakfast." Peter nods and scratches at his five o' clock shadow.
"Gimme a few minutes. I'll meet you downstairs." Diana nods and leaves Peter's little room, closing the door behind her.
Peter sits for a few seconds before getting up and folds the blankets and sheets. He washes his face, shaves and quickly washes most of the sweat off of his body before dressing. He wears his jeans even though he doesn't particularly like the feel of them, pulling on a white pinstripe button down on over his undershirt and the clunky boots be bought in New-Vegas after a Maggot shot his other pair to bits.
Peter pulls on his shoulder holsters and takes all of his meager possessions from the small room. As promised, Peter meets Diana downstairs for breakfast. Surprisingly Jones is also waiting for him.
"Good morning Boss." Jones greets and Peter notes that his eyes are a little red and there are multiple scratches trailing down his jaw to his neck.
"I ordered breakfast already boss. June says she might have some coffee somewhere in the back, and have her order list for when we do our next round." Diana informs Peter.
"Good, thank you Diana." Peter replies before taking the seat between Jones and Diana. "Sara give you a hard time, Jones?" Peter asks with a wink. At least the man has the decency to look somewhat embarrassed.
"Yeah, she uh, said she missed me." Jones ducks his head, staring intently at the grungy bar.
"You know I don't care about who you sleep with Jones, but when it comes to our business, it crosses the line. This-" Peter points at the scratches littering Jones' jaw and neck "influences the business. You can't walk into New Vegas or any town looking like a ghoulie attacked you. We pride ourselves in being the best and looking like something mauled you doesn't fall under that." Peter scolds. His face resembles stone and his voice is cold in its authority. Jones better get the message, Peter muses.
"Good. Now let's eat and leave. We've already been here long enough to cause suspicion." Peter says looking from Jones to Diana. They both nod. Diana already knows she'll be handling all transactions while Jones' scratches heal. She doesn't particularly like dealing with transactions, but she suffers through them. She's one hell of a woman.
"Ah, Peter. How are you?" June suddenly asks just as suddenly as she appears.
"Good morning June. I'm alright, how are you?" Peter feels himself suddenly turn into a shy schoolboy in front of this legendary woman. June was married to a man named Byron, a man who conned many a man out of his earnings back in the day when he and June lived in New Vegas. When they moved to Eadon, Byron gave up his conning ways and opened this very bar with June. June is the town mother to Hughes' father figure. And she's as scary as she is intimidating as she is sweet.
"Oh fine, fine. I saw you coming in looking rather bloodied around the edges. Care to share what happened?" June asks sweetly. She might as well have ordered Peter to tell her. No one ever says no to this woman. Peter ducks his head before clearing his throat.
"Just a few troublemakers up on Cemetery Hill. They shot a young man. Hughes says he'll be fine." Peter says, preferring the conditioned version to retelling the entire story for a third time. He doesn't even know this kid and he's already causing trouble for him. "We should send someone up to cover the blood. Don't want to attract any ghouls." Peter looks up at June. She's giving him that concerned look of hers, so Peter musters up a smile.
"I'll tell Alex. It's about time she pulls her weight around here anyway." June smiles and turns away. "Oh Peter, here. You should have some coffee before you leave. See it as a reward for being a hero. And you be sure to bring that boy here before you take your leave." June teases with a wink. Peter feels his ears turn pink just about the time he hears both Jones and Diana snicker. He'll give them both a death glare later.
"Thank you June."
One of June's many servers hurries over carrying three plates of breakfast, placing it in front of their correct recipient before scurrying away again.
"I'll never understand how they always know who gets what. Anywhere else, people just slam them down without checking who gets what." Jones says. Peter hums as Diana speaks up.
"We've been coming here for far too long for anyone to forget."
They manage to get halfway through their breakfast when Hughes barrels through the door.
"Peter you've got to come with me." Hughes says. He's out of breath. Something is definitely up.
"I've got it Boss." Diana says even before Peter can get anything but her name out. Walking after Hughes, back to his house, Peter asks what he doesn't want the rest of the town to overhear in their lovely little bar.
"Do you know who he is?" Hughes doesn't answer. Peter just follows.
Hughes opens his front door, heading straight down the hall to the spare room where Peter knows the young man is located. Peter closes the door behind him and slowly walks down the hall Hughes already disappeared down. He tries not to notice the faded wood beneath his feet, the peeling wallpaper on the walls or the sparse photographs littering the walls. Coming to a stop in the door, Peter sees Hughes tap the young man on his shoulder. The young man only groans and swats at Hughes' hand.
"Amnesia. He doesn't know anything about anything." Hughes says, looking up from where he is crouched next to the bed.
"So what do you suggest? Do you want to keep him in Eadon until he remembers? I'm sure June would love some company down at the bar." Peter says sarcastically.
"Don't get snippy with me. This kid was on his way to New Vegas."
"How do you know that?" Peter enquires.
"Paperclip. Couriers carry paperclips with them when they're on their way to New Vegas." Hughes steps closer to Peter.
"Then patch him up and send him on his merry way Reese." Peter already knows where this is going and he doesn't like it one bit.
"Do you honestly want to send this man without a weapon right out the door? I knew you were hardened Peter, but I never thought you were heartless." Hughes raises his voice a little, disappointment seeping into his tone.
"And you can't possibly expect me to lug this kid around with me and mine. We have a hard enough time keeping ourselves alive, but to keep and outsider alive who doesn't even know what's out there? You've completely lost the plot old man." Peter spits and turns to leave.
"Elizabeth would be so disappointed in you Peter, in who you've become." Hughes says before Peter can put too much distance between them. His back has only ever been this tense when people talk about her.
"Don't talk about her." Peter bites out.
"Three days Peter. Three days and I'll have him on his feet. Take him to New Vegas and your debt will be paid. Then you can go where you please." Hughes says.
Peter doesn't answer, he just storms out of Hughes' house and back to the bar. He needs to think. He needs a drink.
AN: So here's chapter two… thank you to akitty, where's-waldo-15, B and my guest reviewer for flinging some love my way. Also much love to the 8 followers of this little dribble. Please let me know what you guys think of this chapter, even if it is just to tell me I'm a complete idiot for thinking this even makes sense.