"I don't think that was a shortcut, Peter."
Neal's voice was both sarcastic and annoyed all at once, the consultant shivering in his fancy but now damp wool coat as they stood along a lonely road just outside of the city. The sky was too foggy to see the actual city, even a faint glimmer of the lights as they glanced around and saw they were alone in the frozen snowy wasteland. The agent glanced back at him with a bit of a smirk but he looked cold as well, a hint of frost on his eyebrows and hair. They were ill prepared for the weather and the Taurus had blown two tires on something they couldn't see under the snow covering the road. They were lucky to have the coats they did and if there was a signal this far out they'd have called for a mechanic to help change out the extra tire and a ride back to the city proper. Didn't help it was Christmas eve.
"Neal... the other road was barricaded. What was I supposed to do? We couldn't exactly go back."
Peter sounded frustrated and his teeth chattered slightly as they continued to walk through the slushy snow, their nice shoes ruined an hour ago when they first stepped out of the car. Neal had been more upset by that than Peter but he knew the con had expensive tastes in clothes. He felt for the younger man but at the same time they had to think of things other than possessions, nice clothes and their own discomfort. They needed to get warm and safe. The car was too far away for them to walk back to it fast enough and get warm again. The gas gauge was low when they'd finally decided to save fuel and walk to find help. The agent had thought he saw a house in the distance but the smoke they'd seen was only steam rising off a nearby river. There were no houses far as they could see. This was desolation considering the city was maybe an hours drive away if the car had been in working condition with four tires and no snow to impede them.
"I can't feel my feet, Peter. Damn it's cold!"
The con was stamping his feet and making a scene like a little kid being overly showy about their discomfort. Peter wasn't certain how much more he could take as he felt his own wet cold socks and his skin tingling from the chill. He turned, standing on the edge of a large drift as he addressed the whining consultant and sighed.
"Neal, Cowboy up! I offered you those boots in the car but you didn't take them. I wish I had now..."
The last part was to himself as Peter made a small step backwards, starting to turn. Neal made a face and shrugged back.
"They were pink, Peter and they obviously belong to Elizabeth. I doubt either of our feet would fit in th... Watch out!"
Peter's foot was sinking into the snow a bit more than he liked, going as far up as his knee before he could catch himself from falling. Neal reached out and grabbed his outstretched arm. Peter tried to make a correction, a hole evident now under the snow as he fell through taking Neal with him.
Neal had spent many holidays from home. It was hard to remember the few he had spent at home up until he had left so abruptly at 18. He had a vague memory of going to the town square or a mall courtyard where a large tree stood on display seemingly tall as the arch in town to his small self. Danny had liked Christmas, asking Aunt Ellen to take him to see the tree each year and sometimes going on his own when he could sneak away after school if not before. It felt special to him despite the sadness his mom always felt and her distance from himself if not others. He always made something pretty for his mother in addition to buying something with Ellen's help that she would like. Ellen was harder to buy for but his mother, she had to have something and each year she would cry when opening his present, thanking him with mumbled words as she walked into her bedroom and he was left alone. If Ellen was there, which she often was, Neal would go out with her once they knew his mother was ok. They would sit in the local cafe and get hot chocolate with whipped topping, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg, her treat and part of his present.
He woke up, his head aching like someone had smacked him with a 2x4, the con wondering how he had come to lay face first in the cold grass. His skin was nearly numb, coat soaked through now and his feet even more cold and wet than before. Someone was talking softly, calling his name as he moved to push himself up and felt a pain as his right arm took his weight and screamed at him. It was probably wrenched, no obvious sign of broken bones or anything sticking out as he gave himself a quick once over despite the tiredness he felt.
He rolled over onto his side, looking to see Peter not too far from him in the same ravine, a hole in the snow overhead where they had fallen through into the ditch hidden below. Thankfully it was not full of water but grass frozen and crunchy under his weight as he scooted over to his friend.
The agent lay curled up on his side, head slumped loosely against the frosty grass, eyes shut. He was shivering from the cold, Neal moving as close as he could as he wrapped his twisted arm up in his tie as a makeshift sling and checked the agent. Peter was icy to the touch, red where his head had hit a small edge of the curb on the way down. The long thin gash was just visible against his hairline as Neal gently prodded his friend back to consciousness, using his handkerchief, an expensive pale blue silk one June had given him to sop up the blood and compress against the wound. It was darker now, the fog thicker and snow beginning to fall. Nobody would find them in this spot if they didn't get out and find help soon.
"Peter... wake up. Come on..."
He nudged the agent as he shivered, sitting up against the edge of the lip of the ditch they were in, holding the agent close to keep him warm if not upright. He didn't see anything broken on his friend as he did a quick check. There was only that ugly gash on Peter's temple, the agent finally starting to rouse with an air of confusion.
"Why is the house so cold, El?"
Neal blinked at those words, gently moving his friend's head to look up at him.
Neal watched the agent blinked up at him, squinting a moment then nodding with a tired glanced upward.
His eyes moved upwards, looking at the hole they had fallen through and the darkening sky above. Neal heard a sigh from the agent as he moved to sit up on his own and winced.
"Peter, what's wrong?"
He noticed the agent reaching down to his right leg, move it slightly then wince again.
"I think I... I wrenched my knee. I can't walk on this."
He sounded despondent despite his usual cowboy up attitude. Neal wasn't sure what to think as he pulled off his scarf and started to wrap his friend's knee up as if in a brace. Peter fussed at him not to give up his scarf but Neal shushed him.
"You're going to have to walk at some point, Peter. This will help. Anything else hurt?"
Neal was worried they would freeze here, pulling out his cell to take a quick peek. They still had no signal. He watched Peter looking at him, reaching into his jacket to grab his own cell and shaking his head as he showed the screen. He also had no signal.
"Some case, huh?"
Peter sounded upbeat despite his obvious sleepiness, laying back against the grass and closing his eyes. Neal watched him curiously, both men shivering but ignoring their discomfort as he saw brown eyes glance up at him again.
"Did you think we'd solve it so quickly?"
Peter's voice was strong but with a hint of raspiness. Neal shrugged, laying back by his friend as he stared up at the darkening sky above them. They were going to have to move soon but this wasn't a bad shelter for the night, the snow barely touching them with the wind blowing it across the opening and around the top of the ditch.
"At least he was honest about the theft. Technically..."
He watched Peter's eyes turn to regard his words, that big brotherly / fatherly vibe evident as he seemed to wait for him to finish.
"... technically, he did the right thing. Are you sure you're not going to get in trouble for letting him go?"
Neal had been curious about Peter's mindset but the agent had seen something in the young man they'd found that showed he hadn't done the theft to steal but to do right for someone who had been stolen from. If their client wished to press charges in the future (which he seemed very adamant against when they'd called him) he would get a gentle reminder from the agent why he should remain silent. Their supposed thief had been more concerned with helping someone else get their rightful possessions back then the fact he might be accused of theft. They'd had more than enough to show that their client had lied to them about who really owned the contents of the vault. Neal thought he had seen doubtfulness in Peter's manner at first but then something less dogged appear. It was what had always made him curious about the agent when they were still cat and mouse.
"What's got you looking all thoughtful, Neal? Nothing to steal out here."
Peter was teasing him, eyes looking at him but Neal could see the pupils were bigger than they should be meaning his friend might have a concussion. He'd have to keep him awake.
"Lots to steal out here, meager as it may be."
He held up the agent's wallet, Peter not responding at first before rolling his eyes and reaching for it with that tolerant glance he gave the con when he did something questionable.
"Funny, Neal. So... I guess they'll have to find us on your anklet now. Both of our phones are untraceable and we're nowhere near the car which probably isn't broadcasting either."
It sounded bleak what he'd pointed out but it was more to break down what they knew than to be depressing. Neal knew that but it made him realize they were in far more danger than they normally were. He glanced down at his anklet and felt colder. Bruised as he was from the fall he moved to get a closer look and saw that the light was off and the tracker looked like it had been nicked on the way down. Peter sat up, eyes moving to where Neal looked and a slight whistle left his lips.
"They know where we were... more or less. I'll go up and see if I can get a signal."
Neal pulled himself up despite the aches from their fall and moved to stand up, body numb with cold. He felt a hand on his leg, Peter looking up at him with a worried look, the snow fall obvious above them, only a few small flakes getting to the ditch. He saw the agent pull something out his coat pocket, a flash of metal. The con shook his head but Peter had already done it, picking up his damp pant cuff and cutting the anklet loose.
"Go get help. I'll be ok here."
Peter looked serious despite the pale pallor of his skin, the hint of blood from the wound the only flush other than a small bit of pink on each cheek. Neal shook his head again, crouching by the agent as he removed the scarf from his knee and handed it back to him.
"Peter... you said never to leave anyone behind."
Neal was at a loss but the agent draped the scarf around his neck with a firm look, a soft smile on his lips despite the obvious nervousness at their situation.
"This is different and I'm safe. Go."
The agent was holding the anklet in his hand as if it were valuable, Neal realizing that Peter wanted him to go but was still worried about what could happen. It was snowing harder now as he glanced up at the weather above them. After a moment's thought, he sat back down, shaking his head.
"Snowing too hard and it's dark. Don't want me falling into another crevasse like this one, do you?"
He smirked slightly, the agent about to say something then nodding back as he smiled softly. It was a look of relief although veiled as the agent glanced up and watched the few flakes falling into their not so cosy spot melt some into the grass.
"Guess it can wait until morning. We're out of the worse of it for now. I'm sure El has called everyone even Hughes to come look for us. It's Christmas eve. Maybe Santa will come with his sleigh and rescue us."
Peter sounded a bit off, his words slurring some as Neal gave him a curious look and used his phone as a light to check the agent's eyes. Peter moved back some but finally stood still enough for him to see that his friend's pupils had covered the brown entirely. This wasn't good.
"Santa? I didn't think you'd believe in someone like that, Peter."
Neal would distract and keep his friend awake for now. It was all he could do considering as they both shivered in the deepening gloom. Peter grinned, lying back against the cold grass as he stared up at the con, eyes fluttering on the edge of closing. Neal nudged him, the agent giving in a tired look.
"I may have written a letter or two to the jolly fat man as a kid. Who didn't?"
Neal couldn't lie that he didn't have a vague memory of his father now that he knew about him again. It was a dream he'd had off and on about being up on someone's shoulders, fuzzy and faded like a picture as they walked through a snow covered park and lights twinkled in so many colors like stars around them. He saw his mother off to the side smiling unlike the woman he had come to know later. She rarely smiled from what he recalled, her manner tired as she did her best to avoid life and her own son it seemed. Ellen had been the only thing good in his life then even if he hadn't understood why his mother was so sad, he had loved her and Ellen equally.
"I'm guessing Danny Brooks didn't believe in Santa Claus?"
Peter's voice was gentle with only a hint of teasing but it wasn't mean or malicious, only full of the usual curiosity the agent held in regards to his past. Neal shrugged, watching his partner looking up at him with tired eyes.
"It's hard to believe in a mythical fat man who delivers gifts when you're too poor to afford the essentials. Ellen tried to fool me in the beginning but things were complicated even then. I would always find the gifts she hid and pretend to be excited on Christmas day for her sake if not my mom's."
His voice broke slightly on the last word, the con in him unable to fake the pain he felt about the strained relationship he'd had with his only parent at the time. Peter reached and gently wrapped an arm around him as he sat up beside him, leaning a bit too heavily against the con as if he could barely do this small act. Neal worried about his friend but felt his other hand gently muss his hair like he often did as a sign of affection.
"I'm sure they both appreciated it, Neal. You're a good person. I guess acting surprised was your first con?"
He was teasing again, lessening the pain to ease the uncomfortable silence that threatened to come forth if Neal thought about the past too long.
"I guess you could say that. So what about you. What did your parents do for Christmas?"
Neal did a quick redirect, hoping Peter would tell him something and the action of talking would keep him awake. He saw the agent's eyes narrow a bit then a lopsided grin follow as if he understood what was going on.
"Not much to tell really. I liked baseball of course so the first Christmas I remember Santa brought me a nice leather glove, bat and ball. Dad took me out despite it snowing outside and we tossed it around until our noses were so cold we thought they'd fall off."
He listened, feeling a bit tired himself from the cold and their long walk and fall. Something of Peter's story made him almost jealous of the fact his friend had a normal family life when his had been so very different. There were a few things he didn't miss though, hearing how Peter had been grounded for things but Neal had never really been in trouble. Not that he was a good kid but he had been better at hiding his ill deeds what few there had been and mostly they'd been for the betterment of himself to get to school or get something done that he couldn't otherwise accomplish through honest means. Call it social engineering. He learned early how to get what he wanted and needed.
They had fallen into silence, only a soft sound of snow falling overhead and the wind gusting as they huddled as best they could in their little shelter of the ditch. The agent's eyes were only slightly open, a slack look to his face as Neal nudged him.
"Hmm? You looked deep in thought. Thought I was boring you."
Peter's eyes opened a bit more, still dark from what he could see in the dim light. The agent smiled at him sleepily, almost drunkenly but that could be from the cold and his head injury. Neal moved closer, wrapping his good arm around his friend.
"Sorry. Just thinking about a few Christmases I had spent away from home after... I left."
That seemed to perk up his friend, Peter leaning on him a bit before staring up into his eyes.
"Must have been lonely. I remember a couple I spent due to weather at college. Home wasn't far but it was hard not to be with family."
Peter was smiling at him a little more sympathetically now, eyes open but just so as Neal nodded back.
"Some of them were. I may have allegedly jumped a train once and spent the night in the back with some hobos. Nice guys. They showed me a few things I may or may not have allegedly used in my future capers."
He was smiling now, looking down to see that Peter had nodded off, his face relaxed and eyes shut. Neal wanted to wake him up but he could see his friend was shifting slightly, breathing normally and seemed to otherwise be ok despite his injuries. He removed the scarf and gently wrapped up Peter's leg again, laying back on the cold grass of the ditch as he continued to keep his friend close, the agent's head on his shoulder. A few small flecks of snow fell on his face as his mind wandered.
Peter didn't know what to think when he felt someone nudging him. His head was throbbing like he'd been hit with a brick and his body was sore and colder than it had been. He was only vaguely aware they were out of the worse of the weather and someone was talking to him over the noisy gusts of wind overhead.
"Why is the house so cold, El?"
He was shivering, finally waking up enough to see a blurry face in the dimly lit ditch. After a moment he was able to focus and see that Neal Caffrey hovered over him looking worried and a bit beat up himself. He tried to get up at some point, both men tempted to get out of the ditch and find some help but his knee screamed back at him in agony, making him gasp in pain. He wasn't able to walk on this, he knew that much as he watched Neal carefully tie up his knee with his warm cashmere scarf. He noted the bloody silk handkerchief June had given his partner was dark with something he could only guess was blood. A part of him felt guilty, all these nice things his partner had were getting messed up but at the same time he noticed Neal didn't seem to think too much of it. The con... no EXcon liked his shiny objects and fancy clothes but in the end he was just playing a role. If he was willing to get messy for Peter that meant something.
"I'm sure they both appreciated it, Neal. You're a good person. I guess acting surprised was your first con?"
He teased, lessening the pain to ease the uncomfortable silence that threatened to come forth if Neal thought about the past too long.
"I guess you could say that. So what about you. What did your parents do for Christmas?"
He sensed the redirect but he'd also noticed his friend while uncomfortable about talking about his past was doing something else. Neal had been more than attentive towards him, giving up a chance to run once he'd removed the anklet. It hadn't just been the weather above them but a concern for himself, the throbbing in his head continuous but he dealt with it as he started to talk about his own Christmases past. There was a thoughtful look on his partner's face, a point where he thought there as almost a jealous glance and then something a bit more peaceful as his friend relaxed.
"Sorry. Just thinking about a few Christmases I had spent away from home after... I left."
Their conversation died down after that, the wind gusting with a whistling sound above them. Only a little of the wind and snow reached down into the deep nearly snow filled ditch they lay protected in. It was almost like being in a freezer but with his friend close to him they were able to keep up a bit of warmth he thought, mind wandering into it's own little fantasy.
Peter... hun, did you turn the lights on? They'll be here soon!
It was El speaking to him, his eyes on the remote in his hand and the TV flickering with some random sports program before him. Hadn't he just been elsewhere? He felt cold but he stood, a twinge in his knee as he hobbled slightly across to the door and flipped a switch. He could just make out the flicker of white LED lights around the door, windows and stoop. Someone hugged him from behind, one of Elizabeth's arms wrapping around him warm and secure as he leaned on her shoulder.
I'm so glad you were able to be home on Christmas.
Peter smiled, turning to kiss his wife. Suddenly he was staring up at a dark gloomy sky above, a hint of moon out through the clouds. Snow swished past like so many sparkling gems in the little light they did have. Someone had their arm wrapped around him as he turned his attention to the figure. He pulled out his cell phone and turned on the screen to see better.
His voice was raspy, throat dry from the cold air. He gave a dry hacky cough, easing himself up and nudging the con. The young man looked peaceful despite everything as he nudged him again without result. His head still hurt, eyes looking at the screen as it went out and he turned it back on. The time was after 11 PM. They'd been trapped out here since 4 PM give or take an hour. Someone must be looking for them.
"Wake up, Neal."
He eased himself into a more comfortable position as he sat up, noticing his knee was wrapped up again with the scarf. Neal...
His knee hurt when he shifted his weight, getting himself up to his feet and gently easing himself up towards the bad weather above. He'd checked his friend one last time before going up and realized the con's skin was colder than it should be. He was breathing, pulse steady but slow only he wouldn't wake up. Peter sighed, feeling the pain in his knee but getting up where the weather hit him hard and bracing himself as he felt a freezing cold gust of wind practically push at him before he stood up on wobbly legs and did his best to find a signal. He had to walk a few feet away in the wanna be blizzard before he saw a bar appear and sighed in relief. Suddenly his phone rang and he picked up to a staticy sound.
Someone was talking to him but he couldn't hear much with the signal so weak.
He quickly texted them and waited, hoping the signal would keep all the while. Finally he heard a beep and it was Jones telling him they had found the car and were looking for him and Caffrey. He told them about how far he thought they'd walked and what to look for. The text sent but it saved to his drafts, the bar still there as he tried again.
He sighed, moving back towards the spot where he'd left his partner waiting and hoping for an answer. Peter saw that the bar was gone and no more signal was possible. He slid back into the ditch careful of his hurt knee as he scooted back over to where Neal slept. In the dim light the con looked pale and cold like the statues he liked to steal. He looked at the message from Jones and sighed hoping for a miracle. They were close but would it be in time?
Neal was so cold. He finally curled up with his arm still around Peter, his head slumped near the agent's as he passed out. He was knocking on a door, his hand ready to perform the action when someone opened it and he felt a sheepish grin form on his lips.
The agent was looking at him funny, still wearing sweats and an old sweatshirt, a nice aroma of food wafting to them from further inside. He heard the rattle of pans and someone moving around in the background, probably Elizabeth as the two men gave each other a look.
"You're early. Something you want to confess?"
Peter was teasing of course, looking at how well he was dressed apparently and feeling a bit under dressed as a slight blush filled his cheeks or maybe it was the cold air. Neal grinned, holding up a bottle of wine from under his arm.
"Sorry, I figured this might need to chill before dinner. Hey El!"
He called over the agent's shoulder, Elizabeth Burke smiling back and waving slightly, a sauce spoon in one hand and a pot lid in the other before she vanished with a quick: "Hey Neal!" Peter motioned him in, looking around as if for vandals, thieves or maybe Mozzie before closing the door behind him.
"Go ahead and sit. I'll put this on ice and go up and get dressed. I didn't think anyone would come this early."
Peter had barely said those words when El called out: "I told you he'd be early!" Neal suppressing a chuckle as his partner nodded and sighed, walking over to the kitchen then coming back after a moment and heading upstairs.
"Be back in minute..."
Neal nodded, watching his friend disappear upstairs as he walked over to the kitchen and peeked at the chef on duty. Elizabeth was stirring something that smelled good although he could just make out something roasting in the oven which could be the source of his watering taste buds. She just turned and smiled at him, pointing at a stood by the kitchen island.
"I told him you would be early but he didn't believe me. How is June? She didn't come with you?"
She turned her attention back a moment to what was in the pots on the stove-top, stirred a few things before turning down the burner and wiping her hands on the apron around her waist before sitting near him on the other stool. El always treated him fairly reminding him much of Ellen in some ways and a bit like the older sister he'd never had.
"She's not coming?"
Neal was surprised she knew, nodding with a slight frown. June was like the grandmother he'd never had but Samantha had a play tonight and she was going to see that with her daughter and the eldest granddaughter Cindy. He wasn't sure who else was coming other than himself and June, Peter having asked him and June to come. He'd also told him that El had invited Mozzie but had received no reply yet the day before. Neal rarely saw the little guy at the holidays thinking he must stay away for his own reasons. When they'd first met they'd gone out to drink on Christmas Eve when Kate joined them. Once she'd left, it was just them the following year and he'd had gone to Copenhagen with Alex briefly for the music box. They'd had a lovely night enjoying a free meal at a fine restaurant before disappearing before the bill came. He'd missed Kate the entire time, Alex trying to make him forget without success.
"You're here with us Neal. It will be like having family over."
She winked at him as he blushed slightly at the idea she thought of him as family. I made him happy in a way but also uncertain. He didn't want to disappoint them, especially Peter.
"Family over? Your dad and mom aren't going to be here are they?"
Peter sounded worried, standing by the bottom of the stairs with a nice polo shirt, brown dockers and darker brown topsider shoes. He had that pinched look on his face like when he's worried about something not going very well, a stifled grin on El's face.
"No hun (He's scared of my father...)"
She said the last part low to Neal with a slight chuckle. He suddenly remembered his partner's worry the one time El's folks were in town. He'd missed seeing them unfortunately but he'd heard enough to know her father scared Peter.
"So I don't get to see him psychoanalyze Peter?"
Neal watched Peter's face pale some, cheeks going redder as El finally laughed, moving away to check on the simmering pots and stove again giving the two men a moment to chat.
"Funny, Neal. So, what is all this talk about family? They aren't coming right?"
He was asking Neal for reassurances despite everything, the con smiling and shaking his head.
"No. El was saying family is what you make of it. This is more than we had during the holidays. Thanks for inviting me."
He was being honest, something he rarely did but Peter and El had a way of making him want to be a good person if not truthful. He felt a flush on his cheeks as the agent gave him a curious look obviously surprised by his honesty.
"You are family, Neal. Come on... help me set the table before El makes us do something worse."
Peter had barely said that when El piped in "I heard that!" with a wink to him as the two of them moved to grab up table settings and place mats. Neal noticed the way Peter and El were with one another, despite being without kids of their own they were a loving couple, Satchmo their current baby as the dog moved in to get some attention at the smell of delicious things from the oven. El gave the dog a treat from one of the bowls by the stove as he watched them as if from afar and thought about his own past.
"Those forks aren't going to set themselves, Neal."
Peter was teasing him like a big brother, Neal nodding as he came back to the present and realized he should be thinking of the now and not the then. Soon they were set up and everyone helped El bring the food out. He had been noticing the house dressed up for the holidays, still early enough for Christmas although it was still a few days away.
"Looks like it's just us. More than enough to go around for everyone and left overs for the rest of the week."
El was smiling brightly, Peter happy and Neal feeling a bit of cheer as they sat down to eat. They said a quick word of thanks for the food and started to dig in. Neal saw the steaming veggies on his plate, mashed potatoes with gravy and sliced turkey. It all looked so good and smelled just as wonderful as he took a bite.
"I think you need to cook this some more, El. It's cold."
He glanced at the brown, steaming piece of meat on his fork confused by the image and the fact that he pushed it to his lips again and felt something icy. El and Peter blinked back.
"Cold? It's more than hot, Neal. Try it again."
Neal tried some of the colorful snow peas and green beans and they were also cold despite looking and seeming hot and fresh. El and Peter didn't seem to notice his continuing discomfort as he sighed and took a sip of the wine. It was solid when he tried it, frozen like a large popsicle in his glass but his friends were drinking theirs just fine. Was the room cold suddenly? He shivered, Peter giving him a funny look across the table.
"Neal, eat. El worked very hard on making this for us... for you."
There was an odd intonation to his friend's voice, Neal trying to figure out what as he shivered as the room seemed colder by the minute, icicles forming on his glass and the meat on his fork. Everything suddenly felt like a dream, faint and fuzzy as he tried to stand and felt a hand gently grasping his arm. It was Peter, the agent looking at him with honest brown eyes.
"Everything's ok, Neal. Just hold on."
He heard those words and blinked, everything fading but Peter and then suddenly he could hear gusts of wind, something cold and icy touching his bare cheek, the hold on his arm still very real.
"They're coming soon, Neal..."
The voice was raspy but it familiar as he opened up his eyes and saw a blurry form above. He was so cold, shivering where he lay and feeling lethargic. He sensed a tremor from the person holding his arm and realize they were shivering too, the dim moonlight revealing Peter Burke.
His throat felt swollen shut, his lips chapped and cold. He licked at them, his tongue sticking some to his cold dry skin, little moisture there. Peter looked down at him, a faint smile just visible in the light. He could tell the agent was waiting for something but what, he didn't know.
"Neal? Hey... I thought... you didn't wake up there for a bit. Jones is coming soon. I managed to get up top and send a text. They should be here soon."
Peter sounded tired, licking at his own dry chapped lips. They hadn't been out here but 8 hours at worse but the weather was bad enough to feel like they'd been trapped in a freezer for days. He sensed tension from his friend and worry but that faint smile remained and it eased some of his confusion at the dream. They'd been warm and at the Burke house. It had felt so real for a few minutes...
He wanted to speak but his throat felt sore and raw he could barely swallow. Peter shushed him gently, curling up beside him as they tried to keep warm.
"Save your strength. We'll be warm soon."
The agent kept glancing up at any odd sound but it was just the cold wind above gusting and whistling. He thought he heard something else, a crunching sound and maybe voices but he was already feeling tired again as he turned to see that Peter had closed his eyes and was laying unmoving again. Neal did the same, the darkness soothing as he called to his partner.
He heard the agent murmuring something about the house being cold to El again. He could almost see the Burke home in his mind, warm and pleasant. There was something delicious baking in the background...
Someone was calling out, the wind wailing over their voice but he could hear them as he shifted slightly beside his friend. He just wanted to sleep and not be so cold. He could sense Peter trembling not so far away, moving his good arm to nudge him.
He heard nothing at first then someone was crunching on the grass near him, a warm hand on his neck. He wanted to react but Neal was too tired, his body frozen solid he thought as he felt the hand pat him gently on the arm.
"They're alive! Need a medic!"
The voice was calling out, shouting but he was too cold to reply and slowly fell back into the darkness and the illusion of the Burke household during the holidays. He was sitting at the dining table with Peter and El eating that meal from before only now he could taste it.
"You're right. This is delicious, El. Thank you for a great meal."
Author's Note: Supposed to have been a one shot but it kept getting longer. It's almost over so the next chapter will be shorter by far. Enjoy!