Peter was led by Jones and Timons back to the Ambulance he'd left. His head kept turning as he saw men and women rushing past to something he hoped was the rescue of his partner and not fishing his body from the lake. He remembered little of what had happened after they fell into the water, his mind fuzzy from the coldness of the water. Someone snapped a finger or two at him, Peter coming out his reverie a moment as he saw Diana standing before him with a curious look.
"Boss... what is he doing out here, Jones?"
She sounded concerned but they were a team and if he would accept help from anyone, it would be these two agents. He held up a hand tiredly and spoke a bit more clearly.
"My... bad. Went... looking for... Nnnneal."
He let the agents and a now present EMT help him back into the bus and onto the gurney. They left the clothes on him for warmth, wrapping him up in blankets and strapping him in so he would be safe. Diana was looking back at Jones he noticed, the two talking as they nodded in some agreement he didn't hear and she jumped into the bus with him.
"I'll stay here and let you know when they find Caffrey. Take care of him."
Jones smiled at the two, Timons following him as the doors shut and the cold air was finally kept at bay. The EMT was hooking Peter back up to some IVs, explaining they were for his exposure to the cold and would help him hydrate. He fussed a bit but Diana channeled his wife in some odd manner and gave him a look to be nice. Peter wanted to fuss, worry about his partner but realizing El was probably worrying about him and Diana's look made him relax some. The EMT leaned in to check his heart and pulse, speaking quietly. He noticed the man smiling some as he listened in to his walkie-talkie a moment then continued with his quick exam.
"Your friend was found and is going to be brought to the same hospital, Agent. Good thing we found you both before the weather got worse."
The EMT smiled in a comforting way at him, Diana nodding in agreement as she stared up and out at the snow from the warm interior. Peter sat up enough to see the flakes were larger now, the sound of them hitting the bus like someone chucking ice flakes at them. He shivered in memory of the water and the cold, but otherwise he remembered very little of what happened between passing out in the water and coming to when they found him on the boat. He wasn't sure where the boat had come from. He heard someone get into the front of the vehicle, a man with short hair with a slight hint of mohawk on the top smiling back at them.
"Everyone strap in. We should be ok to get back to Syracuse but it's going to be a long slow ride with this weather. Sandy and Doug are still getting ready but should follow soon."
Diana put on a seat belt, Peter secured on the gurney as the EMT put on his own belt. There was a slight lurch as the vehicle slid a bit before driving a bit more smoothly through the weather. The wind continued to whistle and gust outside, the snow falling in a more fervent manner. Peter was mostly sleeping, exhausted from his ordeal but definitely warmer now and not shivering as much as he had been. He heard the background sounds of the EMTs talking to one another or to Diana or on their walkie talkies as he slipped in and out of his half slumber. He was dreaming of darkness, cold empty darkness where he had been until Neal had awaken him. He still had no idea who had taken them, the memory of his abduction faint and fuzzy in his still tired and confused head. The cold had addled his brains as had whatever they'd injected him with.
"What's going on?"
Diana's voice sounded worried, a lurching feeling around him as the agent opened up his eyes and saw his colleague holding on to the side of the interior of the vehicle for dear life. Suddenly he felt the vehicle turning on its side, the straps holding him in and something else keeping the gurney from falling over as they began to tip over to one side, everyone sounding panicked.
The EMT in the back was calling up to the driver in the front, Peter noticing his suit had a tag marked: Jon. They were shaken and hanging at odd angles, the EMT flattened against the side that had fallen over. Luckily most of the stuff in the cab was battened down so only a few small items tumbled around as they flipped onto their side. Peter felt his heart racing a bit, Diana carefully extracting herself from her spot over him as she moved over to the front of the vehicle to check the driver. The EMT named Jon was doing the same as he watched from where he lay. After a moment Jon came back and unstrapped him from the gurney, flipping it upright so he could lay back in it. Jacob was ok but shaken, everyone in the back now as they waited for help.
"The other ambulance should be coming soon. They have an escort. We can get a ride with them. Let me give them a call."
Jacob had a bit of a bump on his temple where he'd hit it as the vehicle flipped but was otherwise ok. They were lucky from the view outside that the snow had been deep enough to keep them from sliding too far. He could see a ditch not too far away as they waited for help to come.
Neal woke up when he felt a gust of cold air and the wind gusting a bit louder than it had been. Someone was just exiting out the rear of the ambulance, FBI logo evident on the jacket as he realizing it was Jones and Doug. They closed the door, Sandy also missing when he sat up a bit and looked back at the driver's seat. He could just make out some of the outside through the frosted window, figures moving ahead through the now blizzard like storm as they disappeared in the mist. He could hear the radio on a lower volume, someone talking about a vehicle flipped over as he tried to listen. He heard little before the doors opened up again and Diana stood there with another figure wrapped up warmly in a blanket.
"Diana... what are you doing her... Peter?"
She nodded a bit brusquely, moving the not so lively agent beside her up into the warm interior of the ambulance when more figures showed, two more EMTs including Doug squeezed in, making room as Jones sat in the front with Sandy who was now back. Everyone was flushed, cheeks reddish from the cold as the doors were shut and they started off again.
"We let central know we had to leave the ambulance behind in the storm. We have what we need and locked it up. Everyone secured?"
Everyone had a seat belt on, including Peter who was sitting next to Diana, head lolling a bit from exhaustion but he was conscious, brown eyes looking up at him after a moment. The agent blinked and slowly realization came to his face as Neal smiled back reflecting the relieved look on his friend's face.
Peter nodded back, holding out his hand as they shook, fingers clinging a moment before letting go.
They were quiet, the words though few enough to convey what the other was feeling. Diana smiled slightly, handing Peter her cell.
"I'm getting a signal. Call Elizabeth..."
He nodded tiredly, taking the cell and dialing the number. Neal watched, looking from Diana to Peter and watching his friend's face light up as the call obviously went through.
"It's me... Yes... I'm fine. Miss you too, hun."
The agent only spoke for a few minutes, his voice quiet and more subdued than usual. Finally he hung up, a reluctant look on his face as he handed the cell back to Diana and leaned back as comfortably as he could in the ambulance. Peter looked weary, Neal knowing that feeling all too well as he glanced around the interior. It was crowded with 5 in the back and 2 in the front cab but they were alive and safe for now, the trip fairly quiet until they made Syracuse and the hospital. Neal was still on the gurney, as they rolled him into the ER. Peter walked and they were separated once inside.
"I'm fine, El."
His wife was fussing over him as Peter sat up in the curtained area in the ER. They had assessed him as being ok for the moment, keeping an IV on him for hydration, giving him something warm to drink and checking that he wasn't having side-effects from whatever he'd been given. So far everything seemed ok.
"You're not fine, Peter. You were taken and someone drugged you! You've been missing for nearly a day and I thought..."
She didn't finish what she wanted to say, El looking upset and tired if not worried.
"They said you called in that Neal had run but... Neal's with you. What happened?"
El had finally paused to let him speak, realizing with a slight blush she was overdoing it but he knew she was just being worried about him. His wife was holding his hand tightly, her other hand touching his cheek in a soothing manner.
"I don't really know. I was looking into that call from Neal but it wasn't... him who called. Someone drugged me and then I woke up at Lake Oneida with Neal. Someone had taken both of us... but I don't know who or if it has something to do with the case, hun."
He kept his voice low, knowing the curtains around them didn't hide much in the way of sound and they were still in an open investigation. El nodded, hugging him a bit and laying her head on his chest.
"It's ok, hun. I was worried about you. Jones told me what happened when I called to see what was going on. He said they were searching for Neal and you hadn't been in contact."
She hesitated, sitting up to look into his brown eyes with her blue ones, a hint of tiredness and unshed tears. They were still holding hands, his clinging to his wife's as much as she did to his before she continued.
"I know Neal would never hurt you... I just... I thought maybe Keller... I know, it just seemed too convenient when he said you were looking for Neal running away. He told me the other day he was going to help me with an event. I figured... Neal never makes promises he can't keep."
She blushed slightly, Peter blinking back in surprise but understanding despite the odd answer that she had been worried about them both. Neal was family. Suddenly he thought of someone he never thought he would at a moment like this.
"And I'm glad you were worried about Neal too. He's hard to get over once you get used to him being around. Mozzie... does he... know? I'd think he would be curious why Neal wasn't around for his usual wine tasting."
He added the last part as a way of easing the tension, El smiling some at the comment as she shook her head.
"No, but I did leave a message for him to contact Neal and ask what was going on. I never got a call back. I'll have to make sure he knows what's going on. Speaking of Neal... He's down the hallway. They had to give him stitches..."
Her voice lowered on the last part and Peter sat up a bit more, worry evident but she gently pushed him back, a relaxed look on her face.
"It's nothing serious. They said he didn't have much of a concussion from the blow but he needed 5 stitches for the gash on his forehead. I don't know the details hun, but I will find them out for you. Rest."
Her voice was commanding in her own way, El kissing him before she rose and left him alone in the curtained room. He could hear other people moving around outside and it made him anxious to be up. He wanted to go home and sleep in his own bed but he was still hooked up to an IV and he was worried about his partner and friend. Those thoughts kept him occupied as the curtain opened some time later and he turned, awakened from his half sleep to see Agent Jones there.
"Hey... how are you feeling? Doctor said you could probably go home tonight. Your blood work came back negative. Looks like whoever grabbed you gave you a mild sedative."
Jones looked relieved for not just his safety and health but for other reasons he could guess.
"Thanks and I feel ok. Just tired. I heard Neal was getting stitches. Is he going home too? El went to visit with him."
He shifted a bit in the bed, a faint creaking from it as he sat up a bit more than he had been to talk to his colleague. Jones shrugged, a slight smile on his face.
"The nurses were fighting to help him. He's being his usual flirty self and your wife had to break it up along with the doctor. I think he's going to be ok. The gash was along his hairline so they said he shouldn't have any obvious scarring."
Jones was grinning now with an expression that showed he was amused by Caffrey, Peter glad to hear his friend wasn't going to be marked for life.
"That's good. He's not the tough guy type who likes to show his scars and impress girls with them. Can you call a doctor so maybe I can get out of this bed and see Neal?"
He was sick of laying down and wanted to feel like he was doing something. Neal had saved him, he knew that much and he needed to see his friend and make sure he was ok. Jones nodded back at him, leaving through the blue curtains so that Peter was sitting up, feet hanging over the bed expectantly. He wanted to leave now but he still had the IV to deal with and figured waiting for a doctor or nurse to remove it was safer at this time. Only a few minutes passed and the curtain opened again and he saw a doctor in blue scrubs smiling at him.
"Agent Burke... your colleague told me you were getting tired of lying down. I guess you're feeling up to going home now?"
The doctor was about his height, dirty blond hair and nearer to Neal or Jones' age if he had to guess as he nodded back.
"My wife said they were going to release me today. She's visiting my partner right now. I need to see how he's doing..."
He watched the doctor nod back, moving over to a small drawered portable nightstand by the bed and putting on some gloves and grabbing up some gauze and tape.
"I'm Dr. Lang but you can call me Stan. Your wife said you were anxious to get out of here. Your partner is doing fine. He is resting after a quick chat with your wife when I visited him a few minutes ago. We are going to release him tomorrow after a night of observation. His eyes were a bit dilated from the hit to his head but otherwise everything looked ok."
Peter nodded, worry making him more anxious as he winced slightly at the removal of the IV from his right arm and felt something wrapped gently around the spot with tape.
"Just leave this on for a bit to stop the bleeding. You can take it off tomorrow. Let me get a nurse and wheelchair for you, Agent Burke."
Dr. Stan Lang was being courteous and much as Peter wanted to run to his wife and partner, he sat on the edge of the bed waiting, the curtain opened up as he glanced around the small ER. There were a few others in the room, one a man with an arm in a sling, a woman and child next to him visiting. The woman looked disheveled and afraid, her jacket a bit muddy but a nice one while the child had a small bandage on her temple as he realized what must have happened. He nodded to them as they noticed him watching, Peter's eyes roaming around the room a moment before coming back to his feet hanging off the bed. His clothes were still the ones he'd taken from the back of the ambulance, the uniform a bit loose on him as he glanced down at his socked feet and tried not to be too worried about Neal.
He glanced up to see a nurse in scrubs come over with a wheelchair. He nodded, standing up and moving over to sit in the chair as she helped him get settled and put a warm flannel blanket over his lap.
"Just in case you're still cold. Your wife is waiting for you at Mr. Caffrey's room."
He smiled slightly at the formal use of his partner's name, nodding quietly as she pushed him along past the family he had been watching and other patients in the ER and down a long hallway. They passed a hospital desk with other staff busy with the obvious effects of tonight's weather. Finally she turned down another hall to the right and stopped before a door.
"Your partner is in here."
She turned the chair so she could open the door and pull him in backwards, an odd feeling but he went with it, head turning slightly to see where they were going as they entered the room. It was dimly lit, warm with only a slight hint of chill that made him pull the blanket around him a bit. He heard someone talking softly before they paused and he heard footsteps coming towards them.
"Mrs. Burke, your husband is here. He has to stay in the chair until you leave the hospital. I'll bring the papers for you to sign so he can be released."
He glanced between his wife and the nurse, her eyes on El and then Neal before looking at him one last time with a soft smile before she left them. When the door shut he promptly got up but someone pushed him back into the chair gently, Elizabeth looking at him curiously.
She turned the chair around so he could see, Peter looking up at his partner laying comfortably under the white sheets and a large beige flannel blanket. Despite his boyish look as he slept, there was a tenseness around his partner's eyes indicating stress or at the very least worry. He stood up with some effort, El helping him as he approached the bed and sat in the chair beside it with a tired sigh. Much as he could say Neal was impulsive and sometimes even rash, the young man had saved him and taken on their captor. He had no other explanation for what had happened and until Neal woke up, Peter would have to wait to ask. El put a gentle hand on his shoulder, leaning over to kiss him and whisper quietly.
"I'm going to get some coffee. I'll see if the doctor will allow you some. Ok?"
He nodded, kissing her back before she left him alone with his sleeping partner. Peter felt a bit tired himself, watching Neal sleep a few minutes before leaning back in the chair to get comfy and nodding off.
Neal didn't like getting stitches, but he was dizzy and tired as well as too exhausted from everything that had happened to fight or argue much. He did sweet talk the nurses a bit until they blushed around him and seemed all too happy to make sure he had water or whatever else he needed. The doctor smirked, finishing up the last of the five stitches and patting him on the shoulder.
"Distracting my nurses, Mr. Caffrey. I've never seen such a show of girlish glee around a patient but Agent Jones warned me about you."
The doctor smiled at him with a knowing look, Neal grinning back despite his tiredness.
"You can call me Neal. Jones is just... well he's my friend."
Neal didn't want to say Clinton was jealous because it wasn't that at all. He just liked to tease the con making him self-conscious of something he really had no control over. Would you tell the sea to stop coming to the shoreline or a peacock to stop strutting?
"Speaking of friends... Your partner Agent Burke is doing well. He's resting in the ER right now. We're going to release him once he wakes up. You... well your eyes are still a bit dilated so we need to watch you overnight."
The doctor was writing on a chart, moving towards a shelf in the small OR. He put the chart down, opened the shelf and grabbed a bottle, taking a couple of pills from it before he walked back.
"Acetaminophen. Should help with the pain. Let me get you some water for those."
Neal nodded tiredly but he was anxious, worried about his friend and wanting to see him before he left. He took the pills with the small cup of water Dr. Lang brought for him, his eyes looking at the man and trying to analyze him a bit as he stood with a slight wobble stopped by the man's hand on his arm. He had a firm grip like Peter, his age about the same as the agent; same height, although his eyes were more hazel than brown...
"Come on. I have a wheelchair with your name on it, Casanova. Nurse Angela apparently won the staff pool. She will take you to your room. I'll let your friends know where you are."
For once Neal didn't react to the ribbing from the doctor except with a slight smirk, thankfully sitting in the chair so he wouldn't lose too much dignity from stumbling around. Nurse Angela (She told him to call her Angie with a girlish giggle) pushed him smoothly through the small hospital to his room on the other end of the building. She didn't hook him up to an IV but just helped him onto the bed before she left. Once Neal was settled, he was anything but tired despite his heavy eyelids. All he wanted was to go back to June's and visit with Mozzie after checking that Peter was indeed ok. The hospital wasn't a place he was fond of although for reasons different than Mozzie's. He thought about past visits to such a facility to deal with his mom's problems and ailments, sighing with regret as he turned his attention to the curtained windows. Probably best not to be reminded of the cold that had nearly killed them as he closed his eyes and felt himself drifting off.
Someone was talking to him, his memory of a visit with Ellen to see his mother at a local clinic fading away until he was awake and staring up into soft blue eyes. For a moment he thought it was Ellen there and then he remembered she was gone.
"Elizabeth... I guess I dozed off. How long did I sleep?"
He was surprised she had made it up to Syracuse considering the weather but apparently some hours had passed since he'd closed his eyes and it was early morning the next day. El tucked him in a bit, brushing a loose strand of hair from his forehead. She gasped slightly, the stitches along his hairline catching her eye. The doctor said they were heal just fine and it was in a spot that wouldn't be obvious. He'd been lucky but not just because his looks were saved. Nobody like a guy with scars. Neal just knew he had been fortunate it wasn't worse considering he had distracted Conners away from Peter long enough to get him free.
"I've only been here a few minutes. Peter's sleeping. Jones directed me here. (she paused a moment, patting his arm.) Hughes is talking with an Agent Timons about what happened. I'm just glad you're both ok."
She was giving him that look, the one that came up when Peter was in danger or trouble. El wanted answers but she wasn't going to push since he was in a hospital bed. She had more sense than to be obvious but her worry was evident and he took her hand in his, wincing a bit as he felt the few bruises and bumps Conners had given him as well as other aches and pains from the cold swim.
"I can't really say what happened. I woke up in the middle of a lake and found Peter there with me. It's still a bit fuzzy."
He was as sincere as he could be without telling her how he found Peter or the masked gunman. Fuzzy was a good excuse as any at the moment as he felt himself tiring out. El gently kissed him on the forehead, giving him a gentle hug as she tucked him in and spoke softly.
"Rest, Neal. I'm going to see if Peter is awake yet. I'll be back."
Her voice faded away as he nodded sleepily up at her and drifted off. He dreamed of the past and his mother. She had always been unhappy and sad, depression making it hard for her to do much of anything and making her sick. Ellen took him to visit her when she had her bad spells. Those were days he stayed with her, his surrogate mother. He called her Aunt Ellen when he was little and then just Ellen as he grew up. For a while he wasn't happy to think of her after he'd found out about his father and his real past. His face twitched in his sleep, a tightness around his eyes as he thought about his reckless ways, impulsiveness and finally meeting Agent Peter Burke. Something about the man had intrigued him. Could someone be such a boy scout and honorable? Maybe he could have some faith in the world again, the romantic in him hoping as he found out more about the man.
Where are you, Neal?
The voice was a familiar one but it was faint and just audible as he slowly came back to awareness and glanced around at his strange surroundings. Then it came back to him. He was in a hospital in Syracuse. Neal noticed someone sitting by his bed, nodded off as their head slumped forward, chin on their chest. It was Peter and he was muttering in his sleep.
"He's... Neal's not dangerous..."
Peter's voice sounded worried, upset in a way as he spoke and it made him realize how much the man cared. He sat up, reaching out to nudge his friend when brown eyes met blue and he smiled.
"And I thought I was the only sleeping beauty around here."
He was teasing his friend, lightening the mood when Peter blinked back at him and rubbed at his eyes tiredly. Finally he smiled back and smirked slightly.
"The only pretty boy around here is lying in bed with stitches. How are you feeling? I never got to properly thank you for earlier in the lake."
Peter held out his hand and they shook, their fingers holding a bit longer than necessary before letting go with the usual nonchalance only guys can have with emotions. Neal shrugged, sitting up a bit more as he shifted in bed.
"So... you're going home tonight? The weather cleared up since that blizzard yesterday evening?"
He was secretly hoping the agent was staying but also glad he was well enough to go home. Peter shrugged back, wiping a hand through his hair as he leaned back tired in the chair.
"Have to fly back or get a ride back with Jones. I heard he came in a helicopter."
Neal could see that Peter wasn't anxious to go back yet either, a reluctance there he found comforting.
"Helicopters can be fast rides to and from a heis... a case. Or so I've heard."
He let the words sink in, a fatherly scowl momentarily darkening the agent's face before he sighed and mussed Neal's hair.
"Allegedly that's what I've heard too."
They would have said more but the door opened with a quiet click, both men turning to see Elizabeth and Reese Hughes coming inside. Peter stood up but the older agent motioned for him to sit, nodding to both of them before speaking.
"Glad to see you both... Burke... Caffrey."
The man was all business but finally Elizabeth glanced up at him and he nodded back as if she had said something, his usual gruff looking going down a notch or two.
"You're clear, Caffrey. With everything that's happened I sent the Marshals home. Told them we can bring you back with us. I have Jones outside watching the room as a precaution and incase you need anything, Peter... Elizabeth."
He paused, clearing his throat as El moved closer to them. She was standing behind Peter, hugging him around the shoulders as Reese continued.
"Looks like we're stuck here for now. The weather got worse after we flew in. Everything for miles is shut down and after the incident with the ambulance carting you, they want us to stay put. They have an extra room or two if we need it. We'll take off back to New York once the weather clears up."
Everyone was quiet a moment before Peter coughed, nodding at his boss.
"Thanks, Sir. We'll probably camp out in the lobby depending. Should probably check to see if they have somewhere to eat here. I'm starving!"
El nodded, looking over at Neal whose stomach answered before he could.
"Food sounds good and thank you Sir. I could give you my statement now if you want."
Neal wanted to tell what he remembered but the older agent shook his head.
"Later. There's plenty of time for that after you rest up. That knock to your head and those stitches require healing. I'll go see what kind of accommodations they have for us through Dr. Lang and see you later."
He left them, El smiling as she kissed Peter on the cheek and grinned at Neal.
"You're off the hook. And you..."
She was looking at Peter as he glanced up at her.
"We need to find something to eat and I have a change of clothes for you... Much as I like jumpsuits, this one does nothing for you honey."
She was looking a the baggy suit making the agent blush as Neal smirked slightly.
"All he needs is a parachute and he could be a skydiver."
Neal was being facetious, Peter giving him a look but changing to surprise as El nodded.
"Exactly! That's why he needs to change back into the Peter I know and love."
She winked at them both, Peter sighing as he nodded back.
"Maybe I want to jump out of planes. Ever think about that hun? I'd be like a superhero..."
Neal smirked at Peter's comment, a furrowing of brow starting before El interrupted.
"But you're already super to me, hun. Besides, if you think I disapprove of the excitement at the White Collar division, you don't want to know how much I'd hate you working as a skydiver."
Author's Note: Another story started and ended with humor thrown in. Thanks for reading!