Peter was sneezing, nose red, face flushed and his body shivering slightly. He probably had a cold but mostly, he was soaked through after falling through an icy lake chasing after their suspect. The two of them had struggled, breaking through the ice where it was thin and thankfully Neal had come to rescue, pulling Peter out while agents had grabbed up the now more pliable suspect. The consultant had been on the agent's heels not falling in but diving in when both men had gone underneath the ice. It was a good thing he was an excellent swimmer. Jones had called the paramedics for them just in case, EMTs showing up a few minutes later with emergency blankets. Neal looked like he was ok but Peter was already showing signs of being sick and slightly hypothermic, the consultant offering to ride home with the agent when they both refused anything but the minimal of care from the EMTs.
"I thought you said you never got sick…"
Neal was teasing obviously, Peter giving him a look but shrugging slightly as he sneezed again, wiping at his face with some tissues the EMTs had given him.
"I did just fall into an icy lake chasing… chasing (sneezes) a bad guy so…"
Peter paused, looking like he might sneeze again, his nose bright red. He looked terrible, the con reaching over as Peter leaned away. Then he realized what Neal was up to, allowing his friend's still cool hand to touch his forehead.
"You're not warm so it must be the dip in the lake. Don't you have a change of clothes for the gym in your trunk?"
Neal was worrying about him despite his calm demeanor. The agent nodded, popping the trunk as he pulled out his gym bag. He had a couple of sweat pants in there and two tees. He handed one set to Neal.
"Don't need El to tell me I didn't… didn't… (sneeze) take care of you too."
His voice sounded gravelly, Neal nodding as they took turns changing in the back of the car into dry clothes. Peter moved to take the driver's seat when Neal blocked his path.
"Let me drive. I don't need El telling me I let her husband plow a perfectly good beamer into the ditch because he was sick."
Neal had those puppy dog eyes that even Peter couldn't ignore much as he tried. Plus his head did feel a bit heavy and achy so he gave in. Jones was already aware they were headed straight home. Clinton could take care of the case for today. The hard part was already finished as Peter tossed the keys to Neal and slipped into the passenger seat. He waited until both doors were shut and the engine was on to turn the seat warmers on, both men smiling at the feeling of warmth after the cold of the icy lake. They were about an hour outside of the city, the landscape mostly trees and snowy drifts, a few small flurries falling. Sometimes they saw a small lake house but the area was rural at best as they drove along at a safe clip.
"Thank you Neal."
His voice was nasally when he spoke but sincere, Peter's head lolling to look over at his friend as he leaned back against the seat tiredly. Neal glanced over after a moment and nodded, a soft smile on his face.
He would have said more but the agent had already passed out or at least his quiet wheezy breath made him think so, brown eyes shut. Neal grinned, turning on the radio to a jazz holiday station on a low volume. He wiped at his forehead feeling beads of sweat there but it figured it must be from the heated seats and their dunk into the lake. He kept his eyes on the road, nothing but white for miles.
Peter was cold, not just from his dunk in the lake but his seat was chilly and the air frigid. He opened his eyes, glancing around as he gave a sneeze or two and saw he was still in the car. He was alone, the engine off and the keys sitting on the driver's seat. The time was 5 hours later according to his watch and the sun was low in the sky. For a moment he felt some confusion at the situation, sitting up and looking for something… someone...
His head felt stuffed up from the earlier icy dunk as he turned his head, looking at the empty driver's seat and open door. That explained why he was cold but not why or where Caffrey went. He removed his seat belt slipping into the driver's seat as he grabbed up the keys and glanced outside. The scenery was white for miles around, a few trees present some yards off but he didn't recognize the area, large flakes falling all around him. He moved to close the door but then paused, slipping on his now damp socks and shoes and stepping out into the frozen landscape. This wasn't the road they had started on he realized as the agent shivered and visually searched the dreary landscape.
He looked around but saw no signs of the consultant, his eyes scanning the scenery for life. They were nowhere, the car off road as if it had coasted into the shoulder and stopped of its own accord. He could still make out the tracks but mostly the heavier flurries had started to cover it up and the once plowed road. Peter was confused now, wiping at his runny nose with the back of his cold left hand as he moved a few feet away, keeping the car in sight.
He called out more loudly, his voice swallowed up by the quiet of the snow. Normally he'd find this charming, El liked walking in the park when it was drifted like this but right now he was worried about what had happened to bring them here and why Neal had vanished. Maybe he had a call of nature? Had the car broken down? He hadn't checked but it was possible. Would explain the tracks on the road. It didn't explain the open car door or the keys left there. Neal was irresponsible at times, maybe even thoughtless but this wasn't like him.
Peter was a good 20 yards from the vehicle now, the flurries coming down almost blindingly and soaking him through. He had to go back soon but he needed to find Neal first. There was a small tree line off about 10 more yards making his way towards it. As he drew closer he saw something dark peeking out of the snow, something like dark black weeds but the consistency seemed wrong. Then he noticed something else, crouching down to be certain as he saw the pale pallid hand nearby holding a cell phone in a death grip and realized what he was looking at.
He reached for the hand, brushing away snow and ice to reveal an unconscious Neal Caffrey, the consultant face down in a drift. His hand was holding the cell phone tightly, stiff from the cold. Peter gently lifted the unmoving form of his friend, feeling for a pulse and giving a relieved sigh (and sneeze) when he felt one. It was slow and steady, the younger man not responsive as the agent half carried him back towards the car. The tree line had been on slightly higher ground so they slid down a bit as he walked back towards the vehicle. The snow was coming down much harder now as he neared and opened up the back door and pushed Neal inside. He covered him with his coat, closing up the door and ducking inside the front driver's seat. Peter lowered his seat back and reached around to nudge his friend.
"Neal… wake up. Neal…"
The con didn't respond, Peter afraid now. The sound of snow hitting the car made him think of someone throwing cotton candy at it. It was a soft sound, the windows coated with frost as he turned on the engine and it roared to life. The car was working as he turned on the heater again, activated the seat warmers especially in the back and the defroster.
"Come on Neal… wake up."
His friend was unresponsive, Peter noticing a flush to Neal's cheeks despite having been out in the snow. He felt his friend's forehead and sighed worried. Neal was burning up with fever, possibly a result of their dunk in the icy lake. He had to call for back up, wondering if Jones had realized or his wife that they weren't home like they were supposed to be. He couldn't find his cell as he grabbed up Neal's, prying it from cold fingers as gently as he could and woke it up.
He sighed again… sneezing a few times as he realized partially why Neal had been so far out from the car. Maybe he had gone to get a signal, his fever high enough he didn't realize how far he'd walked before he passed out from it. Peter was glad that the car worked but the roads weren't safe any more once he realized how long they'd been out here. Peter dropped the currently useless cell on the passenger seat, strapped himself in and put the car in reverse. The wheels seemed to be stuck, slipping on the icy ground before the tires caught and he was able to get back up on the road. He could feel the lack of friction beneath his wheels, putting the car in the lowest gear and heading towards home. Hopefully the storm wouldn't get any worse, his wipers and defroster on high.
Elizabeth glanced at the clock and then back at her cell. Jones had said that Peter and Neal had taken off over 2 hours ago. They should have been home if not in the city by now. She had given it some time, hoping maybe they had stopped at June's but afraid of being that worrisome nagging wife wondering when her husband was coming home. Mostly she was concerned about what Jones had said about the dunk in the lake. Peter had just gotten over a very bad case of flu, her worry growing as the clock struck 4 PM and she saw the snow picking up outside. It was almost 3 hours now that had passed and no call or answer. El picked up her cell, calmed her nerves and called the only person she could think of.
"Answer me these questions three…"
The voice was cryptic at best, her lips smiling in a manner at his humor.
She left it at that, hoping he would say something positive.
"El… to what do I owe the pleasure of you calling?"
Mozzie's voice was it's usual cheerful self and she liked that but El had hoped he would have said more.
"I… was wondering what you were up to. The weather is picking up outside and… I wondered if you and Neal wanted to come for dinner."
She was throwing stuff out there, still hoping her worry was unjustified but the next comment from him made her more concerned.
"Sounds like a plan but the Suit still has him working. Neal's not answering his phone but I can let him know. Tell your husband working in this kind of weather is against OSHA standards and cruel and unusual treatment of consultants. Did you want me to bring anything? Neal has some nice wines here."
She heard him moving around in the background, the sound of bottles tinkling as he muttered about this wine and that. Sometimes the mercurial nature or maybe it was more schizoid that Mozzie portrayed made her curious about why and how. Right now though she suddenly realized even Mozzie had no idea where her husband or Neal was.
"So Neal hasn't called you? He's not at June's?"
El couldn't hide her concern now, a tremor to her voice but she didn't want to overreact. Maybe something had come up and they were at the Bureau. It wasn't like Peter not to call or Neal… Mozzie replied.
"No… Suit has him out of the city chasing some deviant but you knew that. Is there something I should know?"
Mozzie's tone was that of someone who wasn't hiding anything. She knew when he was deceptive and right now he was about as honest as the con could be. She sighed, worry hitting her hard. Jones was at the Bureau far as she knew. Maybe she should call back…
"I haven't heard anything, Mozz. I had hoped… tell me if you hear anything."
She was looking out the window, the snow coming down much harder now. It wasn't just the weather worrying her but it was bad enough to increase them.
"Neal's not answering his phone… nor the Suit. Have you tried Junior or Lady Suits?"
Mozzie was being helpful, his motions in the background quieter now. She thought she heard a door close and then the sound of feet on pavement and wind.
"I haven't… not for a few hours. Jones said they should have been home by now even with the weather. It's not like Peter not to call."
She was trying to ease her own concerns but it was hard as the weather seemed to grow worse by the moment. Where was Peter and Neal?
"You call the Bureau and I'll be over there in a few minutes. I'm sure everything's fine, El. Maybe they went out for a drink…"
He was drawing at straws but nodded back, wiping at her eyes.
"Thanks Mozzie. See you in a few."
The call ended and El felt empty for a moment. She was hopeful with Mozzie looking into things but her intuition was telling her something might have happened. She called the Bureau, Jones' cell going to voicemail. She left a message for him to call her back, hanging up the cell and going to the kitchen to tidy up. Then she started a kettle and warming up a casserole. Her nerves were getting to her but she had to think positive. Peter was with Neal and together they always came through thick or thin. Even when she thought Neal was to blame, she was glad to know he was with her husband. It meant Peter was with someone he trusted. Someone who would, even if something did happen, not abandon him. She thought a little prayer, making herself busy with making snacks since Mozzie would be there soon. They could worry together.
Peter pulled over after a few minutes, the road too slick and the storm near blizzard proportions. He pulled the car onto the shoulder with a slight skid, the vehicle settling to a stop a few feet further from where he had braked. Even with the heated seats and defroster the windows had frost and the car was chilly. Peter checked the cell again but there was no signal, his eyes moving back to the unconscious Neal in the back seat. The con hadn't moved, his eyes twitching slightly and a slight hint of breath obvious but otherwise he was still. Peter removed his seatbelt and touched his friend's forehead, the younger man's temp still far too high. He opened up the door and grabbed up a bit of snow, closing the door immediately as he wrapped the slush up into a paper napkin and gently lay it upon Neal's forehead. He saw a slight smile curve the con's lips upward, one hand reaching up and grasping his as glassy blue eyes gazed up at him through slits.
"Neal? Hey buddy…"
He waited for a reply, Neal licking at his lips a moment then slumping back to unconsciousness, his hand letting go as it fell back limply to his chest. Peter checked Neal's pulse and respiration. Pulse was a bit too fast but his breathing was slow with a hint of wheezing. Peter worried about his friend, tucking him back in under the emergency blanket and coat. He was worried about Neal being ok, his own sneezing and coughing nothing in comparison with his partner's fever.
"Hang on, Neal."
Peter couldn't see anything but white outside, the wipers doing a methodical swish back and forth as they pushed the ice forming on the windshield aside. There was enough gas for a few hours at best but after that they'd be in trouble if help didn't arrive. It was almost 6 hours now since they had left the crime scene and he felt like his head was full of cotton but he wasn't feverish like Neal. He glanced back at his friend, digging around under the front seat for the few snacks and such they'd brought along. It was meager at best but they could conserve it. Neal needed it more with the fever, as Peter opened up a bottle and eased back into the backseat, crouched and gently raising Neal's head. The small napkin of snow had melted away. He put that aside, placing the bottle of water on his friend's lips.
"Come on Neal… drink something."
The con gave a weak moan, head shifting slightly before his mouth opened and he took a cautious sip. Neal didn't open his eyes at first then Peter saw those glassy blue eyes as his partner drank a bit more hungrily.
"Slowly… how are you feeling?"
Peter hoped his friend could answer him and not pass out this time. His forehead still felt very hot as he waited for Neal to reply.
"Hot… turn the heat… er… off."
Neal's voice was faint but audible, Peter nodding as he opened up a window and wet the napkin with falling snow. He quickly closed it before snow covered the seat. He felt his friend shivering as he placed the now snow laden cloth over his face. Neal smiled.
"You need… to fix… that A… AC, Pe…"
The con slumped back into unconsciousness, shivering slightly under the blanket and coat as Peter made him comfy and closed the bottle of water. He placed it on the floor nearby, scooting back into the front seat and getting as comfortable as he could. He watched the con man sleeping, a gentle look on the face of someone who had led such a hard life. Neal might be a criminal but he was a good guy too. That thought comforted him some and memories of Neal helping him today and in the past gave him comfort as he tried the phone again but still had no signal. Peter gave a yawn, leaning back against the seat as he spread out across the front, the extra blanket pulled around him. Someone had to come out here soon, the white becoming gray as he watched the day turn to night and finally passed out.
Jones was out on the streets despite the weather. The city was pretty much shut down but he managed to convince some workers with plows and emergency equipment to help find their ASAC and Consultant who were still missing as the sun went down. There was no reply to their calls and Elizabeth's call had been the fire to get them started. Their suspect was already behind bars but it was a hollow victory without Peter and Neal around. He was in charge of the search, trying to figure out how they had missed the BMW on their way back. There was only one plowed road towards the city and a few small feeders but taking the latter led you further away from the city on a roundabout trip. He could only think they had been diverted onto another road or had car troubles but they would have seen them on the Highway.
"So what exactly are we looking for, Agent?"
Jones turned to the city worker beside him, the man dressed warmly with a bright yellow safety vest over his clothes. They were in one of the plows, opening up the roads as they headed back out of town. It would be a while before they hit the Highway but for now they were safe and warm and able to cut a path through for others who might need it.
"A dark gun metal gray BMW. We were near Lasser Park when we lost them. They headed back around noon. We haven't been able to make contact."
Jones tried to keep his voice level, worry about his colleagues making him squirm slightly in his seat and wish they had news. He tried their cells again but he only got the voice mail. This wasn't like Peter not to check in. The driver coughed, giving a little shrug.
"Might be the blizzard. It's been knocking out the cell towers in that area. More snow than we expected this time of year. If they stayed in their car with the engine running… that would definitely be a plus."
The man was being positive but Jones needed evidence… a phone call.
"I'm sure they did the smart thing."
They continued to trudge out of the city slowly but surely, heading up 202. It was hard to see through the swirling flurries despite the bright lights on the plow and the accompanying snow and rescue vehicles. An agent or two were in each vehicle as backup where they fit. Everyone wanted to come but they needed to be sure only essential staff went, the rest either logging hours tracking their search from the Bureau or off duty due to the weather. This was one of the worst blizzards he'd seen in a while. Jones just hoped they got good news when they found Peter and Neal.
He was dreaming about water… icy cold blue water and being trapped beneath the ice. He suddenly realized it wasn't just him underneath the surface, pulling the other figure with him as he searched for the exit. He had dived into the cracked, thin icy surface of the lake but now he was lost, holding onto someone and desperately looking for the way out.
Someone spoke, the person he was holding as he turned and saw glassy brown eyes staring back at him. Now he remembered why they were here, his efforts increasing as he searched for the way out.
Suddenly he was awake, staring up at the dark interior of something that looked like a vehicle. His vision was blurry but it started to clear up even in the darkened cold interior of the car he was in and he was laying across the backseat. Why was he in the backseat of a car? Something felt off… he was forgetting something as he moved to sit up and felt his body just cooperate enough he could lean against the back of the seat and look around. The car was gloomy except for a hint of light to his right, eyes looking that way to see the dash in the front glowing softly, a low ding ding ding in the background indicating the keys were in the ignition. Neal wiped at his forehead, it was warm but he no longer felt out of it, his mind clearer now.
Where am I? How…
He was thinking about his dream, thoughts of icy water and diving in finally coming back to him. Peter had been chasing someone and he went after the agent. He saw both figures crash through the ice, Neal diving in without a second thought as he threw his coat aside and shoes and pulled his friend out of the water. Jones helped them, another agent pulling their suspect out but everyone had been safe. The case had been solved.
Neal? Hey buddy…
He could hear Peter in the back of his mind talking to him but he could only see a memory of a blurry face and the feeling that he had been so very hot. Now he was freezing, wrapping the blanket and coat around him he realized was from earlier in the day. When had it gotten so dark? His eyes moved around the interior of the BMW and that's when he saw the other figure curled up in the front seat. They were shivering slightly, curled up under another emergency blanket. Neal realized who they were and where they were.
His voice sounded hoarse, just barely audible as he sat up a bit more and felt something fall at his feet. He reached for the item and saw it was a bottle of water. Neal picked it up and took a long sip, reaching over to nudge his friend as he did so.
His voice was a little stronger that time, the water helping as he wiped at his lips and put the bottle aside. He heard a quiet groan and then a familiar voice.
"I need to fix the furnace, El…"
Peter's voice sounded exhausted, Neal poking at his friend to get him to rouse in the cold of the vehicle. He saw the tank was out of gas but the battery for now was still operational. Neal also noted the time: 7 PM. How could it be that late? They had left the site after Noon hadn't they? Neal had been driving the vehicle back and then… everything was a blank. He'd been feeling a bit off after the dunk in the lake but that didn't explain his memory loss. How had he lost the past 6 hours? The con listened, hearing the wind blowing hard outside and the sound of snow hitting the roof and windows. It was dark inside but mainly that was due to the frost and ice that had accumulated over the windows. Without the engine running, there was no defroster so they were possibly encased in ice and snow. Neal didn't want to open the door and see, what little warmth they had currently trapped inside the cold vehicle.
"Peter… wake up."
He poked his friend again, brown eyes finally opening in the dimly lit car and turning to look at him. It was only a momentary pause before the agent sat up in surprise, smiling at him despite his obvious languidity.
"Neal? You're awake…"
His voice was raspy still from earlier but strong, the agent smiling even more broadly now as he reached over and hugged him much to Neal's surprise. He hugged Peter back, both men holding on a moment longer as they realized they were the only warmth in the vehicle at the moment. Each was shivering, letting go long enough to wrap themselves in their blankets and nod to the other.
"Yeah… with a horrible headache. Where are we? I don't remember much other than… having a really bad headache and being really hot."
He gave a little cough, reaching back for the water and taking another long sip. Peter nodded back, his hand on his shoulder for a moment then briefly touching his forehead.
"You feel cooler but you still have a bit of fever. You were in a bad way, Neal. I found you… outside in the snow. Do you remember why you got out of the car? You had your cell…"
Peter's words were cryptic at best but Neal wasn't sure what they meant. Outside in the snow? That didn't make sense. They'd practically frozen to death in the lake but survived only… suddenly he started to remember something.
"You said I had my cell? I… I thought I had been dreaming. I was so hot and I couldn't drive any more. I…"
He paused uncertain if what he was remembering was true. Neal saw himself driving, wiping at his brow before pulling the car over. He felt warmer than he should, turning down the heater before rolling down the window and smiling as the cool breeze hit him. He heard a low moan, turning to see Peter shivering as he rolled the window back up and opened up the door, cell in hand. He dropped the keys on the seat before he walked off into the snow. There was a grove of trees just up on a small ridge, Neal trekking towards them in a kind of daze. The cold air made him feel better but his mind was far from clear. He glanced down at his cell and saw no signal, raising it up as he drew closer to the trees but still getting nothing. Finally he saw one bar appear and smiled. Somehow he had gotten lost on the road, the snow making the landscape less easy to identify in his fevered state. He started to dial a number when weakness overcame him, the heat of the fever making him dizzy. Neal collapsed into the snow on his knees, picking up his cell and looking at the screen a moment. He still had one bar. Jones must still be on the site, his fingers fumbling to make a call but he collapsed into a drift, the iciness easing the fever and making him forget what he had been about to do. Neal smiled slightly, eyes looking at the cell in his hand as the bar went from one to zero and he passed out.
"Neal? Hey buddy…"
Peter was snapping a finger at him, bringing him back to the present and their icy predicament. Now he remembered everything, his memory blurry at best but clear enough to make him realize what had happened.
"I remember what happened. I was… feverish. I stopped to cool off and passed out in the snow. I was trying to make a call because I had gotten lost. I was going to call Jones but… I passed out."
He frowned, leaning back tiredly against the back seat and hitting it with one fist. Peter looked at him curiously but shook his head.
"Not your fault we're in this mess. A blizzard blew in. I had to park the car and hope someone would find us. You did what you had to. Thankfully you didn't drive us into a tree."
Peter's tone was facetious near the end, Neal rolling his eyes back at his friend. The car was like an ice box but still warmer than outside as Peter checked the dash and turned the engine off. The lights faded away and he scooted into the back with Neal.
"So you got a bar on your phone? I haven't been able to get a signal this whole time or I would have called someone. Even at the ridge your phone said No Signal when I found you. I'm just glad you're feeling better."
Peter gave him a slight squeeze on the shoulder but Neal could feel the agent shivering, moving a bit closer.
"Maybe my fever will be good for something…"
He smirked slightly, both of them just visible in the darkened vehicle. They couldn't see outside the windows, the ice too thick and the darkness even more so. Peter nodded, the two consolidating their blankets to wrap around them both as well as the coat. Thankfully it was a wool coat so that helped.
"Not my idea of a fun date but better than freezing to death."
Peter was making a joke, Neal nudging him back when the agent felt his forehead again.
"Don't think you can cop a feel… of my forehead. I'm not that kind of con."
Author's Note: Peter and Neal are in the bad way. Hopefully they'll be rescued soon. More to come!