Jones and crew were still driving around, splitting up when they hadn't found any sign of the BMW belonging to their ASAC on the main road. The storm had gotten worse but the emergency crew said they could drive a while longer before it became even impossible for them to get through the snow and ice. Jones agreed reluctant to leave off the search without finding Peter or Neal. They turned onto a few feeder roads, passing through darkened expanses of nothing but the occasional farmhouse if they were lucky. It was a lightly forested area for the most part with a few ridges as their search lights found nothing. They'd already been driving around 3 hours when Jones started to feel not just frustrated but genuinely worried. Where had his colleagues been lost? There were few cliffs or hills to roll over around here so that wasn't the case but obviously they had disappeared to somewhere. They didn't suspect foul play but the weather was hard to see through and anyone could get lost even a mile from home.
"My gauges are showing that the weather is going to get worse. I want to find your friends as much as anyone but my truck will freeze if we stay out here much longer. I'm sorry, Agent."
The driver was genuinely contrite, other reports coming over their walkie talkies indicating there was no sign of the dark gray beemer. Jones didn't want to give up but he knew when he was beat and mother nature and father winter weren't being cooperative. He nodded his head reluctantly, eyes looking out the dark frosted windows as they headed back to the main road. He had already made the call they were calling off the search for the evening. Nobody was happy about the decision but it was already past 7 and most of the city and state had been closed down for the blizzard. Jones stared out the window, wiping at the glass as he peered out hoping for a sighting. There was nothing.
Where are you Peter?
Jones continued to stare out the window, thoughts wandering when he saw something. He wiped at the window which was fogging over and glanced again as he noticed them passing what appeared to be something shiny in a drift.
"Stop the vehicle!"
He saw the driver look at him oddly but nod, giving the large vehicle the brakes. They didn't skid, the lumbering plow finally slowing a good 100 yards from the drift. Without a second thought, Jones was climbing out of the vehicle into the frozen winter storm and pushing his way back through the wind towards the site. He had a flashlight but it wasn't much use in the storm as he slipped a bit in the ice and snow but managed to trudge through, a faint sound of someone behind him under the howl of the wind. It only took a few minutes to make it to the drift, the agent nearly blinded and frozen even with his heavy coat and ski mask. The weather wasn't helping at all as he moved to brush at the shiny bit of metal sticking through about knee high. He continued to brush and then noticed the driver and another vehicle had come to help. There were 4 of them now, digging with their hands and some ice scrapers at the drift until the hint of a car, a dark gray one was visible.
Peter was glad to see Neal was awake, his fever better than it had been but they were still trapped in the vehicle, the temperature dropping more as the minutes passed. They were curled up under the blankets and coat, huddled together for warmth which was fleeting at best. Neal was still feverish enough he seemed to keep Peter warmer than the agent was keeping him. He could feel his friend shivering despite the heat from his brow, the agent finally sleeping when he could no longer stay awake. The con had already fallen asleep, exhaustion from his illness wiping him out. They'd talked a bit but it was evident his friend wasn't feeling well. They'd drank most of the water and eaten some granola bars but it was meager at best. They wouldn't last much longer in the cold.
He started to dream of the lake. He was running across the icy expanse after Yaeger, the man no longer trying to shoot at them. He was thankful for that as he gained some ground, slipping slightly as was the criminal on the now icier surface of the lake. He just had to make it a little bit closer, Peter making a leap for it and jumping Yaeger. The man fell hard to frozen lake, sliding across the surface a bit with Peter in tow, the two struggling a while before Peter heard the crack and someone yelling at him. He didn't see who was calling out but he knew the voice was Neal's. He kept a good hold of his suspect but it did him no good as Peter felt himself suddenly ducked into an icy pool of water, the bubbles of air hissing past him as he struggled with Yaeger for the surface but both men started to be dragged under. Peter wasn't sure he could hold his breath much longer, the cold making him gasp underwater, drawing icy liquid into his already struggling lungs. He was starting to pass out, the cold too much for him to deal with when there was a splash, his mind just aware of it and he found himself looking into icy blue eyes. Someone grabbed him around the torso under his arms and dragged him back up into the cold frigid air outside, Peter gasping for breath immediately as all the water bubbled up from his lips. People were talking, moving around as he was dragged out along with Neal who had rescued him from certain death. He shivered at the memory of near death, the sound of feet scraping on the ice where it was thicker. The sound was close, almost stereo as he started to come to, Peter opening his eyes in the gloom of the car.
Is anyone in there? Hello? Peter? Neal?
That voice sounded familiar but faint, Peter so cold he wasn't sure he could stay awake. He nudged Neal, the con responding more sluggishly as Peter tapped on the window. It was colder than he thought but slowly he could see something showing through, a light. Someone was outside!
"JONES? We're inside! Neal… I think we've been rescued. Neal…"
Peter nudged his friend but Neal wasn't responsive, his hand gently brushing the con's cheek to find it was slightly warmer than before. The fever had returned again. It had never really left but for a moment there his friend had been feeling better. He could hear a muffled reply from outside, Peter holding onto his partner and moving aside. They were going to pry the doors open, a muffled word about the car being frozen solid on the outside just audible. It was unfortunate the Beemer was going to get busted but they hadn't counted on fevers and weather to interfere with them getting home safely. Neal shifted slightly in his arms but the con didn't move much otherwise, strangely still and quiet even for him. Peter wanted to hear chatter along with Neal's usual fidgeting. He heard metal groaning and then a blast of cold air as the back door blew open and frigid air hit them both. He no longer had his shoes on nor did Neal, Jones peeking his head inside and smiling at him with a sigh of relief.
"You ok Peter? What's wrong with Caffrey?"
The agent sounded worried, as snow swarmed around them just outside and at the edge of the door like so many insects.
"Fever… he was ok a little while ago but I guess it came back. He needs a doctor."
He watched Jones nod, moving aside to call out to someone as more figures approached but with stretchers and lots of blankets. He felt pretty exhausted himself, his body hypothermic he guessed as she continued to shiver slightly. Neal's warmth helped but he worried as he felt the young man's temp going up again. He was hot to the touch. The paramedics approached, Jones helping to ease the young man onto a stretcher then covered with a blanket against the elements. They rushed him away as Jones helped Peter bundle up and he pushed on his shoes. It would only be for a moment he was out in the elements, the wind and cold hitting him hard. It seemed to take forever but finally he was in a warm ambulance, Neal bundled up in the back while he was allowed to sit with his partner and the two paramedics in the back. Two more were in the front, Jones telling Peter he'd meet him back at the hospital. They'd be heading back to the city. The agent nodded back, watching the doors shut as the storm was blocked out to just a murmur outside. The vehicle rocked gently off and on with the storm, the vehicle taking off after a few minutes. The paramedics in the back had hooked both himself and Neal up to IVs and offered him something hot to drink. Peter gladly took the liquid, happy to be alive and away from the prospects of becoming a popsicle.
"Thanks… will he be ok?"
He was looking at them work on Neal who was sleeping or unconscious, he wasn't sure which as they placed something cool on the con's forehead and took a reading.
"He has a 103 fever. Has he been like this for very long?"
Peter wasn't sure how to answer, nodding at them but uncertain just how bad Neal had been sick. He could have had a higher temp for all he knew.
"Maybe for the past 4 hours or so. I was sleeping for part of the drive so I can't say for certain. He was lucid about an hour ago."
Peter worried over Neal, the pinch of the IV in his arm making him want to pull it out but he ignored it to make sure his friend was ok. Now that they were safe he could relax some. He leaned back against the side of the ambulance, watching the two men keeping his partner warm as he held his own blankets tightly around him. He reached out and put his left hand into Neal's, feeling the clamminess of the con's palm then an answering squeeze.
It took two hours to get back to the city. Everything was snowed in but Peter was conscious of the phone beeping in his hand. Neal's cell had a signal finally as they arrived in New York. He saw the con had messages from what looked like Mozzie and his wife, then he checked his own cell to see had three from Elizabeth and one from Mozzie. He listened to all of them. He could hear the concern in his wife's voice over the voice mail and some in Mozzie's tone where he wasn't blaming him for making Neal work under such harsh conditions. That's was Mozz though, the agent pushing Neal's sell into his pocket and making a quick call.
He could hear the relief in her tone almost immediately, wanting to be there and hug her tight. He gave a sneeze or two before replying.
"Hey Hun… The weather overcame us or I would have called sooner. I'm sorry."
He was apologizing for worrying her but he heard her shush him, the sound of El blowing him a kiss.
"I'm just glad you're alright. Is Neal with you?"
He heard the concern in her tone for them both, Peter nodding his head as he leaned back and stared down at his partner. Neal was still sleeping, his face a bit less tight now that they were warm and being taken care of.
"Yes, he's sleeping. They're taking us to the hospital… I'll call you when I get there. I don't want you coming out in this weather."
He would have said more but the Paramedics were talking now, something going on he wasn't sure about.
"Hold on hun… I'll have to call you back."
He hung up the cell and looked between the two attendants, one of them giving him a worried look. He asked one of them what was going on.
"The nearest hospital is snowed in. They don't have space for us. We're trying to figure out where to go."
The man sounded concerned, talking with his coworker as Peter glanced out the window briefly and caught a glimpse of something familiar.
"I know a place… Let me call ahead."
June was more than happy to have her favorite boarder back home, obviously worried for them both as she offered Peter some warm clothes and one of her guest rooms. She offered coffee to the paramedics after leading them up to Neal's room. They set up the young man in his bed with the monitors and equipment they had on them. Peter was allowed to go without his IV once they had him inside. He was only mildly hypothermic but otherwise doing ok. He was doing better than Neal but would be kept under observation along with his partner. Neal didn't move the entire time he was being shifted around, his face a bit calmer looking as they settled him in his bed, monitors from the ambulance attached to him along with an IV. Peter watched from afar, a cough making him turn to see Mozzie was there. How the little guy had gotten here during the storm was a mystery unless he had been here all the time.
"Have you called your wife yet?"
Mozzie was to the point, eyes on Neal despite talking about his wife. He could tell the little guy was worried but hiding it well.
Peter turned to look at the now sleeping con, the paramedics taking a moment to unwind as June played hostess, her eyes flashing at him with a gracious expression he was all the more thankful for. Something about Neal got under your skin and made you worry for him despite his past. He did what he could to help those (although a bit illegally) that he cared for and make them feel special by remembering what they liked or didn't like although Peter suspect the latter was ignored on his behalf to give him gray hairs.
"He's going to be ok… right?"
Mozzie spoke quietly, both of them looking at their mutual friend with worry and concern.
Peter made it a statement as if he could command his partner to be well but he had no power in that department. Faith his friend would never leave without saying goodbye was all he had. Mozzie glanced up at him curiously before nodding.
The paramedics took turns watching Neal over the course of the night while Peter and Mozzie sat in also keeping watch but out of the way. For once the little guy wasn't interfering with the medical crew helping. June stayed up with them, bringing them snacks and coffee for a few hours before she finally had to sleep. The weather didn't seem to settle outside, everything white from the french doors of Neal's room. The terrace seemed to be one big dune of white heavily packed snow. Peter watched the weather outside from the sofa or when he paced the room quietly, a beer in his hand. Maybe it wasn't the best thing for him to have after his ordeal but it made him feel better along with the occasional hot drink. Mozzie sipped at Neal's wine collection or drank tea depending on how he was feeling. Both men didn't speak much only asking the paramedics off and on how their friend was doing.
"His body took a toll with the fever but he's fighting it. He's down to 101 now. I think he'll be ok but we really need to check him out in a hospital."
The man was honest, both Mozzie and Peter giving a quiet nod without any arguments or comments. Their worry was mutual and their concern made them temporary allies as they concentrated on Neal getting better. He'd already let them know about the earlier dunk in the lake and the paramedics had taken that into account as the possible cause of Neal's current condition. Peter went into the back hallway and pulled out his cell. It was 4 am now and he needed rest but he wanted to talk to his wife again. He had called her once they came to June's and she had been eager to see him. The only thing keeping them apart was the storm.
Her voice was husky with sleep but it was obvious she had been up. There was a weariness in her tone that he recognized, leaning on the wall as he imagined her there with him.
"Hey hun… I… just had to hear your voice."
It was late in the morning, after 11 am when Peter woke up to lips gently kissing his. At first he thought he was dreaming and then his eyes opened and saw familiar blue ones staring down at him happily.
She was really here, his wife hugging him as she sat beside him on the sofa. He didn't remember falling asleep but he must of, no signs of Mozzie in the room and the paramedics missing. Neal remained asleep on his bed, eyes shut and the monitors and IVs still connected to him. A gentle hand grasped his chin and moved his face back to theirs.
"Jones. He went to the Bureau last night to let everyone know you were found. When the storm watch was ended, he came and picked me up and brought me here. He's downstairs talking to June… and Mozzie."
She smirked slightly on the last part, Peter rolling his eyes. He hoped Mozzie wasn't being a pest but right now he was just glad to have his wife near him and his partner safe. He kissed his wife back, holding her close as he sat up and wrapped her in the blanket with him. She grinned, shivering slightly.
"You feel cold, hun."
She looked concerned but Peter just shrugged, holding her closer and smiling widely.
"But I feel so warm with you here… hun."
He heard her chuckle at his words and then a cough as someone came into the room. It was June.
"Sorry to interrupt… I came to bring Neal something to eat. I have eggs and bacon if you're interested."
June carried a small tray with sliced fruit, water, juice and what looked like oatmeal with cinnamon and granola. It made him realize just how hungry he was. They had eaten very little over the course of the day and after being stranded. Food sounded like a plan.
"Thank you June. I'll go see how I can help and bring you something to eat, hun. Rest."
Elizabeth kissed him again, waggling a finger at him with a facetious manner before getting up and leaving the room. June smiled, setting up the tray over by the bed where Neal was still apparently sleeping. Peter stood and stretched, the sofa not the best place to sleep but he had been in the car most of the day before so this was definitely an upgrade comfort wise.
"What's that heavenly scent?"
The voice was hoarse and tired yet oozing with charm. Only one person could sound that good and be sick, Peter smiling with relief as he saw Neal shifting in the bed under the covers. Glassy blue eyes peered first at the skylight above, then at June and finally at Peter. Maybe miracles did happen.
"Just oatmeal and fruit, dear. Let me fluff those pillows for you so you can sit up and eat."
June was being motherly, helping Neal sit up as Peter moved over to help. The con let them baby him, blue eyes meeting brown then turning to his landlady as she placed a small bed tray on his lap. The con still looked pale but a quick touch of her hand made Peter smile.
"You're much cooler today, young man. Dr. Munroe will be here later today to check on you. The paramedics are downstairs having breakfast as you should be."
She was treating him like her own child, Peter amused as Neal glanced over at him then up at June with puppy dog eyes.
"My stomach agrees… with you."
Neal sounded more his old self but his manner remained tired despite the smile plastered on his face. June finished babying the con then left them alone with the premise she had to go help Elizabeth with their breakfast. Once the door shut he saw Neal ease a bit out of the smile, exhaustion setting in as he started to eat. Peter sat on the end of the bed watching him before the con finally paused and looked at him.
"Is something growing out of my head?"
He sounded more hoarse, taking small bites of the oatmeal after sampling the fruit, water and juice. It was obvious he was hungry but still tired enough he may not have the energy to eat much. Peter shook his head.
"Just glad to see you awake. You had me worried there for a bit."
Peter left it simple, still wanting to thank his partner for saving him from the lake but trying to get over his worry about the fever. Neal nodded, his attention back on the fruit a moment before he put the tray aside, Peter helping him. He looked like someone out of an old movie. Some Cary Grant type character who woke up in their penthouse apartment where servants catered to them. It was something he usually saw in his friend, a kind of ease that only certain people had but he knew it was all a facade as Neal sat up a bit more, shoulders slumped tiredly.
"I guess the fever returned? I feel… better today. Who found us?"
Neal was genuinely interested, picking at the fruit beside him and sipping at the glass of water. Peter went and got him some more when it ran out.
"Jones. He brought out the cavalry and some emergency vehicles. Mozzie thanked him although it was awkward at best."
He smirked, watching Neal nod and smile in reply.
"I'm sure it was. Does El know you're here?"
Neal's query made him realize the young man had been worrying about him too as he nodded back.
"Yup… she's downstairs with June making breakfast for us. Speaking of breakfast, I feel like I need to wash up. That lake wasn't the cleanest. Is there a guest bathroom I can use?"
Peter was being nice, respecting his space but the con pointed at his back hallway.
"Just use it. I think Mozzie's in the other room if not the paramedics. I know you won't use all my towels."
Neal's tone was sarcastic at best, the agent nodding with a smirk of his own as he headed that way. He had a change of clothes, El having showed him a bag near the sofa when she'd woken him up. He took it with him to the bathroom down the back hallway along with a couple of towels. He still felt chilly from his dip in the lake, putting the water on hot but not so much it would cost June. The water felt nice on his skin, warming up his still cold body. All the aches and pains started to ease out of him and after a few minutes he turned off the water and exited. Someone knocked on the door as he was finishing drying off.
"Suit… your wife says your breakfast is ready."
It was Mozzie, Peter hoping the little guy wouldn't open up the door and thankfully he didn't as he quickly dressed.
"Thanks. Tell her I'll be right there."
Neal had been conscious for a little while in the car, talking to Peter and then he'd felt the fever return. He'd been asleep at the time but it had zapped him of any strength he had, only traces of words and sensations coming to him from outside his sleeping mind. He was trapped within his own subconscious.
His dreams were of snow but in the drifts he touched grains more like fine white sand, their temperature that of summer and heat. Palms trees sprang forth from the snowy dunes as he saw a mirage of a frozen lake in the distance. Neal tried to get closer, his need to cool off essential but the lake was always too far. Someone floundered in the water, crying for help, the con running but still unable to reach them or the cool icy lake.
He was calling out desperately for his friend, wanting to help when he sensed the dream ending.
His eyes slowly opened, blue eyes blinking upwards as they looked at a familiar skylight. He was home. Back in his own apartment at June's. He didn't remember coming here, eyes taking in the room and then the monitors and IV stuck to him. He was warm and safe beneath thick soft covers, shifting slightly when he heard someone snoring and found himself looking at a figure that made him smile. Peter was there sleeping, snoring like a chainsaw but he didn't care at this point, closing his eyes once more and relaxing for the first time in 24 hours.
"They're both sleeping… Let me check on Neal. The paramedics said his fever had gone down."
Neal turned his head, shifting to see who was talking as he opened his eyes again and saw June approaching him. She was carrying a small pitcher of water that tinkled slightly from the ice within and a glass. She paused as their eyes met and he felt himself smiling back at her.
"Hey Neal… how are you feeling? Are you thirsty?"
June's manner was soft and warm as it always was. Suddenly he realized just how thirsty he was, nodding without a word as she poured him a glass, placing the pitcher on the nightstand before helping him sit up to drink. He took a few small pieces of ice in his mouth and let them melt, enjoying the cold as it eased the dryness of his throat.
"Thanks… June. El?"
He saw someone standing just behind her, Elizabeth Burke smiling at him with a look of relief.
The two women babied him a moment, helping him as they fluffed his pillows up and June offered him some breakfast. He hadn't eaten anything since lunch the day before. Neither Peter nor Neal had expected to be trapped in a blizzard. If not for the fever he'd have been ok getting them home but it had been a necessary result of having saved his partner and friend. He'd do it again.
"Thanks… I am feeling a bit hungry."
He held off on the puppy dog eyes but Neal was just naturally charming, El and June both giving a little kiss on the forehead as they let him get some more rest, El moving to the sofa to wake up Peter who was still sound asleep. Neal wanted to stay awake but his body was still exhausted as he fell back into a more relaxed state of sleep, no dreams of deserts or drowning friends. It was just Peter and himself at the office talking over a cup of coffee on a case. It was comforting considering all they'd been through, the con waking up a little while later to voices and the scent of food. His stomach growled some. June had come back, Peter was awake now and once he had taken in some sustenance, they chatted a bit. His friend looked good, still a little pale from the cold dip in the lake but healthy which is all he could wish for. After a bit, Peter went to take a shower and Mozzie came back in, standing nearby and looking over at him as if he were some kind of fragile item. Neal sighed and motioned for Mozzie to come closer.
"I'm not going to break, Mozz…"
He shifted slightly, sitting up more as he took another piece of fruit into his mouth and chewed happily. He'd been stranded before but yesterday had been harrowing. This time he'd had someone with him to share the fear but he'd worried he failed Peter, the fever keeping him from being useful. It was a silly thought but stuck with him even now.
"If you say so… You look less like death froze over… just saying. Where's the Suit?"
Mozzie was his usual blatant self, Neal nodding at the description. He probably had looked as bad as death, vague memories of Peter's face reflecting the little guy's look.
"Showering. I might do that in a little while. That icy lake wasn't exactly fresh water…"
He could still feel a bit of the muck from the water on his skin or maybe it was residue from his fever. He'd been sweaty and warm but either way he wanted to get into clean clothes and especially get out of bed. Tired as he was his energy was returning slowly but surely. They both turned as the door opened, a quiet knock before the knob turned and Elizabeth Burke peeked in. She smiled at them both, eyes on the sofa a moment then a look of query. Mozzie pointed at the back hallway, making himself scarce a moment as Elizabeth sat on the edge of the bed and gently took Neal's hand in hers.
"Peter was worried about you, Neal. I'm glad you're feeling better."
She hesitated a moment before she leaned over and hugged him, Neal hugging her back wondering what was up. El pulled away after a moment and he could see gratitude in her eyes.
"I heard what you did for Peter at the lake yesterday. Thank you…"
El continued to hold his hand, smiling at him thankfully as he felt a slight flush. Peter had thanked him before, some vague recollection of them talking in the Beemer. He smiled back seeing Mozzie return, the little guy muttering that Peter was coming out soon. El hugged him one more time before standing up and going to the kitchenette where the coffee maker was quietly bubbling. The agent came out a few minutes later in some comfy khakis and a dark green shirt. Neal watched his friend hug, averting his eyes after a moment to give them a little privacy as he stared up at the skylight. There was quite a bit of snow up on the roof and outside from what he could see. That blizzard had made a mess of things but their case had been solved, the suspect in jail and thankfully everyone was healthy and well now.
"I have breakfast for you downstairs if you like, hun."
They were being flirty, Neal somewhat jealous but happy for them. The Burkes were everything he wished his family had been… what he hoped to one day have with someone special of his own.
"Sounds like a plan… hun."
He saw Mozzie make a face but only towards him as he tried not to comment on their affection. Neal turned as the bedroom door opened again and he saw one of the paramedics there with Dr. Munro, the two men walking over to examine him. Mozzie stepped aside despite his lack of appreciation for the medical profession. Of all the doctors they'd met, Munro might be one of the few Mozz didn't mess with from past experience. He liked the guy much as he would deny it.
"Mr. Caffrey… I heard you had a little dunk in the water. How are you feeling today?"
He conferred with the Paramedic a moment before he was left alone with Neal. Peter and El went downstairs, politely excusing themselves leaving just himself and Mozzie. The doctor gave him a quick once over, checking all his vitals and then smiling.
"I need to get you to the hospital for a few more tests and some blood work but overall you definitely look better than the reports had you listed. Fevers aren't unusual after a cold dunk. Better safe than sorry."
The doctor patted him on the shoulder gently, making out some notes in a small notebook before Neal asked him a few questions.
"Is it possible for me to get out of bed long enough to take a shower?"
Neal wanted to clean himself up, his hair matted to his head from when he was sweating from the fever and the lake. The doctor nodded, gently removing the IV and placing a bandage over the vein.
"Did you need any help?"
Dr. Munro and Mozzie helped him pull the covers aside as Neal slowly slipped out of bed, wavering a moment as he stood up but finally standing up straight.
"I think I'm good. Thanks."
He managed to get to the back hallway without looking back, knowing Mozzie and the doctor were watching him as he disappeared out of sight. He leaned on the closet entrance a moment before sifting through for some clean clothes and a towel as he shuffled tiredly towards the bathroom. It was still steamy from Peter's visit but otherwise clean. He placed his clothes on top of a small cabinet, draping the towel over the top of the shower door before disrobing and slipping inside. He turned on the water hot as he could stand and just let himself soak a few minutes before washing in earnest. The muck and brine rinsed away, the con coming out of the shower a few minutes later feeling much better. He had washed the day away but the memory would remain.
Peter felt better after eating a plate of eggs, a couple slices of bacon and drinking Italian roast with his wife, Jones and June in the dining room below. He kept worrying about Neal but tried not to let it show as he smiled and joined the conversation when he wasn't lost in thought. Elizabeth was going to drive him home soon, the radio and news stations saying that the main streets and roads had been salted and plowed now that the storm had ended. It had been one for the record books, leaving as quickly as it had come.
"Thank you so much for you hospitality June."
The paramedics had left with their equipment but leaving the IV bag, Dr. Munro assuring them he had things under control and would send a note to their supervisor thanking them for their assistance. He was going to take Neal into the hospital the following day once everything had settled and he was certain the con man would be healthy enough for travel. Peter excused himself, going upstairs and knocking on the door. Nobody answered at first as he knocked once more and Mozzie answered.
"Still here Suit?"
The little guy's manner was its usual brusqueness, Peter looking around but not seeing Neal in bed or in the room. Mozzie seemed to figure out what he was doing.
"He's in the bathroom cleaning up. You can wait if you want."
Mozzie let him in finally, pointing at the sofa as Peter stood there a moment then walked over to the french doors overlooking a now snow covered terrace. After everything that had happened he could still find this kind of weather beautiful. The outside statues and other objects de art seemed shrouded in white fluffy sheets, transformed into something else. He wanted to go out and see what the city looked like from the clouds…
"Hey Mozz… Peter?"
Neal paused, his manner nearly back to his usual charming self despite a hint of tiredness around the eyes and a slight shuffle to his walk. The con moved over to the kitchenette, pouring two cups of coffee then walked over a bit less sure than usual, his hands shaking ever so slightly. Peter met him halfway trying not to act like he saw anything as he took one of the cups.
"Thanks. So… El and I were getting ready to leave and I thought I'd come up and say goodbye. She thought maybe you'd like to come to dinner tomorrow if you're feeling up to it."
Peter kept his voice casual, hiding all the worry and concern still evident. Neal did the same, both men keeping it cool as he nodded, sipping at his coffee to hide his trembling hand. Finally the con sat at the dining table possibly to hide his weakness as Peter did the same. Mozzie had moved to the sofa, sipping something that looked like wine.
"Sure. Have to see what the doctor says but I'll be there."
Neal smiled, genuine honesty there the con man rarely showed as Peter nodded back and took another sip of his coffee. There was a moment of silence, both men looking back over at Mozzie a moment when the little guy sighed dramatically, getting up.
"What… June? What is it? I think I hear someone calling me… I'll leave you two snow birds alone…"
He rolled his eyes, manner sarcastic as he closed the door behind them and they were alone. They sipped at the coffee in silence a few minutes more before Peter put his cup down and let out a little huff of breath.
"I don't know if you remember me telling you this… Thank you Neal. I didn't want you to think…"
He was interrupted, Neal holding up a hand and shaking his head.
"Elizabeth already thanked me."
Neal didn't say anything else but his silence spoke volumes as Peter nodded, standing up and holding out a hand. The con looked at him and then at his hand a moment before he stood and suddenly they were hugging. Peter gave his friend a quick squeeze, letting go and smiling.
"You're a good man, Neal. If I ever told you otherwise…"
The con didn't let him finish, pointing at the door as they heard a knock and Elizabeth Burke's voice.
"Go home, Peter. I'll see you tomorrow."
Neal wasn't smiling but he wasn't frowning either, his face hiding all but a small glimmer of emotion in his eyes. Were those tears? He nodded, letting his friend go as he went and opened the door, El hugging him. She said a quick goodbye to Neal who waved at them as they left. Peter saw his friend watching them a moment before the door shut and his attention returned to his wife. He felt a smile on his lips and a weight lifted off his shoulders.
"You seem happier hun… anything I should know about?"
Elizabeth was picking up on his mood as he shook his head.
"Just glad to be going home."
Neal watched his friends leave, an uncertain sigh leaving his lips as he found himself alone again. It hadn't been the apology he was expecting but Peter had made it clear he was sorry for his past words. Their conversation just a month or so before had jaded the con but now… He wasn't sure he shouldn't just tell the agent about Hagan. This was one tie he wasn't sure he wanted to cut, doubt muddying his thoughts. He didn't want to lose Peter or El… but the truth could be so much more complicated. He would have to think things through a bit further.
He walked over to the french doors, opening them up and trudging through the drifts of snow. Neal glanced over the edge of the wall and over the city of New York. If he broke all ties, this would go away. He didn't want to leave but he knew this wasn't his to keep. It was a security blanket he would have to give up at some point… a snowman that would merely melt away as the weather warmed and the truth came out. If he was ever to find out who he really wanted to be, Neal would need to make a decision. Even Mozzie couldn't help him with this choice, his eyes looking over the snow encapsulated city, another sigh deep and decisive leaving his lips with a wisp of vapor. He watched it fade into the frigid air like a ghost. Once he had Hagan taken care of… he could make his choice.
Author's Note: Neal's better… Peter's better and he apologized in his own way to the con. Let me know what you think. This was going to be a one shot but all of mine become two and three shots (like expresso :P )