He closes his eyes to shut out the image of Neal frozen on the screen. Given over as ransom to save a girl, Neal had been missing for nearly twelve hours. They found him, though, outside a travel agency. Peter can no longer deny it, though, and he opens his eyes again to stare at it. The concern etched over Neal's features, the harassed look does not disguise the fear lurking underneath that Peter detects. The monitor's image gives nothing back to him, but a cold feeling spreading through his veins, his nerves.
The words continue to echo releasing secrets from their hidden depths.
The last time he saw Wilkes - 'when was the last time you saw Wilkes, Neal'.
The pause haunts him and builds the tension as Neal answers - 'when he tried to kill me'.
The secret between them remains, untouched yet potent and pulsating like an open wound, like an infection. They both leave it behind that day, but now it bleeds out before him.
Neal's life is in the hands of his tormentor, and Peter's life is poised on the edge of a secret.
Part 2: During
His hands shake as he readies the needle. He learned how to do this years ago, but practice at Quantico feels like a different universe when faced with reality. The needle slips into the vein easily; he feels the slight tug then release indicating that he's in and slides it further into the vessel. A quiet moan issues from his patient, but he only pats his shoulder and whispers for him to settle.
Perspiration beads across his forehead and he wishes he could open a window to cool his guest bedroom. He cannot; the fever ravaging Neal's body is bordering on critical. He wars with himself as he continues his work. Neal should be in a hospital, not stretched out on his wife's good down comforter in their spare bedroom. In very little time, Peter could have a dead man on his hands and the entire wrath of the Bureau on his head.
He opens up the intravenous line and allows the antibiotics to flow. He has connections, ways to get things he needs including medical supplies. He knows if this goes wrong, if Neal dies on him, he won't be able to explain his actions to any reasonable person, least of all Hughes. He doubts he has enough clout in the Bureau to stop the loss of his badge and possibly his freedom. He’s putting his life, his relationship with Elizabeth in jeopardy.
Cursing under his breath, he peels open the bandage on the bullet wound. Neal had been lucky. It was a clean shot, hitting soft tissue but not cracking bone, and exiting without massive damage. The problem still remains, a raging infection that heated his leg and burned him with fever. Peter debrided the wound but he had to relent to give Neal some of the Percocet he'd taken some months back for shoulder surgery. Washing away the layers of grime and dirt, cleaning out the festering bacteria nearly sent him over the edge. He had to stop and walk away several time to ease the need to vomit.
After he had finished his work on the main wound, he had examined Neal and found boot marks across his torso, bruised ribs and probably a crack or two there. He used his field medicine knowledge to its maximum. He bound up the ribs and washed away the filth.
Neal remains pliant and murmurs softly in his troubled sleep. He repeats that he found Friday even though Peter assures him it is Tuesday. He opens his eyes and stares at Peter; there is no recognition. He only whispers names Peter does not know. He feels like he is intruding, like he is a peeping tom looking into a window and watching someone else's life unfold before him. Neal never cries for his mother.
Peter covers the man and walks out of the room. He grabs onto the bannister of the staircase and damns himself. What the hell is he thinking? A tremor hits him deep inside and he hangs his head. At least Elizabeth is not here to see him in his stupidity, in his fall from grace. She's visiting her sister upstate and isn't due back until next week. He has time to set this straight, but it is so twisted and contorted he isn't even sure he knows how to find the pathway to making it right.
He hears Satchmo barking in the yard; he needs to bring the dog in. He needs to call the office and tell them he'll be out sick for a few days. Swearing again, he cannot believe he is actually considering doing this, following through and harboring a criminal. He keeps thinking of the wild eyed gaze of Neal's, his broken cry for help.
Is it because the reputation of the James Bond of the criminal world will be forever tainted if he is brought in, arrested, beaten, wounded and bloodied? Or is it because Peter cannot stand to think of giving up the challenge of Neal Caffrey? Or is Peter so vain he wants the take down to be spectacular and reliant on his assumptions and fine strategy instead of a tip given to him by one of his most unreliable sources?
None of these reasons seem to fit. He tugs at his tie and pulls his collar open. A button pops off and flies down the stairway. He ignores it. No, he thinks, it is none of these.
The answer blinds him as he gazes into the stream of sunlight breaking through the front door window. It is none of these reasons. It is simple and it is right - damn protocol and law and requirements.
Neal deserves better.
Something about the kid tells him, he deserves more than what he's been given in life. Something's cheated Neal; something's scraped away at his sense of right and wrong. Peter feels as if one good offering might change the course of Neal's life, might make him reconsider, might save him one day. He thinks if the world would show Neal there are better ways to live, to use his talents, he might take a risk and chance a normal life. Peter would like to be there, someday, when Neal makes that choice.
This is a first step.
He tries not to question his decision again throughout his vigil by Neal’s side during the rest of the day. Neal drifts in and out of consciousness and Peter wonders how long it has been since he’s been fully aware. Even as he dragged Neal from the hell of the motel room, he slipped and fell into a fogged state. It amazed Peter how trusting Neal was when he picked him up from the heap on the motel room floor. How he gave over his life so easily to Peter. He wonders if Neal has ever truly trusted anyone in his life.
By evening Neal wakes long enough for Peter to offer him water. He drinks it as if he is on fire and Peter thinks he literally is. When Neal slumps back into the bed again, his gaze is weary and drained. He glances at Peter as if he might say something, ask a question but instead he closes his eyes and turns away. His body shivers in response and he fists his hands against the pain.
Peter grasps his hand and uncurls the fingers, feeling the tension. He tries to rouse Neal again as the strength in Neal’s hand relaxes, but unconsciousness claims him again.
He stays for the rest of the day into the night. Neal continues to mumble and claw at the sheets throughout the twilight. Peter changes his dressing after he cleans the wound again. When the phone rings a little after eight o’clock, Peter convinces himself it is Hughes telling him the FBI is coming to arrest him. Instead, he finds Elizabeth on the line.
After the pleasantries, Elizabeth finally says, “Hon, you’re distracted. What’s up?”
“Distracted? No, no. I’m not distracted.” He stands in the doorway of the guest room, watching the street lamp’s glow filter in through the window. The light casts a hue over the sleeping occupant of the bed. It softens the harsh lines and the shallow look of Neal’s features. The kid has been through hell in the last few weeks.
“Is the game on? I didn’t think there was a game tonight,” Elizabeth is saying.
He jumps back to the conversation at hand. “No, no game, just lots of work. Working.”
“It’s Neal, isn’t it?”
“W-What? Caffrey? No.”
“You’re not working on his case file now?” Elizabeth says.
“No, yes. I mean, yes I am working on it, but not sure how it is going yet.” He frowns. She has an uncanny sense of his state of mind, even hundreds of miles away.
“Okay, then since you’re distracted,” Elizabeth starts.
She giggles a bit and says, “If you say so, hon. Love you, talk to you tomorrow.”
“Love you, too.”
In moments, Peter is left alone listening to the dial tone. He turns the phone off and walks back into the room. He wishes he could have spoken to Elizabeth, could have told her about it, could have asked what she would do. He considers what Elizabeth would do and walks back into the room.
He sits down in the chair next to the bed and waits. He knows what his wife, his loving wife would do. He follows her lead and remains with Neal throughout the night. Peter holds onto Neal’s hand when the fever battles his sanity, when the pain overcomes him and he wants to cry. He stays the night.
TBC... Part 3
A/N: I wrote this three times. I tried different scenarios, I hope this works. I am not sure if it is OOC for Peter to make this decision. I decided Peter has the capacity to act out of the boundaries of the law since he's done it in the series (as influenced by Neal). Let's just say this is the first step in that direction for Peter!