“—only been a day, Mrs. Burke. Give him time.”
“But… he’s okay?”
Peter lay silently, his mind slightly confused. He was hearing voices but he couldn’t distinguish them. He knew one of them was familiar, but it seemed so far away, as if he were trapped in some sort of bubble, distorting his senses. He fought it, struggling to lift himself out of this thick, murky veil that had such a tight hold on him. He had felt numb for the longest time. Lifeless, even. Just a mere presence.
But the numbness started to wear off. As quickly as he welcomed this return to reality, he resented it; pain met him harshly. First it was his leg, a sharp throbbing. Then it was his head. He felt utterly bruised. Weak.
Suddenly he heard something—something loud and incessant. Quickly following it, he heard the voices again, and they were louder. Faster.
“—okay? What’s happening?”
“Mrs. Burke,” the unfamiliar voice said firmly. “Please, relax. Your husband is fine; he’s waking up and probably experiencing some discomfort.”
Some discomfort. Peter wanted to scoff. Leave it to doctors to underestimate.
“Discomfort? He’s… he’s in pain?” asked Elizabeth. The noise—his heart monitor, he realized—was beeping faster as Peter continued his fast journey to reality.
“After what he’s been through, I would expect he would be.”
Peter suddenly found that he had control over himself again. Things weren’t surreal; they weren’t dreamlike anymore. He knew where he was; the sterile atmosphere told him he was in a hospital. Peter moved his hand. A soft material met his fingertips. Before he could move his hand another inch, he felt someone grab it gingerly.
He opened his eyes, and his vision pieced together. Elizabeth was looking at him, concern bright in her eyes.
“Peter!” she exclaimed. She squeezed his hand, and cupped his face with her other. She smiled, a tear rolling down her cheek. She slowly sank into the chair beside the bed.
“H-hi, Hon,” said Peter, his voice incredibly hoarse.
She smiled, laughing softly. She covered his hand with both of hers, caressing his skin with her thumb. “Peter,” she said, as if saying everything she wanted to say to him was conveyed in his name alone.
He smiled back at her. “I missed you.”
Another tear rolled down her cheek. “I missed you, too.”
The nurse was checking on Peter’s monitor, which had slowed down. She scanned his vitals again, then looked at Peter. “Hello, Agent Burke. How are you feeling?”
Peter cleared his throat, and said, “I’ve been better.”
“We’ll give you a bit of medication to help with that pain,” she said, gesturing to his right leg. He looked down. And saw that his leg was casted around his calf, and resting on a pillow. “You’ve fractured the tibia in your right leg.” She pointed to his x-ray on the wall. She gestured to the longer, thicker bone. “It was a displaced fracture,” she said, “When the bone broke, the two halves didn’t stay in line with one another. It took nearly an hour to finish surgery.”
Peter looked at Elizabeth. Surgery? “How long have I been out?” he asked.
“A day and a half,” Elizabeth said quietly. Peter saw her fear deep within her eyes.
“You have a mild concussion,” the nurse went on, gently, noticing the exchange between Peter and Elizabeth. “But other than that, you’re in pretty good shape. Your leg will need to be immobilized for twelve to sixteen weeks, and your ankle and knee movement should be fully restored. But we’re going to have to keep you here for a while longer.” She gave them a small smile, tucking a lock of her long dark hair behind her ear. “I’ll give you two some time.”
She left the room, and Peter turned back to Elizabeth. “I’m so sorry, El—”
“Sorry?” she asked. “Sorry for what?”
“I didn’t mean to worry you,” he said, his heart heavy. He knew how much she worried about him, and he hated concerning her. “I never wanted you to have to get a call from the FBI like this—”
“A call?” asked Elizabeth.
“You know,” said Peter, “that I was hurt.”
“They—well, they didn’t…” she stuttered, hesitant. She took a hand off of Peter’s, biting her bottom lip. “They didn’t… need to.”
“What?” asked Peter. What was she talking about?
“I—I was there,” she said in a small voice. “At the bank. I was there as it burned.”
Peter’s eyes widened. “You—what?”
“Well I went to the FBI to find out if you were okay. You never came home, and they sent a patrol car to the house. I overheard where they found you, and I wanted to make sure… make sure you and Neal were okay.”
The bank. The bomb. The fire.
No, no, no, begged Peter in his head. It couldn’t be.
“N-Neal—” whispered Peter. Fear snaked around his heart and constricted his throat. “—is he... is he dead?”
Elizabeth’s jaw dropped. “No! Peter, no, Neal’s not—he’s not dead!” She gripped his hand again as his head fell back to the pillow. He released the breath he’d been holding. Relief washed over him like water. Neal was alive.
Neal was okay.
“What happened?” he asked hollowly.
“Neal made it out of the building himself,” she said quickly. “When I was in the alley with that man, Allen—”
"You were what?!”
“Sorry, sorry,” she said, shutting her eyes. Opening them, Elizabeth quickly relayed to Peter her run-in with Mozzie and Allen.
“And you shot him?” exclaimed Peter in disbelief.
“Yeah,” she said sheepishly, looking guilty and uncomfortable. “I’m sorry, I—”
“El, don’t be sorry!” he said gently. “You saved Mozzie’s life! And that bastard deserved it.” He paused. “Wait, how did Neal get out?”
“Mozzie ran to tell the FBI we had Allen, and I had Allen at gunpoint. I heard someone banging on the door from inside the bank and I dropped the gun and opened it. It was Neal.” She took a shuddering breath. “Peter… You should have seen him. I’d never seen anyone look the way he did. He was so… hurt.” She shook her head, and said, ashamed, “I was so stupid, Peter. I dropped that damn gun, and when I wasn’t looking, Allen picked it up. Before I knew it, he… he grabbed Neal around the neck and put the gun to his head.”
Peter gaped at her.
“He kept threatening to kill him.” she said, a tear trailing down her cheek. She hastily wiped it away. “Diana and Jones came then. Allen and Diana were arguing, and then Allen—Allen’s gun never left Neal’s head. He cocked his gun—and—” More tears rolled down her face. “There was a gunshot. He and Neal fell to the ground at the same time. Peter,” she said, holding in a sob, “I swear, I thought Allen shot him.” She took a shaking breath, more tears falling. “I thought he killed Neal.”
“He didn’t?” whispered Peter.
Elizabeth shook her head, seeming unable to speak. After a moment, she said, “Diana shot Allen. She knew he was going to kill Neal, and she took the opportunity. She fired a split second before Allen could.”
Peter let his head fall back to the pillow. He felt a constricted feeling in his chest, his heart incredibly heavy, thinking of his partner.
The friend he almost lost.
“But…” said Peter, swallowing his emotions. “But… Neal’s okay? He’s fine?”
“Well—” started Elizabeth, and Peter’s heart raced.
“He hasn’t woken up yet,” she said. She wiped the tears from her face with the back of her hand. “They put him in a medically-induced coma. They said hopefully tonight they would pull him out of it.” She sighed. “He has a severe concussion, lacerations on his head, two broken ribs that nearly punctured his lung.” She shook her head, forcing the words out. “They found a bullet in his leg. No major arteries were hit. And… and third degree burns on his right arm.” Burns? An icy chill shot down Peter’s spine. Neal’s arm had been on fire.
In the fire Peter left him in.
Peter slowly lifted his eyes, and Elizabeth said, “They say he’ll be good as new. But… he really doesn’t look okay, Peter.”
“I need to see him,” said Peter suddenly. He started to get up, but Elizabeth’s hand was on his shoulder at the exact same time that a wall of dizziness struck. He fell back to the pillow, head swimming.
“Easy, hon!” she exclaimed. “You’re hurt, remember? They said you’re staying right here until you heal a little more.”
“El,” stressed Peter. “I need to see Neal—”
“You will,” she said. “You will, I promise, but you need to rest. He’s unconscious anyway, Peter.”
Peter sighed, defeated. “Will you let me know when he wakes up?”
“You are the first person I will tell.” she said.
“Even if I’m asleep,” he said. “You wake me up.”
“Please, El…” he whispered. “Please.”
“Of course.” she said, and she leaned toward him and lightly kissed his cheek. “You can close your eyes, Peter. You look like you’ve been wanting to ever since you opened them.”
Peter had. Fatigue weighed on him. He nodded gently and shut his eyes, contenting himself with Elizabeth’s word to tell him the moment Neal was conscious. He settled back into the pillow and felt her squeeze his hand. He squeezed hers back, and let sleep take him over.
It wasn’t long before Peter woke up again. Two new voices had joined Elizabeth’s. He knew them well, and he smiled even before he opened his eyes.
“Peter!” exclaimed Jones. Groggily, Peter looked at Jones and Diana as they entered his room. Diana took the chair next to Elizabeth’s and Jones stood at the end of the bed.
Diana smiled at him, and asked, “How do you feel?”
“Fine,” he lied. He did his best to hide just how much pain he was in. The moment he woke up, his leg began throbbing again. His head still felt as if it were stuffed with cotton. “I’m fine, thanks.”
“Do you…” began Jones, with a nervous glance to Diana, then back to Peter. “Do you feel up to talking about what happened?”
Peter knew this was coming, and he nodded, then stopped, realizing that moving his head made things hurt a million times worse. “Yeah, and before I do… Diana, I shouldn’t have left you—”
“I’m sure you have a good reason for it,” she said, waving away his apology. “Now spill.”
Peter recounted the events to the three of them. He started at the beginning, telling them that Neal had been involved. All the cards were on the table now. They were silent as he explained his absence from the scene of Neal’s kidnapping, Mozzie’s assistance, his meeting with Richard Graff and the reason why all of this had happened in the first place; the drive. That, they had known about.
“Yeah,” said Diana. “Mozzie called us.”
Peter’s eyebrows shot up. “He called you?” he asked incredulously. His gaze flicked between Diana and Jones. “He called the FBI?”
“Yes, he did,” she said, grinning. “I nearly hung up on him, too. He told us that he followed you to the Midtown on Forest.”
Taking his cue, Peter continued the story, telling them everything that happened in the bank, all the way up until the moment it exploded.
“I can’t believe he made it out,” whispered Peter, shaking his head. “Neal was so… delusional.”
“I…” began Jones, hesitant. “I can’t believe it, either. I’ve never seen anything like it, Peter. When we saw him in that alley… He looked like he was ready to drop dead.”
The three were silent for a while. Peter looked at Diana, breaking the quiet. “You killed Allen?”
She nodded. “It’s ironic, really. I’ve threatened to kill Caffrey for the past four years.”
“Thank you, both,” said Peter, “for offering to go in after Neal.”
Peter had thought long and hard about Hughes’ decision to leave Neal in the fire. Of course, Peter’s initial reaction was appalled. But… he really didn’t see any other choice Hughes had. Peter knew protocol, he knew that agents were forbidden to enter an unstable premises at any cost. It was suicide. None of them would have made it out alive. Neal barely did.
“We were still going to go in,” said Jones. “But then the little guy came out of nowhere and told us he and Elizabeth had taken Allen down. And it just so happened that Neal was right there with him.”
“I have to say,” said Diana, “I’d never been so happy to see the kid.”
“How… how is he?” asked Peter. It was something Peter hadn’t stopped thinking about since he woke up. He wanted to see Neal, whether he was awake or not. He just wanted to see him breathing, know that he was truly okay.
“He’s still unconscious,” said Elizabeth, speaking up for the first time in a while. She’d gone a shade paler as Peter’s story went on. Their hands were still clasped tightly over the blanket.
“Have any of you seen him?” asked Peter quietly.
“Not allowed to,” said Jones. “Doctors’ strict orders. His vitals are too weak.”
“Hughes posted a guard outside Neal’s door,” said Diana hesitantly, and she watched Peter’s eyebrows shoot up, and anger crawled into his tone.
“Why?” demanded Peter.
“To… make sure he doesn’t escape,” she said, her voice slightly irritated. “He’s off anklet.”
"Escape?” exclaimed Peter. “He nearly died three days ago!” Rage suddenly fueled Peter’s chest.
“That’s what he tried to explain to the Marshals,” said Jones quickly. “He went ballistic on them when they showed up here, trying to cuff him to the bed. Hughes was swearing at them in the middle of the hallway.”
“He did?” asked Peter.
“You’re damn right I did.”
The four of them turned as Hughes appeared at the doorway. He looked at Peter. “Peter, listen… I’m sorry about what happened that night. It wasn’t… It wasn’t a decision I was happy making.” He stood in the doorway, regret deep in his eyes. “I wouldn’t have felt right about sending someone in, and I didn’t feel right about not sending someone in. I didn’t... mean what I said. I care about him, too.”
Peter slowly nodded, ignoring the pain in his head. It was a messy position to put Hughes in. Peter looked up at his boss, and took a breath. “It’s over now, and Neal’s okay. Water under the bridge.”
“What about the drive?” asked Peter.
“Destroyed,” said Hughes. “The moment they found it on Allen, it was destroyed. Midtown Mutual funds are officially safe.”
Peter turned to Elizabeth. “I don’t care; we’re still closing our account.”
Elizabeth smiled, her hand on his arm again. “Already done.”
Peter’s company stayed for a while longer, then they all bid a farewell, and told Peter that they’d be back to visit him later.
“Hungry?” asked Elizabeth.
“I could eat,” he said. She kissed him on the cheek and left. The moment she did, his door opened again, and Peter looked up as someone entered the room.
Peter smiled. “Hey, Moz!”
“Suit!” exclaimed Mozzie. He sat down in the empty chair with a heavy sigh. “I thought they’d never leave.”
Peter laughed. “El told me that you both were heroes. You stopped Allen.”
“Me?” asked Mozzie. “Nah, it was all her. I still can’t believe she shot him.”
“Neither can I,” said Peter, smiling a little to himself. “She’s… my wife is a badass.”
Mozzie laughed. “I told her that’s what you would say.” He looked at Peter. “How are you feeling?”
“Pretty bad, not going to lie.” said Peter honestly. He shifted in the bed, cringing as he jostled his leg. “But I’m alive, and I’ll take it.”
Mozzie nodded, his grin slipping. His expression was suddenly serious. “Thank you for what you did for Neal.”
Peter shook his head, his earlier guilt crashing into him. “I didn’t save him.”
“Yes, you did!” exclaimed Mozzie, leaning forward in the chair. “You risked your life that night! Without you, Neal wouldn’t be breathing right now.”
Mozzie’s words did nothing to ease the shame and regret swimming in his veins. “I should have stayed in that building and found him.”
“And then what?” asked Mozzie. “Find him and what? It’s not like you could have carried him out.”
That’s what Peter had been trying to convince himself. Even if he did go back for Neal, he couldn’t have saved him.
But it didn’t make him feel any better about it.
“Look, Suit,” said Mozzie. “Through my overhearing—”
“—of you and the other Suits,” continued Mozzie. “You told Hughes to let his regret go.” Mozzie sighed. “Peter,” he said, and Peter looked at him, stunned. Mozzie never used his name. Mozzie continued, “′One of the most difficult things to think about in life, is one’s regrets. Something will happen to you, you will do something wrong, and for a few years afterward you will wish you had done something different.′ You yourself said that what happened was water under the bridge, and it is. You promised me that you would bring Neal home. And here he is.”
Peter stared at Mozzie for a long time. He felt that hatred, that blind contempt with himself suddenly loosen. Mozzie was right. Whether Peter did something wrong or not, Neal was okay. Peter didn’t need to beat himself up over it. He did all he could.
“Thank you, Moz.”
“No, Suit,” said Mozzie. “Thank you.”
Peter was exhausted. Even his attempts at merely standing were enough to tire him out. It was a few hours after his conversations with Jones, Diana and Mozzie. His doctors assured him he wouldn’t be in the hospital for too much longer and he would get crutches soon, but he was still told to stay put. With his dizziness, they didn’t want him risking a fall and another fracture in his leg.
Forbidden from leaving the bed, Peter had fallen asleep again, but he wasn’t asleep long. He faintly heard Elizabeth clear her throat. His eyes cracked open and she was sitting back in the chair beside his bed. “Peter,” she said, and Peter knew exactly what she was going to say before she even said it.
“Neal?” he asked eagerly, jerking upright, ignoring the dull pain in his head. “Neal’s awake?”
She nodded, grinning. “His doctors say he just woke up a few minutes ago. They say he’s not quite coherent yet, but he… he asked for you.” She smiled, her eyes bright.
“He did?” asked Peter.
She nodded. “They’re going to dial down his medication and they say he’ll soon be himself again.”
Peter’s eyes lit up. “That’s great!” He started to throw off the blankets. “I have to see him—”
“No,” she said, gently pushing him back down. “I already tried; he can’t have visitors just yet. They said tomorrow.”
“And you, too,” she said. “You aren’t supposed to be upright yet, Peter!”
“Twelve hours! And then you will be discharged and we can hightail it straight to Neal’s room, okay?”
Peter sighed, defeated. “Okay.”
She squeezed his hand. Twelve hours. He had to wait twelve hours to see Neal—to see that he was alive with his own eyes. To have the peace of mind that Neal really, truly was okay.
There was no way in hell Peter was waiting twelve hours. He grinned to himself as a plan unfolded in his head.
He was going to see Neal tonight.