Taking Trust Into Account

Chapter 21

Peter opened his eyes to the darkness. It was nearly one o’clock in the morning. The lights were off in his hospital room and the building was nearly silent, but the machines around him continued to glow and hum.

He breathed in the sterile air, readying himself for what he was about to do. He slowly pushed himself up, glad that most of the dizziness had worn off, and his headache was barely a nuisance now.

Peter threw off his blankets and slowly moved his leg to the side of the bed. He carefully lowered it to the floor and he sat on the side of the bed.

Peter stood, putting no weight on his injured leg, and used the chair in front of him for support. He hobbled over to the cabinet where he knew fresh clothes were; Elizabeth brought them. He threw them back on the bed, retreated to it, and then quickly pulled on jeans and a t-shirt. He suddenly felt more like himself and less like a patient.

Looking at the door, Peter took another breath. He knew he wasn’t supposed to leave his room, he knew he wasn’t supposed to be upright, he knew he wasn’t supposed to see Neal. But...

He didn’t care.

It was probably Neal’s influence that was allowing himself to break the rules so easily. Peter laughed softly to himself. Five years ago, he would never have imagined his life turning out like this. He would never have imagined that the fugitive he’d devoted so much of his time to chasing would become his best friend.

And he was going to make sure that his best friend was okay.

Peter rose again, and wavered on his left leg. They had given him crutches, and he picked up one of them from the wall. Leaning his weight onto it, Peter slowly limped to the door. He suddenly realized that being crippled and stealthy was nearly impossible. But he was going to have to try anyway.

For Neal.

Could he wait seven more hours to see Neal? Yes. Was he going to?

Hell no.

Peter made it to the door, his left leg and right arm already tired. He peered through the window in the door, wondering how populated the hospital was at night.

Turns out not much at all.

He didn’t see anyone in the hallway, and no one behind the reception desk. Elizabeth had told Peter earlier that Neal was on the floor below him, the second floor of the hospital, in room 16.

Peter eased his door open, leaning on the door frame. He gave the hallway another quick scan, then started for the elevator.

The hallway remained clear. Peter slowly made it to the elevator at the end of the hallway, and he hit the second floor. A moment later, the elevator button glowed and the doors hissed open. Peter limped into the elevator and leaned against the back wall as it descended down the shaft, and opened on the second floor.

He exited the elevator slowly. This reception desk was empty as well, but the computers were on, and someone’s mug of coffee was steaming; whoever was on shift was going to be coming back very soon. Peter needed to hurry.

He limped quicker down the hallway, still awkward with the crutch, not quite accustomed to it. He passed doors twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen…

And he landed on sixteen. Eagerly, Peter picked up his pace and peered into the room.

Neal lay on the bed, asleep. Peter pushed open the door quietly, and entered the room, shutting it behind him. He slowly approached Neal’s bed, and his heart sank.

Neal almost looked worse than he had when Peter had seen him last. There was a bandage wrapped around his head, and bruises on his face. His right arm was wrapped tight in bandages. The moonlight through the window shone in the room, making him look pale. Neal didn’t look very alive. The only thing convincing Peter the opposite was the faint rise and fall of Neal’s chest.

Slowly, Peter sank into the chair beside Neal’s bed. He looked at his partner’s face, and whispered, “Neal?”

Peter put a gentle hand on Neal’s shoulder, one of the few places Neal wasn’t injured, and whispered, louder, “Neal... It’s Peter.”

Suddenly, Neal’s eyes opened. He blinked a few times, staring up at the ceiling. Peter smiled, overjoyed. Neal was okay.

“Neal?” he asked, tentatively.

Neal slowly turned his head. He looked at Peter, and his eyes widened. “P-Peter?”

“Yeah, Neal,” Peter smiled. “It’s me.”

Neal grinned weakly. He cleared his throat, then cringed. It took him a moment to speak. “What did I miss?” he asked, his voice raspy from disuse.

Peter laughed. “Well, a good four days out of your life. But nothing major.”

Neal smiled, trying to shift himself up, but Peter put a hand on his shoulder. “No, Neal, it’s okay. Relax.”

“I guess…” started Neal, as he winced, his head falling slowly back to the pillow. “I guess I should have told you everything from the beginning.”

“Might have saved us a bit of trouble.”

“I’m sorry, Peter.” said Neal quietly. He looked at the crutch that Peter was leaning against the bed. “You—You’re hurt?”

“Broken leg,” said Peter. Neal’s eyebrows shot up and Peter continued before Neal could speak. “I got hit during the explosion.”

“Oh.” said Neal, his face falling. “Are you okay?” he asked. Peter stared at Neal.

“Am I okay?” asked Peter incredulously. “I’m fine, Neal! You’re the one we’ve been worrying about!”

Neal looked curiously at him. “Really?”

Peter looked at Neal for a long time, floored. The look in Neal’s eyes was so genuine, so… young. It hurt Peter to think that Neal was this unaccustomed to anyone caring about him. “Of course, Neal,” he said gently. “Even Hughes.”

That made Neal’s jaw drop. ”Hughes?”

“He told me personally.” said Peter with a grin.

Neal slowly shifted his shock into a small smile. Peter wasn’t used to seeing Neal with his walls down. He knew Neal was still on the medication, though they stopped administering it. It was different to see Neal like this.

“I never would have guessed,” said Neal. “But, uh, I feel fine.”

“Really?” Peter said flatly, raising an eyebrow.

“Maybe… maybe a little worse than fine.” Neal admitted, shifting his weight again. Peter saw the muscles in Neal’s neck tighten, as if he was warding off a wave of pain. Neal’s complexion seemed even paler in the moonlight. Neal suddenly said, “I haven’t been thinking clearly since I woke up. No one told me exactly what happened.”

“Do you remember what happened?” asked Peter quietly.

“Bits and pieces.” said Neal, his face screwed up like he was trying to remember them. “But it all kind of feels like it was just one really bad dream.” He shut his eyes, trying to think. “I know I was kidnapped, I know… I know what happened there.” Something shadowed over his face. “Bastards.”

Peter’s eyes momentarily glided over the bruises on Neal’s face. He remembered when he’d first seen Neal, tied to the chair in the bank. The blood running down his face. His cry of pain the moment Peter lifted him. “They’re dead.” said Peter firmly, almost more to himself than to Neal.

“Allen too?” asked Neal, opening his eyes. “I think… I think I remember that Maverick was killed. We… You and I were in the bank.” He slowly shook his head. “Everything after that is kind of hazy. I don’t really know how I got out of that bank.”

“None of us do.”

“Was…” began Neal, but then he paused. “This may have actually been a dream, but… I think I remember seeing Elizabeth.”

Peter nodded, laughing. “That wasn’t a dream.”

"What?” exclaimed Neal.

“She was there. She actually saved Mozzie’s life.”

“She did?”

And suddenly, Peter was diving into the entire story, telling Neal everything about the entire night.

“Wow,” said Neal, when Peter was finished. “I always knew Elizabeth was a badass.”

Peter laughed. “That’s my girl.”

“I still can’t believe that Diana was the one to end up saving my life.”

“That’s what Diana said.”

Neal and Peter shared a laugh. They were both quiet for a moment, listening to the hum of the machines, and the faint sounds of the city outside.

“There was a moment,” said Neal suddenly, quiet, “that I remember. I was in the bank, when it was burning and I was trying to get out.” He looked at Peter. “I was thinking about… you.”

“Me?”

“Peter, if it wasn’t for you… I wouldn’t have a life worth living. I’d still be wasting away in prison and… I don’t think I’ve ever thanked you for it.”

Peter wanted to smile, but didn’t. “Neal…” He hadn’t told Neal about his exchange with Hughes that night. “Neal, I should have gone back in for you. If… If you died—”

“But I didn’t, Peter.” said Neal. “I’m right here. And I’m fine.”

Peter smiled. “Yeah. You are.” He gave Neal’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “It’s all over now.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure.”

Neal and Peter whipped around. Because the door was no longer closed, as Peter left it, and he and Neal were no longer the only two people in the room. Someone else had entered, and someone else had been watching. Listening. And that certain someone had a gun, held high in front of him. Peter’s jaw dropped as recognition settled in, and he realized who was standing behind them.

And that man went by the name of Richard Graff.

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