Characters and/or Pairing: Friendship - Peter, Neal
Spoilers: Season 1, 4X05
Warnings: New to this so all the mistakes are mine. Big thanks go to ricksilsa and winterstar95 for Beta-ing for me.
Disclaimer - I don't own the characters -- Jeff Eastin just lets me borrow them.
Word Count: 3,227
Summary: Neal's shooting reminds Peter that faith never truly leaves you
A/N: Thoughts are in italics. Also – there is a spiritual/religious theme.
6 months prior
Winter in New York is not all it’s cracked up to be, thought Peter Burke as he sat in the van. Surveillance in the winter in New York was even worse. For some reason, the heater in the van wasn’t working well and everyone inside kept their coats and gloves on, trying to stay warm.
Peter focused on the task at hand as he sipped his coffee. Neal and Diana were undercover as a couple looking to buy some stolen art from a fence named Ansinelli. Peter was waiting for the exchange to happen so Jones could bring in backup and arrest the bad guys. He smiled as he heard Neal turning on the typical Caffrey charm. Elizabeth would enjoy hearing the story when she got home from her event in Boston.
Neal gave the coded signal “The Guillaumin will look so good over the bed, don’t you think, darling?”
Peter sat up straighter. “Sounds like it’s about to go down. Jones, you ready?” He spoke into the radio.
“Ready as ever, Boss,”
Neal and Diana were handing over the money when it all went to hell in a handbasket. Somehow one of the backup team members was spotted. The seller drew a gun and started shooting before Jones could break down the door. Diana pulled her own gun and shot the guy in the knee but the damage had already been done.
Neal had fallen to on the ground, blood pooling under him.
“Peter, call EMS! Neal’s down!” Diana shouted into her mic. “It’s bad.”
Peter slammed the van door open and ran towards the building as he called 911. He slipped on the icy sidewalk and almost went down, but caught himself on the door to the building. He rushed to the stairwell, glad that the meeting place was only on the second floor.
The scene that met him when he ran through the door to the apartment was one he hoped he'd never see. Neal, pale and bloody on the floor with Diana pressing what looked like a towel against his chest. He was glassy eyed and breathing shallowly.
Pulling his gloves off, Peter knelt down next to Diana, oblivious of the blood soaking into his pants.
“Hey Peter.” Neal tried to smile but it came out more like a grimace. He shifted and hissed at the pain. “Guess I didn’t duck quick enough.”
“Guess you didn’t,” Peter replied in a calm voice. Inside he was shouting. What the hell happened? This is not how it’s supposed to go! He exchanged a look with Diana and placed his hands over hers. Understanding what he wanted, she slid her hands out from under his and stood to call and check on the ambulance. Peter increased pressure on the gunshot wound and kept his eyes on Neal. A quick once-over of his CI's face told him that the paramedics needed to get here fast.
“EMS is on their way up, Boss,” Diana said.
“Peter….” Neal’s voice was faint and his face was taking on a grayish pallor.
“I don’t feel so good, Peter.” Neal’s eyes grew wide and he struggled to move.
“Stop. You need to lie still,” Peter said, holding him down with the pressure of his hands on the wound. “EMS is on its way.” Where are the paramedics? Diana said they were on their way up. Damn it, they need to BE here! Neal’s eyes shut and his head lolled to the side.
“Neal…..NEAL!” Peter shook him, knowing it hurt when he did. Neal opened his eyes again, but Peter could tell that he wasn’t lucid. “Damn it Caffrey, you are NOT going to die on me!” Peter said gruffly. He heard EMS enter the apartment and took a breath.
One of the paramedics, a young girl with brunette hair tied up in a ponytail, knelt down next to him. “Sir, you need to let me do that.” They switched places and Peter got out of the way to let the paramedics do their work. He felt so helpless as they checked Neal’s vital signs and worked to stabilize and then move him to the gurney.
Diana moved next to him. “Boss, we’ve got the scene secured. You go.”
The paramedics were efficient and it seemed only a few moments passed until they had Neal on the gurney and headed to the ambulance. Peter followed, and when one of them tried to keep him from climbing in he held up his badge and said, “I’m going.”
The roads were slick and while Peter knew they were going as fast as safely possible, he couldn’t help but silently urge them to move faster.
Neal coded twice on the way to St. Vincent’s Medical Center. Both times they were able to revive him, but Peter could see from the looks on their faces that if it happened a third time while en route they might not be so lucky.
Once they reached the Emergency Room, the trauma team that met them moved with a grace that reminded Peter of his own team. They had Neal out of the ambulance and raced him toward surgery. Peter intended to follow until an older man in scrubs stepped in front of him. “Sir, you can’t go any farther,” he said. “No one but medical staff beyond this point.”
“That’s my partner you just took in.” Peter flashed his badge again.
“I understand that, Agent…Burke, right?” Peter nodded and went to push by him. The man put his hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Agent Burke, they’ll assess him in traige, and then they'll move him to surgery. Let them do their jobs, it'll help save your friend. You can’t go in.” The man gestured to Peter’s suit. Looking down, Peter realized he was covered in blood. Neal’s blood. Something in Peter’s expression when he looked back up had the man taking Peter’s arm and leading him to a chair. “Agent Burke, sit. I’ll see what I can find out for you.”
He left and Peter was alone.
Thirty minutes later he was still alone. Calls to Elizabeth and Mozzie resulted in El being stranded at Logan Airport due to the weather and a guarded message to Mozzie’s voicemail. Diana called to let him know the wrap up was taking a bit longer then they had anticipated due to some of the stolen artwork being stuck in the ventilation system.
The hospital staff was as open and supportive as they could be. Someone had found him some scrubs and showed him to a restroom where he could clean up and change out of his bloodied clothing. Marcus, the nurse who had stopped Peter initially, had brought back information and a cup of coffee. He put the cup on the table next to Peter. “This is what I know, Agent Burke. Mr. Caffrey went into surgery with a gunshot wound to the chest. It collapsed his left lung and lodged near his heart. The surgeon and his team are trying to stabilize him further so they can go in and repair the damage. He’s lost a lot of blood, Agent Burke….” Peter looked at him. They don’t think Neal is going to make it, he realized. “What’s his prognosis?” Peter asked. Marcus looked away. “Tell me!”
“Not good, Agent Burke,” the nurse said. “But they are doing all they can to save your partner.”
“What can I do?” Peter said softly, helplessly.
“Honestly? Pray,” replied the nurse as he got up. “I need to go but I’ll try to keep you in the loop.”
Peter sat and stared into space for what seemed to be a long time as thoughts of Neal dying collided in his head. No more hats. No more comments about his ties. No more wondering where his wallet was. No more looking to Neal for the answer when the Harvard crew just didn’t get it. Suddenly Peter felt like he was going to be sick.
He stood up and hurried to the closest restroom where he lost what little was in his stomach. After several dry heaves, he leaned against the sink and looked in the mirror. His face was drawn and hollow-looking and his mouth felt sour from the bile. He ran water to rinse out his mouth and saw a speck of red on his hand. A spot of blood, dried and dark, that he had missed when he initially washed up. Peter’s head spun and he had to breathe deeply to bypass the nausea that was threatening to overwhelm him again.
He needed to get out of the restroom, needed to move, to do something. Anything but sit and wait. He left the restroom and walked slowly down the corridor. Patients and staff passed him going in both directions, but he didn’t see them. He didn’t see anything but flashes of Neal.
Eventually, Peter found himself in a quiet hallway. He had no idea where he was or how long he had been walking. He looked around to get his bearings and saw a door with a stained glass window. Next to it was a sign that read, Elizabeth Ann Seton Chapel.
Drawn to the door, Peter eased it open and stepped inside cautiously, almost like he was entering a suspect’s location. In a way he was – it had been years since he had been in a church that wasn’t part of an investigation. The chapel was beautiful, with vaulted white walls and stained glass windows depicting various saints. The holy water font was just inside the door and Peter automatically dipped his right hand in it and then crossed himself. There were a few people spread out amongst the pews though no one paid him any mind. Peter slid into the last one in the back and closed his eyes. A slight breeze brought the smell of incense mixed with Murphy’s Oil Soap and suddenly he was 12 years old again.
Back home in Cooperstown, Peter and his best friend Jameson Daniels were altar boys for Father John at St. Mary’s on Elm Street. Their families were very active in the church and when they weren’t playing stickball in the vacant lot behind his house or tormenting Jameson’s little sister, Peter’s grandmother had them helping out in the parish hall or polishing the brass communion bells. Sundays were spent at church assisting Father John during the Mass. Peter recalled the time the air conditioning was broken one summer and Jameson took a header into the lectern because of the heat.
There was always a wedding or a baptism or a funeral where they had to serve. Peter remembered liking those because more often than not they would get a thank you card with some money in it. With his dad being a bricklayer, his allowance wasn’t as much as Jameson’s, whose dad was a doctor, so the extra cash always went toward baseball cards or a Yankees cap. Thoughts of baseball caps flowed into hats and circled back to Neal. Peter could feel a sob well up. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Neal was supposed to finish out his sentence, the tracker was supposed to come off….. He swallowed against the tears and wished not for the first time, that El was there.
He recalled what Marcus had said to him. Pray. Peter didn’t know where to start. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gone to Mass. That part of his life was so far in the past he didn’t know whether he would be able to find it again. He took a deep breath. Ok, God…..Please...... He faltered, feeling somewhat foolish, and tried again. Dear God… It sounded like a form letter. Maybe if he just shut his eyes and thought for a while….
Nothing came. Frustrated, Peter opened his eyes. He needed to get back to the waiting area and see if there was any news.
He started to get up and his eyes fell on the part of the pew in front of him where the missals were kept. Tucked between two of them was a rosary. It wasn’t an expensive set, just some crystal looking beads, the kind you might give to a child. Peter reached out and pulled the beads from their place. They felt light in his hand. Again, he flashed back to his childhood, this time in the sanctuary with his grandmother as he prepared for his first communion.
This is how you start, she said. In nómine Patris, et Fílii, et Spíritus Sancti. Amen. Even though everything was in English, his grandmother insisted that he learn the Latin, the “Language of the Church” she called it.
Patiently she taught him all the prayers, showing him which ones were to be said with what bead. The Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Final Prayer. The Mysteries – Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious. He remembered whenever something happened, happy or sad, his grandmother would always say I’m going to pray the rosary.
Hesitantly, Peter moved to the kneeler, bent his head and found the beginning of the rosary chain. Closing his eyes he began to recite the Apostles’ Creed in a soft voice …Credo in Deum Patrem omnipoténtem, Creatórem cæli et terræ…I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth… The words were slow at first, but came out faster and more confidently as he remembered what his grandmother had taught him.
The tears started when he got to the Hail Mary, tracing the lines on his face. He didn’t try to stop them this time. Ave Maria, grátia plena, Dóminus tecum. Underneath the recitations was a constant mantra of Please God, don’t let him die… almost frantic in its repetition. It was as if by saying the words and thinking the thoughts he could will Neal back to health, back to him.
Peter was so exhausted by the time he reached the end of the prayer cycle he almost didn’t feel his phone vibrating in his pocket. Taking it out he saw a text from Diana.
At the hospital. Neal out of surgery. Where are you?
He got up, wiped the tears from his face and hurried to the waiting area to get the news.
Neal’s still form was bathed in the dim glow of the monitors. Peter leaned forward in his chair and searched for any indication that Neal was waking up from the anesthesia. The doctors were cautiously optimistic. Earlier, they had spoken to Peter about the surgery and Neal’s recovery.
“To be quite honest, Agent Burke, it was touch and go for a while,” said the doctor. “We were having a difficult time stabilizing him at first, but about halfway through the surgery it was like he’d caught a second wind. The next 24 hours are crucial, but if he makes it through, with rest and time, he should be fine.”
“Peter..?” Neal’s voice interrupted Peter’s thoughts. “Where…”
“You’re in the hospital, Neal,” Peter said. “You were shot.”
“I…I remember…” Neal blinked slowly, awareness crossing his face. “Ansinelli pulled a gun…”
“Yeah.” Peter pulled the chair closer to the bed. “Diana shot him in the knee.”
“Don’t worry. We got him and all the art. You need to rest, though.”
Neal’s eyes closed for a moment, a slight smile playing over his face. He opened them and looked at Peter. “Stay?”
Peter put his hand on Neal’s ankle. “Always.”
It’s dusk. Warm breezes flow through the backyard where crickets and fireflies duet with the street sounds and the stars. Peter gets up to retrieve another beer from the ice bucket on the patio table. He gestures to the bottle of Merlot. Neal shakes his head and raises his glass - it's still half full.
Peter sits, twists off the cap and takes a drink. He sighs, stretches his long frame and lifts the bottle in a toast.
“Good job today,” he says. “This was a tough one. We wouldn't have caught Anderson without that tip from Mozzie. Tell him thanks.”
“I will,” Neal says absently. Peter's eyes narrow just a bit. This is not the first time since he’d been shot that Neal seemed to be off in his own world. Something was different this time though. Peter searches his face for some indication of what's going on behind those blue eyes.
Realizing that Peter is studying him, Neal brings himself back into the present and gives Peter a smile.
“Want to share?” Peter asks carefully. If he pushes too hard, Neal will automatically go into dazzle mode and throw out some innocuous reply that means nothing. He waits patiently as the decision wars over Neal’s face. The choice not to speak wins out and Neal just smiles. They sit in silence for a while longer.
Disappointed but not surprised, Peter drains his beer and gets up to clear the bucket and the bottle. “It’s getting late and we have to be in early to finish up that paperwork…” he reminds as he heads toward the back door.
“Peter….” Neal’s voice is soft and almost childlike. Turning towards him, Peter sees that Neal has retreated into himself again. His face is half hidden in the shadows thrown by the grapevines Elizabeth has coaxed to grow up the trellis. Peter waits. Neal takes a long drink of his wine, a deep breath, and starts speaking quietly.
“When I was shot….” The words come haltingly. “You were there…”
“I know,” Peter says. “I saw it.”
“No…no, not then….after…” Peter starts to reply but the look on Neal’s face makes him falter. This is not the time for interruption. Neal falls silent, obviously contemplating his words. Peter can sense that whatever it is he needs to say, the words have to be perfect. Neal begins again.
“…I saw Kate…” Neal’s eyes are focused over Peter’s shoulder, but he knows Neal’s not looking at anything in this reality. “….Ellen too…..they smiled at me….” A sense of wonder seems to color his words. “….It was warm and I was cold…so cold…” Neal’s voice chokes. “…the closer I got, the less I hurt…I wanted to stop hurting…”
Peter doesn’t move, doesn’t even breathe. Any outward motion will break the spell of Neal’s voice.
“…then I heard…..I don’t know….words….but more than words….sounds…I could feel them….here….in my heart….” He gestures to his chest. “….the words…. Ave Maria..…gratia plena, Dominus tecum, benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus…” Neal trips over the unfamiliar words. “….Hail Mary, Full of Grace….”
He trails off then starts again. “It was you…your voice….I saw you, Peter,” Neal whispers. “…You were crying. Peter, why were you crying?”
Peter stares at him. How could he…?
Neal looks at him, tears brimming. “It was you,” he repeats. “….I wanted to go…but your words…your voice….I knew I couldn’t….that it wasn’t time yet…I couldn’t leave…” He falls silent. Peter realizes he’s crying too. Neither man speaks.
Neal stands shakily and comes toward Peter. He puts his arms around him and pulls him close. “Thank you,” Neal says softly. “Thank you for bringing me back.” The tears fall, wetting the collar of Peter’s shirt. After a moment, Neal steps away, takes the bucket, wine bottle and glass and brushes past Peter to go into the house. Peter leans on the doorjamb, looks up and takes a shuddering breath. He wipes his eyes and slips his hand into his jeans pocket. Nestled amongst the house keys is a strand of beads. He curls his fingers around them, smiles, and follows Neal into the house.