mrwubbles: (WC FBI and Neal)
[personal profile] mrwubbles

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The coffee tasted like crap, the shirt Peter hastily changed into that morning clung on his back in all the wrong places because he didn't iron it the night before. And with Elizabeth gone—sleeping in the chair in Neal's room, he woke up cranky from three hours of sleep, his stomach churning from the crusty sugary bear claw he'd eaten for breakfast.

"Hey," Diana poked her head into his office. She, of course, was looking properly attired in a dark purple and gray pantsuit. Peter was feeling rumpled, like he's been walking into the middle of meetings all day and it was only ten.

"How's Neal?"

Neal, not Caffrey. Everyone had been asking the moment he stepped off the elevator. The concern both warmed and alarmed him. Organized Crime wasn't making too much of an effort keeping the Docks' case under wraps. He caught Jones waving his arms at a pair of agents huddled with their heads bent together between the archive shelves.

"He's sleeping." Peter adjusted his tie using the reflection off the photo of him and El. No one commented it was the same blue and white striped tie from days before. Neal would have been cheeky enough to point it out and, when Peter found himself pausing expectantly for the criticism, only to receive none, he dropped his hands from the knot.

"Boss?" Diana's brows knitted.

"Doctors said he was going to be sleeping on and off until his system clears out everything. El took a few days off to keep him company. June's away visiting grandchildren." Peter gestured to the folder in her hand. "Is that it?"

Nodding, Diana entered his office, her arm extended. "Building's owned by Markham Construction, which is—"

"Which is owned by Giraldi's Management," Peter read. He scowled. "NYPD couldn't get an ID on those two slipping out of there?" He didn't look up. Diana's sigh was answer enough. "How about the prints in the crime scene?" It felt better to refer to it as the "crime scene" although Neal wasn't here to appreciate the euphemism.

Peter glanced up when Diana didn't answer immediately. His junior agent stood there, her lips pursed.

"Ruiz?" Peter guessed.

"They took everything we have last night."

Peter swore under his breath. His chin jutted out as he stared hard at the flimsy folder on his desk, pretty much the only thing they have left.

Diana cleared her throat and Peter slowly grinned. He stuck out his hand and Diana dropped a folded piece of paper into his waiting palm.

"This came in this morning and I couldn't really find the agents in charge of the Giraldi case, so…"

"This should have been forwarded to Organized Crimes." Peter schooled his expression to something more disapproving. Diana wasn't fooled.

Diana's shoulders lifted briefly. "Didn't realize we still had this and since Agent Rook only demanded what we have last night…"

"You've been hanging around Neal too long," Peter told her. He didn't bother biting back his grin.

Diana mock scowled. "If that was supposed to be a compliment…" She nodded toward the paper. "CSU pulled off four sets of prints: Neal's, Michael Docks' and…"

"Our two runaways," Peter finished as he opened the paper and studied the results. "One print is an unknown but the other is a Tommy Bonelli."

"Three priors for assault and extortion," Diana offered. "His tax records have him working for Giraldi as a security consultant."

Peter grunted.

"Think they were working for Docks?"

Peter shook his head. "Maybe. But why didn't they stop Neal before he killed Docks." He pinched the bridge of his nose.

Diana sat down. She rested her elbows on the desk.

"Jones told me Docks wasn't able to finish what he was going to do to Neal," she said quietly. Brown eyes stayed on Peter's face as she carefully asked, "You think Neal killed him? In self defense?" The higher lilt at the end revealed her disbelief.

Peter almost smiled at that. "The evidence certainly suggests it."

"But you don't believe it." Diana offered it as a question and a statement. "Does Neal remember any of it?"

Peter sighed. "It didn't look like it. We never had a chance to really ask. Rook and his partner interrogated Neal the moment he came to. The doctors threw us out when he had a panic attack." Peter couldn't get the high-pitched beeping from Neal's heart monitor out of his head. "With that much flunitrazepam in his system, chances are he might never remember."

"That might not necessarily be a bad thing," Diana tentatively suggested.

Deep down, Peter guiltily agreed.

* * * * *

White walls. White ceiling. It didn't look like he'd been taken anywhere. Rook must be disappointed.

Neal blinked until things cleared enough to pinpoint Elizabeth sitting on the edge of his bed. She smiled. He tried to smile back, but it was probably more like a grimace.

The noises and the colors and the taste of gummy dryness in the back of his tongue didn't bother him as much as Elizabeth looking at him like she wanted to sit closer, maybe on his lap (and wouldn't that have Peter sending him back to prison), but also looking afraid that if she breathed on him, Neal would reenact the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhythm.


Neal blinked. For a brief second, it sounded like Elizabeth spoke without moving her lips. It would have been impressive; even more so because it sounded exactly like Peter. But then Peter stepped from behind Elizabeth. While Elizabeth's credibility as a talented ventriloquist plummeted, the look on Peter's worn face made one of the monitors bleep faster again.

Peter scowled or made an unconvincing forgery of his usual "I'm annoyed with you but won't admit it" contortion.

"Stop that." Peter went around Elizabeth, a hand trailing around her back, settling on the curve of a shoulder as he stood by Neal's head. He nodded toward a machine beyond where Neal could see.

"Last thing you need is to get those doctors back in here again." Peter crouched by his ear. "Calm down, Neal. You're all right."

But he couldn't be all right because Peter was talking to him low and careful, as if for some reason Neal might not understand him. Neal blinked at him again and caught the heavy whiff of sweat. The bruises around his throat began to throb.

"Hold him down, damn it!"

"No, please! You don't have to do this! I have money!"

"Shit, I thought you said this stuff will keep him—"

"Don't! Please! Help! Help! Don't do this! I—"

"Get his mouth open!"

Neal reared deeper into his pillows, although it took more effort than it should and he probably didn't even move much, but Peter jumped back like Neal had shoved him away with both hands. Dismay bleached Peter's face.

"Hell, Neal. Sorry. I didn't—"

"It's fine," Neal rasped because watching Peter fumble for words wasn't amusing as it should be and made his stomach knot and tug like he was seasick.

"Nothing happened," Neal said. He caught Elizabeth wince and suddenly she was determined to get Neal the best glass of stale water from the mustard yellow pitcher on the tray table by the foot of the bed.

"Yeah, it didn't," Peter said, too quickly. He rubbed the back of his neck. "So you remember?"

"No." Neal smiled and felt the corners of his mouth burn as if they were cracking. "I don't remember a thing. But I would know." So it's okay. Nothing happened. Whether he remembered or not.

"What do you remember?" Peter asked.

Everything about nothing, Neal wanted to say. But he doubted Peter would appreciate irony at a moment like this. He pushed up on his elbows. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Peter fidgeting like he wanted to help, but it was Elizabeth who slipped an arm around Neal's shoulders to give him the extra leverage he needed to sit up.

Peter stuffed his hands into his suit jacket's pockets, looking almost constipated and something hot writhed in Neal's chest.

"Nothing happened," Neal repeated tightly. When Peter opened his mouth, probably to agree, Neal added with a grimace, "I'm sure the doctors would have noticed something if you don't believe me."

Sure enough, Peter's mouth snapped shut. His head bobbed jerkily. He glanced over to Elizabeth, who wrapped Neal's hand around a sweating Styrofoam cup and slipped out of the room.

Peter sat down on the edge of the chair closest to Neal.

"Neal," Peter exhaled, clearly unhappy, "I have to ask."

"It's all right," Neal said quickly but the frown lines on Peter's expression wouldn't go away.


"Yeah," Neal acknowledged. His face pulled when he smiled, but he did anyway, because he needed Peter to look like Peter again not…not Peter. It was why Neal hadn't seen anyone after he'd been thrown back into prison for a second—no, that was the jewelry theft—third time. "What do you need to know?"

Peter studied him before he said slowly, "Tell me everything."

"There's not much of everything when I remember nothing."

Peter slanted a look at Neal.

Sighing, Neal leaned back into the pillows piled behind him: three flattened, depleted pillows that totaled to a lumpy ache digging into his spine. Neal squirmed and caught Peter sitting higher.

"I'm fine!" Neal snapped. Immediately after, though, he felt heat flood his face. What was he doing? Neal averted his gaze. "Sorry," he muttered.

Peter nodded curtly.

"So what's the last thing you do remember?" Peter prodded.

"The gallery?" Neal tried. "I was looking at the collection. It was crowded. Saw Michael Docks there." He furrowed his brow.


"He knew who I was," Neal murmured. At Peter's frown, Neal added, "I introduced myself as Nick Halden and he knew that wasn't my real name. He called me Neal."

"You introduced yourself as Nick Halden," Peter repeated. "Your alias."

Neal glanced over. "Yes, why?"

Peter breathed out loudly. "The agent assigned to his protection detail overheard you two."

"Docks was going to a grand jury next week." Neal sipped the water, mouthed a shrinking ice cube so it could melt under his tongue. He felt marginally better. "What was he doing wandering around Manhattan when Giraldi likely placed a price on his head?"

Peter grunted; which meant he didn't know either and wasn't looking forward to finding the answer. "Docks has—had an ace up his sleeve."

"Giraldi's accounts," Neal murmured.

Peter's head whipped around. "What do you know about them?" he asked sharply. "Neal?"

"Nothing. I heard you and Agent Rook talking…" Yelling, actually. Elizabeth, once the doctors injected whatever it was into Neal's IV, had looked tempted to take his IV pole and start swinging it at someone. "They think Docks has Giraldi's accounts?"

"Word is Docks had a list of every transaction, password and account number of Giraldi's money. Guy's been squirreling his boss' money away into other accounts for a rainy day. He was going to premiere it in a big flashy way to the grand jury."

"But no one knows where he kept that list." Neal shrugged at Peter's look. "Makes sense to me. A life insurance policy."

Peter scowled. "A lot of good that did him. His protection detail lost sight of Docks in one section of the gallery. Didn't even notice where you went. Security cameras were disabled in the alley." Peter cleared his throat. "We found your tracking anklet seven blocks away from there. And we didn't get an alert that Organized Crime put out an APB on Docks, so no one made the connection."

Neal's hand felt sticky, like Docks' hand had slyly slipped around his fingers again. He rubbed his palm on his lap.

"Rook believes Docks looked for Halden to funnel a ticket out of the country." Peter exhaled loudly. "What were you doing going around introducing yourself as Nick Halden—?"

"I wasn't introducing myself as Nick Halden," Neal protested.

An eyebrow rose high. "So you didn't say you were Nick Halden?"

"No, I did."

"Damn it, Neal."

"But only after he asked for my name." Neal watched Peter folded his arms across his chest. "It wasn't intentional. I just…" Neal shrugged and smoothed out the blankets covering his legs. "He didn't…I mean…"

Peter lowered his arms and leaned forward, stopping himself midway as if he remembered something and leaned back. "Neal?"

"I didn't want him to know who I was." Neal made a disparaging laugh. "Figured he would move on and that would be the end of it." Neal knuckled one eye. His limbs felt like they were tied down with weights. "Last thing I remember was toasting him with the worst-tasting Monte Rose I ever had and then…" He swallowed.

"Agent Rook said I killed him."

"In self-defense," Peter said quickly. "Neal, doctors found high doses of flunitrazepam in your bloodstream."

Neal made a face. "Flunitrazepam?"

"Roofies. they—"

Something pulled taut in his chest. "I know what it is," Neal said tightly. Peter glanced away and Neal dropped his head. What was the matter with him? "Sorry."

"Forget about it," Peter mumbled, suddenly fascinated with the heart monitor beeping quietly behind Neal's head.

That's what I'm trying to do, Neal wanted to shout. He could feel his right hand trembling and he tucked it into the folds of his blanket.

"That's why I can't remember anything," Neal muttered.

"Hold him down, damn it!"

"Get his mouth open!"

There was a screaming that wouldn't go away in his left ear, like a ringing, like the time he miscalculated the timing of that cathedral's bells and was caught up in the steeple with the Antioch manuscripts. The carrier pigeons did their job, but the gong bellowing in his ear wouldn't go away for days. Mozzie had laughed about it for weeks.

Neal canted his head to the left and absently stuck a finger in his ear.


"Hm," Neal murmured as he stared at his other hand on the bed. The fingers curled but he couldn't remember the sensation of a wooden handle—Wait, was it a wooden handle? Maybe it was metal? Or did he remember and that was why he'd automatically known it was wood?


Neal raised his head and flinched.

Peter withdrew to his chair.

"I don't remember," Neal said. he hated how weak it sounded even to his own ears.

"I think that was the point." Peter pointed to his own throat. "Docks must have tried to…there are marks on your throat from where he tried to choke you and…" Peter's jaw clenched. "There are scratch marks, bruises from where he must have tried—"

"Yeah," Neal interrupted. So there was an advantage to not remembering after all. "He tried. I must have grabbed the knife and…" Neal stared at his hands curled loosely on his lap.

"Self defense."

"Rook doesn't think so."

"Well, I don't care what Rook thinks," Peter grumbled. He studied Neal. "Did you know Docks was going to be there?"

Neal couldn't find the energy to be indignant for the question. He shook his head.

"Hell of a coincidence he was there, too." Peter made a face. "Unless he knew you were going to be there."

Neal's mouth twisted. "I'm flattered."

"What did he say?" Peter pressed. "Exactly?"

Neal told him, as best as he remembered, even the taste of Boursin cheese still ashy and bitter in his mouth, the almost vinegary bouquet of the wine sour on his tongue.

Peter listened, his mouth pursed in concentration, elbows on his knees, eyes hooded. When Neal was done, Peter shook his head. "Damn it," he muttered, wiping a palm across his mouth. "I don't like it."

Neal sank deeper into the pillows and wished it was the poster bed in his apartment at June's.

"When can I leave?" Neal yawned. He tugged at the top of his covers, pulling at them as he watched Peter watching him, like he was trying to see through Neal's latest scam. Neal drew the blankets higher.

"Want to go home, huh?" Peter commiserated, a wry smile quirked on his lips.

"Hadn't gone back in years," Neal murmured as he burrowed deeper into the covers and shivered.


Neal blinked blearily at Peter.

Peter shook his head. "Never mind. Not for another two days, big guy. You got all that junk in your system. Doctors say your balance and coordination is going to be shot for a few days. And you're going to be playing for the narcolepsy team for a while. Better you stay put."

"So no more tightropes," Neal yawned. The blankets were growing heavier and his fingers plucked idly at the top edges of the pilling material.

"Tightropes, huh?" Peter remarked. "No, Neal, no circus acts for the time being."

Peter was growing fuzzy around the edges. Neal warned him to get a shave but for some reason, Peter chuckled.

"Yeah, think you're staying put, buddy." Peter rose from the chair.


Neal jolted and a hand snagged Peter's sleeve.

Peter stilled, looked down at Neal's hand and sat back down on the chair.

"Hey," Peter said quietly. A warm weight curled around his wrist. "How about I sit here for a bit?"

"If you want." Neal covered the next yawn with a hand.

"Might as well. I'll be stuck in traffic if I leave now."

Neal nodded solemnly. That would be bad. Traffic hates Peter.

"You need a shave," Neal told him. "Your fuzzy are getting ears."

"Whatever you say, Yoda."

Yoda? That wasn't one of his aliases and it wouldn't make a good one because it wasn't generic enough. It didn't even have a surname. It made a horrible alias, Neal warned him.

"I'll keep that in mind. Go to sleep."

Neal felt his eyes drooping but as the bed gave under him, he turned his head to his left. Empty eyes gaped back at him and he became aware of the stickiness that clung his shirt to his back. Neal jerked.

"Sh, you're okay."

Neal looked again and it was just a white wall. His eyes slid shut; the room dimmed for what felt like only a brief moment when he opened them again. He smiled drowsily at the heavy, dark-framed eyes now staring back at him.

"Hey, Moz," Neal slurred.

"Did you know this hospital had two cases of MRSA last year?" Moz returned crossly. He yanked at the covers until Neal could feel them scratching the bottom of his chin.

"Hallmark would love to have you on board, Moz," Peter deadpanned.

Moz was staring at Neal, wide-eyed, pale, looking like Neal just told him the FBI had managed to wiretap his glasses.

Neal reached over a hand to give him a pat on the arm. He missed. "I'm okay," he said. The words rolled out strange from his mouth.

"Of course you are," Moz replied immediately. Tentative fingers tapped over Neal's hand before retreating. MRSA, after all. "Go back to sleep, Neal."

Neal let his eyes shut completely. Of course he was okay.

Why did it feel like no one believed him?

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