A/N: Ack, I'm so sorry! XD

Life, uh, happened. Mostly college. That, and coming back to the dorm at 1 in the morning and 8 AM classes and yeah... :P

But it's done now! Took way longer than it should have, but it's done!

The air hung with a sort of peaceful uneasiness. Maybe all hospitals were that way, Peter mused to himself, shifting on the chair that had long since become uncomfortable. Maybe it was the quiet, broken only by the rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor. A steady sound. An uneasy one.

Anything was better than the sound of Elizabeth's panicked voice—

"He's bleeding, Peter, he's bleeding so much—"

He never thought he'd see the day when Neal Caffery, of all people was quiet. Even when he was quiet his eyes told volumes of unbridled mischief.

But now—

"El—El, it's okay, I'm here now."

"P-Peter—" One hand reaching up to latch onto his, the other still wrapped around Neal's shoulders. "Peter—help him."

The horrible twisting nausea in Peter's stomach as his eyes flicked over the scene, the slap of the waves against the dock clashing in his ears.

Neal was still asleep. The bruises on his face were dark indeed, contrasting sharply against his pale skin. Dark, messy hair fell over the bandages wrapped around his forehead. Peter gave a small sigh, and reached forward to brush back the mussed hair, careful not to disturb Elizabeth. She had fallen asleep with her head on his shoulder almost half an hour ago, one of her hands still intertwined with his. A definite restriction on his movement, but he wouldn't have woken her up for the world.

He smiled down at her and gave it a slight squeeze. "Three people in the room, and I'm the only one who bothered to stay awake," he said, something almost like a laugh tinging his words, a bit of nervous energy that overflowed into some sort of chuckle.

Neal intakes a wheezing breath that turns into a wet cough.

The color of red.

"Definite internal bleeding." Peter stands up, jerking a hand through his hair, breath sawing in and out between his clenched teeth. "C'mon, where are they?"

The same nervous energy that was now tickling in his arm. He reached forward again and placed a hand on Neal's hair, brushing his thumb back and forth, watching as Neal's bruised and beaten chest rose and fell with each small breath. It was a simple movement, one to keep his hands busy while he waited. It wasn't some grand show of affection or anything like that.

Just something to remind him that Neal was here. That he was safe.

He'd seen so many scenes like this before, he should be used to it but this is someone he knows, someone he… he cares…

"How is he?"

The soft click of a door shutting. He hadn't even heard it open. Peter jerked his hand back, running it down his leg in an effort to appear casual as he turned to face the speaker.

Agent Rice.

His body tensed, his hand free hand curling into a fist before he slowly let it go. Even though… even though everything had turned out all right in the end, she was the reason Neal was here. After spending years at a job of placing blame, he wasn't about to put all of this one on himself.

She hung near the door, shifting her weight back and forth on the balls of her feet. The stance of someone ready to move at a moment's notice.

Peter pursed his lips, glancing back down at Neal. The smell of pine quat tickled his nose. "Moderate to severe internal bleeding, concussion, fractured nose, broken ankle, top it off with some water inhalation. Not to mention you scared my wife half out of her mind."

"I—I know…" Rice bit her lip, eyes darting towards the door. "I know, and… I just came her to tell you I'm sorry."

His must have face hardened; Agent Rice flinched. "Don't tell me," he said. "Tell Neal. Tell me that you won't ever pull that crap again."

She took a breath, some of the spark returning to her eyes as she squared her shoulders. "I will be better."

He almost rolled his eyes at her choice of words, something loosening ever so slightly inside of him.. A typical Agent Kimberly Rice statement. She was going to be the best everything else coming second to that one goal. At least right now her heart was in the right place.

"Good. Now tell Neal you're sorry."

After a moment, Rice closed her eyes, pasted a smile on her face and took a step away from the door.

"I regret my actions, Neal. And I hope you can forgive me, someday." She turned to Peter, muttering, "This is stupid, he can't even hear me."

Peter felt his lips rise in a small smirk, probably the first time he'd done so since this whole situation started. "I wouldn't put it past him."

She gave him a look, then slipped back out the door.

A soft click, and quiet reigned once more.

He wasn't sure how much later it was. Time moved differently here, sneaking through the cracks in the pale colored walls, between the steady beep of the heart monitor.

It was the change of sound that roused Peter from that dazed stupor he slipped into some immeasurable amount of time earlier.

The clicks had increased in their frequency. Peter glanced over just in time to see Neal's eyes snap open, saw him try to gulp in a huge breath of air, an action that quickly lead to several hoarse coughs.

"Easy, Neal," Peter said, moving forward to place his hand on Neal's hair—any more coughing and he might do even more damage to his internal organs. "Take it easy."

Neal let out a soft moan slumped back, closing his eyes and wrapping an arm around his stomach—offering it what little protection he could.

"Neal?" Elizabeth's voice, sounding groggy. Peter inwardly kicked himself. He must have startled her awake when he moved.

"What… happened?" Neal asked. His eyes remained squeezed shut, his voice barely above a whisper.

Peter let out a sigh. He was about to remove his hand, but then he felt Neal relaxing under his touch. "What do you remember?" he asked, resuming the movement of stroking his thumb back and forth across Neal's dark hair. The beeping slowed, returning to a normal pace.

"Wilkes…" Neal's eyes blinked back open, slightly glazed. Pain and painkillers collided in his gaze, slurring his speech. "He… decided he didn't need me anymore."

His body stiffed. Out of the corner of his eye, Peter saw Elizabeth giving him a look before jumping in with a "But you're safe now, Neal."

"Elizabeth's the one who really rescued you," Peter said. "Even after we all got there, she didn't want to let go of you until she knew you were gonna be okay."

"Oh… Yeah… she petted my hair." Neal's lips twitched into a half-smirk. Then it dropped. "You're…" His voice slurred, his eyelids drooping. "You're not gonna… throw m' out, are you?"

Peter felt a small smile work its way on to his face. "No, Neal. I'm not going to throw you out."

"But wh… what if I'm not any good at cases anymore? That'd never happen, but what if it did?"

Peter took a breath and let it out. Most people would consider Neal as not much more than an asset, and an untrustworthy one at that. Always hanging on the edge of becoming useless, of being sent back to jail.

One who'd take a mile if you gave him an inch.

One who was bruised and blooded and drugged to high heaven, who probably wouldn't even remember this question.

Who was just looking for a scrap of something to hold on to.

"I promise Neal, that I won't abandon you. I've got your back."


"Never again," Peter said, leaning forward to let one hand rest on Neal's forehead as the young man's eyes slid shut. "Never."