One of the Best

Disclaimer: White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA Network.

A/N: You guys are so awesome! Thank you all for the kind reviews, and the story / author alerts, they are so greatly appreciated! So, for those of you begging for more, here's the next chapter.

Chapter 2

Elle got out of the cab at the emergency room entrance, noticing Peter's Taurus still sitting there with its red lights flashing. She felt fortunate he had at least remembered to turn the car off. She felt a bit disconcerted when she found him sitting inside the waiting area in a chair staring at the wall and didn't even hear her walk in.

"Peter, do you have the keys to the Taurus?"

Peter turned hearing a voice he thought was familiar and found his wife standing next to him with an expectant look on her face.

He gave her a blank look in return.

"I'm sorry Elle, did you say something?"

He honestly didn't remember what she had asked.

"I asked you for the keys to the Taurus, it's still sitting outside with the lights flashing. I'll move it for you."

Peter wondered what he had done with the keys, but fortunately, he found that he at least had the presence of mind to stick them in his pocket.

##

Peter and Elle were both sipping coffee in the waiting room, Peter with one hand around Elle as if afraid to let her go, when a doctor walked in.

"Agent Peter Burke?"

"That's me."

The doctor walked toward them and extended his hand to Peter.

"My name is Dr. Bryan Worthington. I'm Mr. Caffrey's doctor."

He shook Peter's hand and was introduced to Elle.

"As you may know, Mr. Caffrey has some pretty serious injuries. May I ask what happened?"

"We were investigating a lead on a case, and Neal was caught under some falling pieces of large plastic tubing."

"Aahh, well that would be consistent with the injuries to his back, and the blow to his head."

Elle couldn't keep quiet any longer.

"So what does this mean? Can he survive? Will he be paralyzed?"

Dr. Worthington could see the tears building in her eyes and realized that there must be a special relationship between Elle and Neal as well. He had seen plenty of cops in here with a partner that had been shot in the line of duty, but he couldn't remember the wife of any of the cops being involved this emotionally.

"It's hard to tell right now, we've got him on some powerful steroids to reduce the inflammation around his spine, and once the infection has gone down we'll be better able to see what the damage is. Right now his whole chest is in a rigid cast so that he doesn't unintentionally move his back any more than absolutely necessary. His right leg is broken and is set in a cast, and his right arm was badly dislocated at the shoulder. It seems likely that he was standing at a slight angle when the tubing hit him because his right side took the brunt of the injuries. His left side is still pretty banged up, but we haven't found anything broken, just seriously bruised."

Dr. Worthington really hated talking to the patient's families. It was the worst part of the job because he always had to see the desperate looks. He felt his heart breaking as he looked at the way Elle was gripping her husband's arm. For that matter, Peter didn't look much better and Dr. Worthington was amazed that both of them were still standing the way they looked.

"Can we see him?"

"I'm not sure that's such a good idea. I don't think that will give you any comfort because as bad as it sounds, I can assure you it looks even worse."

"We'll take that chance."

Peter had finally found his voice, and knew that no reasonable discussion was going to keep Elle away from seeing Neal.

"Ok. He's in room 549. Take the elevator to the 5th floor, the nurses up there can show you the way. I'm sure I'll be talking with you again."

Dr. Worthington excused himself and disappeared through those dreaded double doors.

"Are you sure you want to go up there, Elle?"

It was a rhetorical question Peter knew, even as he bothered to ask.

"He needs us there Peter. I don't want him to be all alone. It's something we can do for him."

Peter just slowly nodded as he led his wife to the elevator just on the other side of the reception desk.

##

Neal looked worse than either of them had expected, even with the doctor's warning. Peter felt sick that he hadn't done something more to protect Neal. Why hadn't he run forward and pushed Neal out of the way? Why weren't his reflexes faster? Why was he compelled to check out the building that day?

Neal had just been really getting on his nerves about being bored, so he had wanted to do something out of the office so that maybe Neal would stop complaining, and now it was all Peter's fault. What would happen if Neal never woke up?

The guilt was sitting so heavily on Peter's shoulders that he was starting to feel nauseous and really needed to sit down, but he felt Elle tugging him closer and closer to the bed where his charge…his responsibility… was lying unconscious all because of him; he couldn't stand it anymore. He twisted his way out of Elle's grip and ran to the bathroom in the small hospital room where he promptly emptied the contents of his stomach and then sank to the floor.

##

Elle felt Peter twisting his hand out of her grip and didn't try to stop him. She figured he was probably overwhelmed at seeing the figure on the bed. If they hadn't been shown the room by the nurse Elle would have sworn they had the wrong room; the man on the bed looked nothing like Neal. The steady beeping of the heart monitor, the flow of oxygen into his lungs, and the IV line dripping life saving medicine were all noises designed to help Neal survive this awful accident.

Elle gripped Neal's left hand, and watched the IV fluid drip slowly into his body; willing it to save his life and heal his many injuries. She noticed fluid outside of the IV and realized that her tears were splashing on his hand. She wished that somehow they could help him as well.

##

After three intensely stressful days for both Peter and Elle, Neal was still unconscious. Elle was devastated that she couldn't stay by Neal's bedside any longer, but she had a huge gala to prepare for and it wasn't going to run itself. Peter had gone back to the office because the mortgage fraud case had some breaking developments. Diana and Jones were able to get ahold of some pictures the couples had taken of their new homes, based on Neal's suggestion. They were trying to track down the realtor seen in many of the pictures.

Elle was about to leave again when Dr. Worthington came in to check on Neal.

"How is he doing Doctor?"

Elle held her breath hoping beyond hope for some good news.

"Well, the steroids appear to be working, the inflammation is going down, and we will soon be able to see the extent of his injuries. He has survived well over the first 24 hours, which if it is a spinal cord injury is great news."

Dr. Worthington had been trying to give Elle some hope that survival was possible, but she instead she looked very confused.

"Again, Mrs. Burke, it totally depends on the extent of the injuries Mr. Caffrey suffered, but there is a good chance that even if he has serious injuries to his spine he would be able to survive for some extended period of years."

Dr. Worthington was trying to explain patiently, but he didn't think Elle was able to understand the complexity of the situation - spinal injuries never ended well.

Elle's face changed over to something infinitely more stubborn.

"You'll see. Neal will wake up, and…and he's going to be ok."

Taking another look at Elle, Dr. Worthington decided it would be best not to argue with the woman, and turned and walked out the door.

Elle gently lifted Neal's left hand again, kissing it softly.

"Neal, I know you will wake up. I know it and we can all fight this together. I know you can do this because you're a fighter. You're strong."

Elle brushed a tear away and carefully placed Neal's hand back on the bed. She walked out leaving the sound of the drips, the beeps and everything else behind.