Elizabeth nearly ran into the room. Peter was lying there, this time with oxygen tubing in his nose. His eyes were closed but they fluttered open when Elizabeth touched his arm.
"Hey. Welcome back," Elizabeth tried to keep her voice steady. She knew how upset Peter got dealing with crying women.
Peter smiled slightly and sighed. He made a vague motion to his throat.
"Sore?" Elizabeth guessed. He reached over and clasped her hand. Elizabeth felt tears sting her eyes. Naturally Peter saw it and drew her close. They embraced for a long time, saying nothing.
The nurse came in with some water and some ice chips. She smiled at them. "It's good to see you awake, Agent Burke. Oh, and that young man is still loitering around in the hallway," she added to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth's hand flew to her mouth. "It's Neal. He's still here, honey. He only left for a while to get Satchmo. Other than that, he's been here the whole time."
Peter's eyes were questioning and he asked in a raspy voice, "Time?"
Elizabeth glanced at her watch. "After four am. And its Thursday now." She turned to the nurse. "Could Neal please come in for just minute? He's been here all night."
The nurse hesitated. "There's only supposed to be one visitor at a time but I guess I could make an exception. He chatted up my supervisor earlier to be allowed to stay this long!"
Elizabeth smiled and Peter came close to rolling his eyes. The nurse went out and Neal came in instantly. "Hey, buddy," he said in a strained voice.
"His throat is too sore for much talking," Elizabeth explained.
Peter however, simply held out his hand. Neal took it solemnly. "God, its good to see you awake, Peter."
Peter was getting very tired; he suspected the IV had something to do with it. His eyes began closing despite his wishes but he did manage a hoarse, "Glad you're here."
Neal and Elizabeth exchanged looks of heartfelt relief. "This has been the longest two nights of my life," Elizabeth said weakly. "God, I can't believe I almost forgot Satchmo."
Neal placed a hand on her arm. "Don't worry. I already had a man on it."
"Yes, but I don't think we should discuss it here. Peter might jump out of that bed if he knew Mozzie broke into your house."
Elizabeth smiled. She was exhausted but giddy with relief. "Yes, he probably would."
The nurse came back in and checked Peter. "He should sleep now for a while. The Doctor wants to do another scan on him in a few hours; make sure that bump on the head keeps going down. You two should probably get some rest as well."
"Good idea," Neal replied. "How about a predawn cup of coffee, Mrs. Burke?"
"Wonderful idea, Mr. Caffrey." Elizabeth paused to kiss her husband. "I'll be back later, honey. Don't do anything I wouldn't approve of."
During Elizabeth's goodbye to her husband, Neal had moved by the door and pulled out his cell phone. When Elizabeth got near, she heard him say, "Diana? I thought you might be awake. You were right; Peter woke up. You were just one day off ."
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The following day Elizabeth arrived right after noon, after finally collecting her dog and going home for a while. Peter was awake, off the oxygen but looking none too happy. "Well, you must be feeling better; you're got your game face on," she teased.
Peter managed a smile but it was fleeting. "I'm really getting tired of being scanned, poked and talked about in the third person. Why do doctors have to do things by committee now days? They must have run in five today alone. And how the hell long does 'observation' last anyway?"
Elizabeth stopped the grumbling with a kiss. When they both came up for air, she cupped her hands around his face. "I'm just grateful you're here to complain."
Peter considered. "I guess there is something to that." He tried to see in her purse. "Did you bring me anything?"
Elizabeth grinned and brought out a wrapped sandwich. "Its not deviled ham, its ham salad. I knew if I didn't bring you some food, you'd be complaining about the hospital food again."
"Well, they have mastered the art of Jell-O; I'll give them that." Peter watched as she sat down in a chair, Burke Premier Events papers sticking up out of her bag. "Get everything done?"
"Yes, I think so." Elizabeth paused. "I think I'm going to let Yolanda start doing more on the smaller events."
Peter, munching on his sandwich, replied, "If that's what you want. Is she ready for it?"
Elizabeth sat, watching her husband eat, stilling the urge to remind him to slow down. Peter was definitely getting better all right. "I think she is. Time to find out at any rate. Sometimes I think Burke Premier Events is getting too big for me. Maybe I should step back a little."
Peter looked thunderstruck. "El, you love your job!"
"I do. But I'm getting uneasy about how much time it's taken away from you. We already have one hard taskmaster in the FBI to cope with. Two is probably too much." She paused and asked the question that had troubled her since the call from Hughes that night. "Peter, why didn't you want Neal to call me when you were hurt?"
Her husband looked startled. "What?"
"You don't remember?" Elizabeth was going to believe Neal Caffrey was a bad influence if Peter Burke suddenly turned evasive. It wasn't his style, especially with her.
But no, Peter really didn't remember, as he was frowning in concentration. "Is that what this is all about?" he asked mildly.
"Do you remember saying it?" Elizabeth persisted.
"Yeah, now I do. Sort of. I just didn't want to ruin your big night, El. You'd worked hard on it for a solid month."
"You getting killed would have spoiled it, dear. Big time."
Peter reached for her hand and instantly she gave it. "El, I don't want you to give up your career because of one freak accident. I know you like what you're doing. If there is ever a time, you don't, then quit. We can make it just fine on my salary alone, especially as much as we've already paid on the house. But don't throw your job away unless you really want to." He swallowed. "All I could think of that night was you. I didn't want to wreck it. But there was nothing else, I swear it."
Elizabeth smiled wistfully. "Sometimes it does bother me that we never see each other anymore. Maybe on weekends, if I don't have an event and you don't get called into work. Then, when something like this happens, I wonder if I'm wasting the time I should have with you. Instead I'm worrying about centerpieces and flowers and caterers."
Peter gave her hand a squeeze. "But you like doing this, don't you? You're the boss of your own company and you're doing what you've always wanted to do. We will make the time, El. I should be doing a better job of that myself." He shrugged. "Hell, I've got Neal around now. I should let him go run the FBI."
Elizabeth laughed. "Would the Bureau survive?"
Peter grimaced. "I doubt it."
Elizabeth stood up and kissed her husband on the lips. "All right; Burke Premier Events will keep chugging along. But you have to promise me that you'll never again tell Neal to wait until he calls me. Whatever happens, good or bad, I want to know right away. Promise?"
Peter's eyes twinkled. "Do I get another kiss to seal the deal?"
Elizabeth smiled; her eyes suddenly smoky. "You better believe it, Agent Burke."
The kiss went on longer than either of them intended, until a grinning nurse came in and interrupted them. Watching while Peter bantered with the nurse, trying to get out of yet another test, Elizabeth came to a decision. Burke Premier Events was going to stay in New York for a while. Those promising offers from Boston and Albany could wait.
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Elizabeth and Neal came to pick him up two days later and frankly, Peter was damn glad to be leaving the hospital. He hated them on general principle anyway and he always felt that being in a hospital aggravated your condition, not helped. Also, he had too much time to think while lying there. To have such a close call over a fall in an alleyway was too weird. Too scary as well, although he hated to admit that. He loved his wife and his life and he wasn't ready to leave it behind just yet. Peter wanted to get out of the hospital and back to real life, as soon as possible.
They transferred him to the Taurus; Peter in the back seat with his leg stretched out and Neal in the front, Elizabeth driving. It was an uneventful ride home, until Neal and Peter spotted some mutual acquaintance whom both disliked immensely. This led to speculation over what he was doing there on that corner. Neal opined he was probably casing the jewelry store. Peter thought he was looking for escape routes from the money exchange down the block. After that, Elizabeth bit her lip to keep from laughing as they indulged in zinging each other and tossing some pointed barbs. In other words, the male equivalent of endearments.
It was long ride home however; traffic was heavy. By the time they made it, Peter was very quiet in the back seat and Neal was fidgety.
They made it to the house without incident though. Peter sat down heavily on the couch and hoped neither his wife nor his friend noticed the fine sheen of sweat on his forehead. He had a dull pounding headache, nothing like before but his leg ached too.
Satchmo greeted them like the long lost family they were and sat down beside Peter, not moving even when Elizabeth went into the kitchen.
"You OK?" Neal asked quietly.
Peter looked up. "Yeah, I am now."
Elizabeth bustled back out. "Look, I need to run to the grocery store. Neal, can you stay for lunch?"
"Of course," Neal replied.
Neal and Elizabeth compared notes on what needed doing.
Peter just sat back and let it all roll around him, rubbing Satchmo's head. God, he was tired but it was so good to be home.
Finally Elizabeth went on her way, but not before a number of admonishments for both Neal and Peter and what they should or should not do.
After the door closed behind her, Neal whistled. "Wow, Elizabeth usually isn't this demanding."
Behind closed eyes, Peter replied, "The word is bossy."
Neal grinned. "You said it, not me."
Peter sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Actually, I think the word is worried."
Neal sobered immediately. "Yes, that is the word all right. You scared everyone, Peter," in a slightly accusing tone.
Peter shot him an annoyed look. "I didn't intend to."
"Well, just FYI, Mozzie has been researching everything he can find on people who have been in comas. He's really been quite fascinated with it."
"How nice," Peter observed dryly. "Always great to have a hobby."
"Don't be surprised if he asks you about it."
"You mean, did I hear anyone when I was out?"
Neal froze. "Did you?"
"I heard your voice," Peter admitted. "Too far away though; I couldn't make out what you were saying."
Peter almost laughed when he saw the relief rolling off Neal in waves but he held his amusement inside. "Oh. I might have said something; I don't remember," Neal added vaguely.
Satchmo chose the moment to jump on the couch and lie down beside Peter, laying his head on Peter's good leg. Peter sighed, petting his dog. Not looking at Neal, he said, "I did know you were there, Neal. Both in the alley and in the hospital." Looking up, he added, "I still don't know why that doped up punk didn't blow both of us away."
Neal sat quietly. "Do you suppose it's a random element of luck involved?"
Peter smiled. "Let Mozzie do a study of that instead."
Neal waited until Peter's eyes stayed closed and then he got up and went to the kitchen to get ready for Elizabeth's return. He wasn't going to stay long after lunch; both Peter and Elizabeth were exhausted and Neal longed for a good night's rest in his own bed tonight. He had tossed and turned all of last night. Neal could relax now that Peter was home with Elizabeth and all was well, or would be, again. Simple things were so important especially when they suddenly weren't there anymore. Take nothing for granted. This had been Neal's maxim on jobs for some time now. It was going to have to be true on this side of the law as well.
But he did wonder just how much Peter had heard during his hospital stay.
Thanks for reading, everyone.