Title: Trust Takes a Tumble
Characters: Neal, Mozzie, Peter, Diana
Warning: Mention of canon character death
Spoilers: 4.04, Parting Shots, 4.05, Honor Among Thieves
Word count: ~ 3500
Disclaimer: Characters are all from the brilliant mind of Jeff Eastin. Thanks!
Note: This was written as part of the Live Journal 2012 H/C Advent.
Every joint, every muscle ached. He had slept curled upon himself, again, twisted and coiled like a spring. He was sick of the sleep-deprived nights that lead to brief but intense exhaustion-fueled nightmares that started the night Ellen was murdered. Maybe Peter was right - maybe he should have taken some time, but that was never his way. Every night, so many memories of Ellen came flooding back, but they always ended with "trust Sam," and without Ellen Neal had no idea who Sam was or how to reach him.
But if Ellen's last words played softly in the background of Neal's mind, "you're just like me, you always want something" screamed out loud, front and center. Abigail Kincaid. Any other time he'd be the one in control, he would have had a plan before the last word even left her lovely mouth, but he was off his game and he knew it. He wasn't about to betray Peter, he truly was not, not after Peter put everything on the line for him. It was just that he needed to know what the Marshals knew about Ellen, so he had to play for time and just hope that Peter would see it as Neal did. But damnit, it was Moz and Peter, and the treasure and trust, and Neal could not face another day or week or month of being this torn again.
He was paying for it all now, though. He pushed himself out of bed and could only manage to control his collapse to the floor, his back in spasm. He was supposed to meet Abigail in less than 30 minutes, and Peter a half hour after that, yet here he lay unable to even move, let alone get up, shower, dress and walk out June's front door. He willed the pain to stop, unsuccessfully. After fifteen minutes he gritted through the pain and slowly, laboriously, pushed himself toward the table next to his headboard, reached up and located his phone, and called Mozzie. Moz answered on the second ring.
"Moz," he choked out, "I need help." He hung up before he heard a reply.
Mozzie arrived at June's at around the same time Abigail concluded that Neal was a no-show a few blocks away. It was just as well. Even Neal wouldn't have believed anything he had to say in his current condition.
"Come on, Neal," Moz said, trying to help Neal back into bed. "I think it's time to just call this a loss and seek treatment at the hands of industrialized medicine."
"Getting shot didn't hurt this much," Neal grunted through his clenched jaw. "Can you - car?"
"I'm sure June won't mind if we use the Jag. Have you talked to Peter about this yet?"
If he didn't hurt so much Neal would have commented on Mozzie's increasing use of Peter's name. The best he could muster was a sidelong glance.
"No. It's just stress. Don't need to add - to his."
"Neal," Mozzie said softly, "he'd want to know."
Neal could only shake his head while Moz knelt on the floor, helping Neal into a very uncharacteristic pair of loose sweat pants.
"Moz, it's settling a bit. Maybe we can skip the doctor."
Neal was sitting on the edge of his bed. His eyes were tightly shut and he was breathing shallowly as he bit his lower lip.
"Seriously, Neal? Don't try to pull that con when you can't even get into a pair of sweats. Now, do you want to tell me how long this has been going on?"
"Woke up with this."
"This just started this morning?" Moz sounded mildly surprised that Neal couldn't come up with a better story as he went to the bathroom and rummaged for a towel.
"Couple days. Not. Like this." Moz soaked the towel in hot water and wrung it out.
"Did you take anything for it? Show me where it hurts," he said, approaching the bed with the hot towel.
Neal shook his head. "Not today. Ibuprofen yesterday. A little - above the belt."
Mozzie frowned. "You know you've got some serious swelling and bruising here," he said. "Did you say you got knocked down the first time you met Sophie Covington?"
"Didn't hurt then. Was three, four days ago."
Mozzie gently pressed the hot wet towel to Neal's lower back. "Here's my proposal. If you can get down the steps I'll drive you to the doctor's. If you can't, your options are an ambulance, and I call Peter to meet us there, or I call Peter now and we drive to the ER together. Your choice."
Neal huffed out a breath. "Fine. Call him to come here." With that Neal carefully leaned on his side until he was horizontal again.
"Moz, wait." He took a couple of shaky breaths while he thought about the multiple flights of stairs. "Umm, maybe you should call an ambulance."
The point became moot when Peter knocked on Neal's door. He stopped mid-stride as he saw the anguish on Neal's face and the worry on Mozzie's. "Can you even stand?" Peter asked kindly. Neal shook his head. Peter called for an ambulance while Mozzie helped Neal lay flat.
Three hours later Neal was being prepped for surgery to remove the small bone fragment that had chipped from a vertebra and was now pressing against his spinal cord. Peter and Mozzie were allowed to see him before he went to the surgical suite, with the understanding that he had been given some very strong analgesics.
"Is he singing yet?" Peter asked, not expecting an answer. Moz just snorted.
"Neal, are you clear on what's going to happen?"
Neal slowly nodded, trying hard to remain focused on Peter's voice while remembering the question.
"They're gonna cut me open. I'll either get better or be paralyzed, if the anesthesia doesn't kill me first," he said in a slightly high-pitched voice. "Right?"
Peter put his hand on Neal's shoulder. "You're going to be fine," he said, recalling the surgeon's risk estimates.
Neal just hummed in agreement. The orderly came for him a few moments later.
The surgery was successful. The recovery, though, presented an entirely unexpected problem.
"What do you mean, they want him to convalesce in prison?" Peter asked angrily.
"Look, Peter, I'm only telling you what I've been told, I'm not saying I agree or that I'm just gonna roll over on this," Hughes said. "The higher-ups are complaining that he isn't fulfilling the conditions of his work release if he's recuperating from surgery, so he should be in prison until he's able to work again. Plus they're still not convinced he isn't planning something with Abigail Kincaid. Why else is she still around?"
"Come on, Reese, this is retaliation for his running, plain and simple. We - he has a deal with the DoJ. They can't do this."
"They can. As of now he has a one week reprieve. One week and then we'll have to show them he's a productive member of our unit or he recuperates in the prison infirmary."
"He can barely move. He was injured on the job. Doesn't that count for anything?"
"It was a personal call from Sophie Covington that got him the week, Peter."
By his third day after surgery Neal was uncomfortable, in pain, and utterly bored. Peter was forced to give him and Dante Havisham, Esq., Hughes's bad news. Mozzie was livid; Neal philosophical, although that could have been the influence of the pain killers he was still taking. Mozzie stormed off to file paperwork claiming breach of contract, failure to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and any other avenue he could pursue.
"I know what she wants," Neal said to Peter after Mozzie left.
"Who? Abigail? How?" Peter asked.
Neal took a deep breath and let it out. "Because she told me, the night before I ended up here. She saw Mozzie and me outside the Marshals' office. I - I was upset that they wouldn't give you anything about Ellen. She offered to get it for me if I would steal something for her. We were supposed to meet that morning and I was going to tell her no. Then I was going to tell you, but, well, this happened."
"Neal, you should have told me right away. You should have turned her down right away."
"I know, I should have, but it was just overnight. Nothing happened."
"But it could have. All right, let's strategize - prove to them that you can still do your job, even from a hospital bed."
"Maybe Mozzie can pull off her job," he said, thinking out loud. "Would the FBI work with him, if he's willing?"
"What do you have in mind?"
"Well, if he can get in touch with Abigail - tell her he'll take my place - then you - "
"Neal Caffrey, you're under arrest for unlawful entry into the United States Marshals' office and the theft of confidential information related to an ongoing murder investigation." Four Marshals entered Neal's room, one with handcuffs, one with leg restraints, and one pushing a narrow transport gurney.
"With what evidence?" Peter asked, loudly.
"DNA from hair found under the data server is a match to his. His tracking data showed him in the vicinity on the day of the theft. He'll remain in prison until his trial. His work release is revoked," said the one carrying only an arrest warrant.
Neal looked frantically at Peter. "Peter, I didn't do this, I swear, I was never even in the building."
"But DNA, Neal?"
Neal just shook his head. "Please, Peter, you have to believe me."
Peter had been in a state of white-hot rage only one other time in his life, and that was when Keller told him Neal had the treasure all along. Now his rage was directed outward on Neal's behalf. He paced the short distance along Hughes's desk, to the closed door and back.
"Two days, Reese, two days before I could see him. They dragged him out of the hospital in leg irons, cuffed to a gurney, no meds, no medical paperwork. They never even bothered to talk with his surgeon or his medical team. Then they let him out of the prison infirmary as the only way he wouldn't have to be chained to a bed." Peter replayed his visit with Neal over again in his mind for the fourth or thirtieth time since he had driven back to the office an hour ago.
Neal had requested and been allowed to leave the infirmary for a cell in the administrative segregation unit the day before. It was only Peter's badge, Neal's status as a CI, a sympathetic guard, and the fact that Neal was in no condition to walk to the visitors' room that even allowed Peter into Neal's cell. Peter's first reaction to learning that Neal had left the infirmary was anger at Neal; then he saw his partner in the small cell and could only wish he was still angry. Neal looked like hell. He was laying on his back on the narrow cot, one sock-clad foot planted on the floor, his hands folded on his stomach. His hair was lank and hanging in his eyes, which were half-closed, dull and glassy. His pale face had a light sheen of sweat.
"Neal, why aren't you in the infirmary?" Peter asked.
"Peter, good to see you, too," Neal replied cautiously.
"You should be getting medical care."
"They had me in four-point restraints in the infirmary. At least here I can get up and go to the bathroom when I need to."
"And you can get up on your own?"
Neal shrugged slightly, then nodded. "Eventually," he responded.
"When was the last time you got anything for pain?"
"Well, that would be the trade-off for being here," Neal replied. "Stop, Peter," he said, seeing the Peter's expression blacken. "I get checked by the medical staff twice a day," he said. At least, that was true yesterday; he didn't mention to Peter that it was mid-afternoon and no one had been in yet. "Do you have any news for me?"
Peter just shook his head. "No, it was definitely your hair. Abigail's in the wind. Mozzie's got feelers out for her, we've got BOLOs on the wire, Interpol's watching for her, too, but it doesn't look good. Our only hope is that Diana can get in touch with her." He watched Neal's expression change to hopelessness momentarily, then was replaced by his earlier general misery.
"It doesn't look good, then," Neal agreed.
Peter paused in thought.
"Neal, what did she want? You told me, in the hospital, you knew what she wanted. Nothing's missing from the museum. Maybe she'll be back."
"Is the Pascal still there?"
Peter tilted his head, looking puzzled.
"Pascal's Wistful Mobile. It was on loan. That's what she wants. Follow that, you'll find her."
"This is good, Neal." He got up and started pacing the small cell. "I'll call Diana as soon as I get out of here. Then we can set up surveil- "
"Peter," Neal gasped. He was struggling to get up onto one elbow. "Something's not right." Peter grasped Neal by his upper arms to help him into a more upright position and saw a pink wet spot on the mattress. It matched one on the bottom of his orange shirt, just about where his bandage was. Peter lifted the shirt and saw that the heavy gauze was soaked with freely flowing blood and pus. He could feel heat radiating from Neal's head, which had dropped onto Peter's shoulder.
Peter yelled for Bobby, the guard. In short order a medical team arrived to bring Neal to the infirmary. Bobby promised to pass any information he heard to Peter as he escorted the agent out.
Hughes let Peter finish his rant without saying anything. When it was apparent that he was through, he told Peter to sit. "If you're finished," he said, "I believe Agent Barrigan would like a word with you." He waved Diana into his office from where she stood outside his door.
"Anything new on Caffrey?" she asked, handing Peter a blue file folder. He shook his head. "Here's the Pascal he mentioned," she said, "and he's right. It's scheduled to be transported to the Philadelphia Museum of Art next Monday. Depending on how desperate she is as far as timing goes, I'll bet she'll grab it sometime between here and there in three days."
"And we'll be ready. Have the Kessman - "
"And the Philly field office - "
"Just got off the phone with the Special Agent in Charge."
"Is there anything left for me to do?"
Diana grinned at him. "Figure out what kind of deal you want to cut with her to get Caffrey out of prison."
"I got this one," Hughes said.
"Then, just tell Neal I said 'hey' next time you see him," Diana said as she turned to leave the office.
Neal imagined moving, or more precisely, of being moved. Back and forth, up and down. Sometimes he was spinning, like when Ellen took him to the fair that one year and they went on the tea cups. He wished he could find the energy to open his eyes. He heard bits of a number of conversations but he couldn't figure out the words, or follow their sequence. There were sirens - maybe they arrested him again. Some screaming and groaning that he hoped wasn't coming from him but he thought probably was. All the while he had vividly crazy dreams. Of Diana and Abigail by his bed - he wondered if Christy wouldn't mind. Of Mozzie and June - June singing to him, both of them reading out loud. He couldn't remember joining their book club and felt badly that he'd forgotten to read the book. Dreams of Elizabeth - damn, Peter should know better - he should not let her visit him in prison. Dreams of Peter. Of Peter's voice. Of Peter talking about some artwork. Of Peter calling his name. Again. And again. Dream Peter was insistent, so insistent that Neal had to wake up, even if he was blessedly comfortable, not too warm and not too cold, and the pain in his back was finally gone.
"Neal, it's time to wake up."
He forced his eyes to open. "Pe - ter."
"Yeah, it's me," he said, smiling and then looking up at someone Neal couldn't see.
"It's about time, Caffrey," Diana said. "Some of us have work to do, you know. Expense vouchers for visits to the City of Brotherly Love don't write themselves."
The cross between a hard exhale and "huh' wasn't the most elegant thing he'd ever said, but both Peter and Diana seemed quite happy to hear it. Diana left, saying she'd get Neal's doctor.
As Neal's eyes focused he realized he wasn't in his cell, or even the prison infirmary. Definitely a hospital, though, with softly beeping machines nearby and tubes and wires connecting them to him.
"Not prison?" Neal asked.
Peter shook his head. "Nope, not prison."
"I thought it was a dream."
"No, no, you were in prison, for four days. Do you remember that I came to see you?"
Neal struggled to recall it. "I was in a cell. You were angry. Yes?"
"Yes to both," Peter replied. "You got a pretty nasty infection when you were moved, and it wasn't managed properly in prison. You - were transferred here, eventually." Peter didn't tell him, at least not then, that he had been in a medically-induced coma for almost two weeks while the antibiotics fought the infection that threatened Neal with permanent brain injury or death.
A few days later Peter was helping Neal up the steps to his apartment while Mozzie and June watched from the top landing.
"Darling, you know you could have used the service elevator," June said.
He looked up with a smile. "It's good to be able to walk again," he replied. Nevertheless, he was looking forward to getting off his feet.
"How much time do I have before I need to be back at work?" Neal asked, once Peter got him settled on his sofa.
"Oh, you can take as long as you need this time. Hughes made sure that everyone who needed to know heard how you were dragged off to prison from a hospital bed without proper care, and on a false accusation. Once Abigail admitted she stole the files and set you up the Marshals had to drop the charges. That and I heard someone filed a lawsuit on your behalf. The phrase 'abusing a ward of the federal prison system' was in there, or something like that."
"Or something," Mozzie said, looking around the room.
Neal was smiling but fighting to keep his eyes open. "Let's get you to bed," Peter said, and when Neal didn't respond with his usual "I'm fine" they all understood he was exhausted.
"Peter," Neal said after everyone else had left and Peter had said he'd be back later, "'thank you for not giving up."
"Don't thank me, thank Diana. She's the one who finally tracked down Abigail."
"I will, I owe her for this. But how'd she do it?"
"Meals and flowers were involved. Don't ask, I just sign the expense reports. She was able to convince Abigail it wasn't a con, that you were in real trouble. Their visit to your bedside clinched it."
"Well, we had to give Abigail immunity for a past crime or two. And the Marshals had to agree not to prosecute."
Neal gave him a questioning look.
"They were the ones named in that lawsuit, which was going to be released to the press the next day if they didn't. Look, get some rest, buddy, Elizabeth wants to stop by with me this evening, if you're up for it. We'll go over your schedule then - you've got visiting nurses and physical therapists coming by for the next couple of weeks at a minimum."
"Did you find out anything about Sam?"
"Oh, I almost forgot. Maybe, I'm not sure. Abigail did get something from the Marshal's office, I made a copy," he said, tossing a flash drive to Neal.
"What's on this?"
Peter shook his head. "I don't know, I thought you should see it first, after everything you've been through."
Neal stared at the drive and held it as if it were the rarest of jewels. "I know this is what I wanted, but now I wonder how much of our past is here."
Peter gave him an understanding look. "Take your time, wait until you're ready to look at it. If there's anything I should be aware of, you'll let me know, right?
"I will, Peter. I will."
Thank you for reading.