?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
25 July 2015 @ 10:15 pm
FIC: And So It Goes  
Title: And So It Goes
Author: pooh_collector
Rating: G
Characters/Pairings: Neal, Peter, El Peter/El, Gen
Word Count: ~7,000
Warnings: None
Summary: Peter’s just back from his trip Belize and all is not well with his new CI. Or, how the ice was broken and a friendship was formed.

For kanarek13, for reasons. And written to go with this wonderful piece of art.


It took months for Peter to finally agree to the deal that Caffrey had proposed to him in that dismal visitation room in Sing Sing. Peter knew the kid was smart. He knew that Caffrey did the things he did, not for the money, but for the challenge. He knew that working with the con man would be a challenge for him, at times exhilarating and at times exasperating.

But, it wasn't that simple. A CI wasn't a coworker in the same sense as other members of the FBI or even the local LEOs. And sadly, a CI wasn't a pet either. You couldn't just take him for a pre-bedtime walk and then stick him in his crate at the end of the day so you didn’t have to worry about him peeing on the rug or stealing a Monet.

And so, one of the many things Peter pondered during those months before he got Caffrey released was boundaries. The “if I ever took on a CI, these would be the rules” thoughts that cropped up whenever a relevant situation presented itself. A CI wouldn’t join in team dinners after a successful takedown. A CI would never have occasion to meet his wife, or even have any idea where Peter lived. Any CI that he ever had would know from the outset that Peter was in charge and that their relationship was strictly business. Peter would have no obligation to said CI outside of the basics required by the terms of the CI/Handler probation agreement. He would make sure the kid had a place to sleep, three squares and medical treatment, should he ever require it, but that was it. They would not spend time together outside of work. They would not confide in each other. They would not cross any lines. They would most definitely not be friends.

When Peter finally agreed to Caffrey's wild idea, precedent indeed, he had every intention of following his own rules. Of course, more than a few of them lasted less than forty-eight hours, when he found his CI sitting on his sofa, drinking his coffee, chatting with his wife, and petting his dog.

That should have been his “aha moment”, the exact instant when he realized that his best laid plans, lay in ruins. But, he could be as much of an optimist as the next guy, and despite Caffrey's significant charms, Peter knew he was still in charge. He held the key to the anklet and to Caffrey's freedom.

Peter also knew a con when he saw one. Caffrey's devil-may-care façade was just that. The kid had secrets and he kept his true self well disguised behind the hats and the skinny ties and the Rat Pack suits. It wasn't like Peter had any intention of breaking through the kid's walls and really getting to know him on a personal level, he just knew that Caffrey's 1000 watt smiles hid a deeper core, one that had known loss and hurt. As much as Peter appreciated the kid's talents and smarts, it was that vulnerability that made Peter like him, and that convinced Peter to take his deal, as much as anything else, in the end.

And, it looked like Peter had made the right decision. The kid was certainly unorthodox, exigent circumstances and all, but in the end he got the job done. As long as Peter kept Caffrey on a tight leash, he was looking forward to a productive and interesting four years.

At least that was his thought as he left the con man sitting in a luxurious robe and slippers on the balcony of his landlady's extraordinary mansion. When Peter returned to the office a week later, Caffrey's hair was cut and exquisitely styled, his suits were perfectly pressed and fit him like the proverbial glove, but the kid looked different, less affable, more guarded. Peter could tell that his smiles were just a little bit forced, his façade was just a little cracked around the edges, like a well-crafted forgery of a Renaissance portrait.

He let it go that first day, the triple-digit number of unread messages in his inbox and his near to capacity voicemail taking all of his attention.

On Tuesday, Caffrey looked much the same as he had the day before. Peter took a moment to watch the kid as he made his way up to his office on the balcony. Caffrey was sitting stiffly at his desk. His head was bent over a file, his shoulders hunched, his brows furrowed. Either that was the most puzzling case file in the history of the FBI, or something was still off with his CI.

Peter spent a few seconds considering whether or not he should stop and say something, ask Caffrey how he was adjusting, maybe. But his feet kept him going through the bullpen and up the stairs to his office and he followed them, hoping to avoid having to get any more involved in his CI’s life than was absolutely necessary. It was in the rules after all, no confiding, no feelings, no friendship.

***

Neal caught Peter giving him the once over as he entered the office and made his way across the bullpen. He considered looking up, acknowledging Peter and flashing his best smile, but he really didn’t feel he had the energy to successfully pull it off at the moment. It was all he could do to pull himself out of his bed this morning, shower, put on clothes and haul himself downstairs and into a cab. Since he had arrived at the office he had been staring listlessly at the mortgage fraud case in front of him as the words on the page shifted and blurred. He needed to carefully dole out what little energy he had to make it through the day. Hopefully, after a good night’s sleep tonight he would finally start to feel better.

On Sunday he had woken up with a scratchy and slightly sore throat. June had taken Cindy to Paris for spring break, and had given the staff the week off, so after lazing in bed for a while, he took a hot shower, dressed warmly and went out for coffee and a light breakfast. By the time he got back, he was strangely exhausted, so he went back to bed, hoping that if he spent the remainder of the day resting he would be fine to return to work on Monday.

He didn’t feel any better the next morning, but he didn’t feel any worse. So he it took it as minor victory and trudged his way through his day at the office, keeping a low profile and sipping on mugs of tea to ease the persistent soreness in his throat, as he read through case files making notes on possible leads to follow.

Thankfully, Peter was just back from his Belize vacation and had far too much on his plate to notice that Neal wasn’t giving the job one hundred percent. He had been out of prison for less than three weeks. It wasn’t like he could just call out sick or really complain about something as minor as a sore throat and the sniffles. He was a big boy and he had dealt with worse when he was in prison. Most importantly, he couldn’t give Peter a reason to throw him back inside. He needed to find Kate and get her out of whatever mess she had gotten into because of him. He couldn’t do that from behind prison walls. A couple more days of taking it easy and getting as much rest as he could at night and he would be fine.

At ten, Neal followed the rest of the team up to the conference room for the daily briefing, hoping brief was the word of the day. Instead of leaning against one the expansive glass windows as he normally did, Neal sat in the chair furthest away from Peter, wishing he could continue to stay off his handler’s radar.

Unfortunately, the meeting was not brief. Peter spent an inordinate amount of time handing out the case files that had accumulated on his desk while he had been away. He slid two down the length of the table to Neal, another mortgage fraud and a somewhat more interesting corporate embezzlement case. Neal smiled brightly as he gathered up the files from where they landed in front of him.

***

Red flags were flying in every direction during the morning briefing. Red flag number one, Caffrey sat. Caffrey hadn’t sat during any morning briefing before. Not that that was really a huge red flag, since he had only attended a handful of briefings since joining the team. But to Peter, it was noticeably out of character.

Red flag number two was that he didn’t say a word, not one word. Caffrey was always quick to throw out an idea, or an observation, or some snappy quip. But this morning, he sat quietly watching the proceedings with what looked to be only a half-tuned ear.

Red flag number three was the half-assed excuse for a smile the normally overly-charismatic man tossed out when Peter gave him his case assignments. The saddest part - it looked as if the con man thought it was at least close to his usual dazzling grin.

Red flag number four was how the kid looked when he passed Peter on his way out of the conference room, pale with a slight flush high up on his outrageously sculpted cheekbones.

Back in his office, Peter did the only sensible thing he could; he called his wife.

“I think he’s sick. What do I do?”

“Put him your car, drive him home and tell him not to come back to the office until he’s feeling better.”

“But what if he’s faking? He is a con man.”

“Has he asked you for anything? Has he said, ‘I’m sick and I need some time off’?”

“Well no, and I kind of think he’s been avoiding me.”

“I think you have your answer, hon.”

Peter sighed, which made his wife giggle. “This isn’t what I signed on for.”

“Isn’t it?” El countered. “Peter, you’re responsible for his wellbeing. Did you explain to him that it was okay to be sick? That his parole wouldn’t be in jeopardy if he said ‘I’m sorry, I have a fever and I can’t come in today’?”

“There are stipulations for sick time in the contract he signed.”

There was silence on the other end of the line. Peter understood it for the reproach that it was.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll go take him home and tell him he doesn’t need to come in again until he’s better.”

“That’s the man I know and love.”

“Thanks hon, I’ll see you tonight.”

After he hung up with his wife, Peter shut down his computer and grabbed a few of the files off of the top of the pile on this desk, shoving them into his briefcase before he went down to collect his CI. He had every intention of dropping the kid off and then returning to the office, but something made him bring the packed briefcase with him.

Caffrey was sitting at his recently acquired desk, looking much like he had when Peter had walked in this morning, head down, shoulders hunched, brow furrowed.

“Grab your stuff, Caffrey.”

His CI looked up at the sound of Peter’s voice. “Where are we going?” Peter couldn’t miss the roughness in the kid’s voice. No wonder he hadn’t spoken during the briefing.

“Back to that ridiculous place where you drink cappuccino in the clouds.”

If anything, Caffrey’s brows furrowed even deeper. If was probably a little cruel to mess with the kid’s head when he was so obviously sick. “I’m taking you home, so you can rest and get over whatever it is you’ve got.”

“Oh,” was all the con man could manage to reply. But after a moment he got up, swung his coat on and pulled his hat down onto his head.

Twenty minutes later Peter was driving uptown towards June’s Riverside Drive mansion, with Caffrey in the passenger seat beside him. The kid had fallen asleep less than ten minutes into the drive, though he had made a valiant effort to keep his eyes open. He looked exhausted, even while sleeping and the flush on his cheeks was a bit worrying, though Peter would never admit that to his CI.

Peter managed to find a parking spot just in front of the mansion’s grand entrance. He put the car in park and then reached over and gently tapped Caffrey’s knee. The younger man woke slowly, blinking his eyes against the bright light streaming into the car. Then he coughed, scrunching his face against the pain it appeared to cause his throat. It was brief, but then Caffrey rubbed a hand across his chest before reaching to open the car door. “Thanks, Peter.”

Peter nodded. “Just get better, okay?”

Caffrey smiled weakly and then began digging in his coat pocket. After a moment he pulled out a single key on a black leather ring.

The irony of Caffrey needing a key to get into a fully-staffed mansion wasn’t lost on Peter. He chortled. “You have staff. Who needs a key, or is it just too satisfying to be able to unlock doors on your own now?”

Caffrey blinked at him confusedly, as if Peter had asked him to recite the first one hundred digits of pi. “No one’s home.” He finally replied, as if it should somehow be obvious. “June took Cindy to Paris for spring break and the staff have the week off.”

Peter frowned. He had assumed the kid wouldn’t be alone. That at least the staff would be around if he needed something. Caffrey was an adult, a perfectly capable adult, who had managed to live through four years of a prison sentence, he could clearly take care of himself. But, Peter knew there was a reason that he still thought of Caffrey as a kid, and it wasn’t just the sometimes far too obvious impetuousness and lack of maturity.

“It’s fine.” The younger man said with a small shrug as he started to climb out of the car.

Exactly which rule was he trashing now if he brought his sick CI home, Peter wondered with a resigned sigh. Most of them. Neal was halfway out onto the sidewalk when Peter called him back. “Get in the car, Caffrey.”

Caffrey stopped and looked back over his shoulder at Peter.

“Come on. I’m taking you to my place.”

The con man eyed Peter suspiciously, but made no move to get back in the car.

“It’s not a trick or a test. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be alone with that fever.”

The kid blinked down at him a couple of times, but then he slid back into the car.

Peter waited until he had his seatbelt refastened, then he headed back into traffic and flipped the car around back downtown.

Caffrey managed to stay awake this time, staring out the passenger side window as they made their way across Manhattan and then into Brooklyn. Peter found a parking space just two houses away and followed behind as Caffrey made his way slowly down the sidewalk and up the front steps.

Satchmo was there as they came through the door, crowding them as he danced on the hardwood, his tail wagging furiously.

Peter gave the Lab a perfunctory pat on the head and then ushered his CI into the living room. The younger man pulled his coat off, draped it on the back of a chair and then plunked down on the sofa with a groan laced with exhaustion.

Peter shrugged out of his own coat and then went back out to the hallway and hung them both up. When he returned to the living room, Satchmo was sitting with his head between Caffrey’s knees as the kid rubbed at that spot behind his ears that all dogs seemed to love with unmatched fervor.

“I don’t think the guest room is made up. Give me a couple of minutes.”

“Don’t worry about it, Peter. This will be fine,” Caffrey said, tilting his head to take in the sofa he was sitting on.

“You sure?”

Caffrey nodded wearily.

“Okay, let me at least grab you a decent pillow and a blanket.”

Peter retreated upstairs. He found a pillow in the linen closet and put a fresh, dark blue case on it. Then he grabbed the red fleece blanket from the guest room closet. His final stop was the bathroom where he snagged a box of tissues and the Tylenol and some assorted cold meds from the medicine cabinet over the sink.

When he got back downstairs he found the kid had stripped off his jacket, dress shirt and belt and was in the process of struggling with the laces on his shoes.

Peter put the cold remedies and the Tylenol down on the coffee table, along with the box of tissues. Then he tossed the pillow at one of the couch and the blanket on the other.

“Need anything else?”

Caffrey glanced at the offerings on the table and then asked quietly, “Maybe a cup of tea?”

Peter nodded. “Sure, of course.”

By the time Peter returned with a steaming mug in his hand, Caffrey was stretched out on the sofa, his head on the pillow, the blanket pulled up to his chest, his eyes closed. The kid looked impossibly young and innocent in the bright afternoon sunlight coming through the front windows, with his hair disheveled and curling in sweaty locks against his forehead and the pink glow from his fever on his cheeks. It was hard not to feel more like a parent than a handler with his sick CI stretched out on his living sofa.

“You should take some of this Tylenol before you go to sleep,” Peter said as he set the mug down on the coffee table within the younger man's reach.

Caffrey nodded against the pillow and then half sat up against the back of the sofa.

Peter huffed in amusement at the difference between this Caffrey and the stylish, confident Caffrey Peter normally saw. Then he grabbed the Tylenol bottle. He struggled with the childproof lid briefly before extracting two of the pills and handing them to his CI.

“Thanks,” Caffrey mumbled as he picked up his mug of tea and tossed the pills in his mouth. He took a few cautious sips of the hot liquid and then placed it back on the table before sliding down to lie flat again.

Peter stood there for a minute, not quite knowing what to do next.

“Do I need to put up a no loitering sign?” Caffrey mumbled, without opening his eyes.

“No, of course not,” Peter replied. “Sorry. I’ll let you get some sleep. Just yell if you need anything.”

Caffrey nodded.

Peter moved back into the entryway then and found the briefcase he had abandoned there when they had first come in. He usually worked at the dining room table, but he didn’t want to disturb the kid, so he headed up to the bedroom.

***

Neal was surprised when Peter offered to take him home. He had read the details of his contract with the FBI. He knew he was entitled to a certain amount of sick time, with his handler’s approval, and he knew that Peter wasn’t an ogre who would make anyone work when they were genuinely ill, but Neal hadn’t even been out of prison for a month yet, and Peter had been gone for a week of that time. He really didn’t think it was wise to test Peter’s limited trust so soon and call out sick. Why wouldn’t Peter assume that he wasn’t really sick, that he was up to something? He couldn’t risk it. He had too much to lose.

But the truth was he felt like crap, freezing one moment, burning from the inside out the next. His throat still hurt like he had swallowed a lit match and a nasty headache had taken up residence at the base of his skull. And, he was so tired, he really didn’t know how he was going to make it to the end of the workday without falling asleep with his head in a file.

So he didn’t question Peter. He just got up and made his way to the parking garage with his handler. When they reached June’s, Neal got his second surprise of the day. Not only was Peter concerned about him, he was concerned enough not to want to leave him home alone. And, while he really didn’t have a problem with being on his own, that had more or less been the state of affairs since his eighteenth birthday, it felt good to know that he didn’t have to be.

As they drove downtown and out to Brooklyn, Neal thought about Peter’s apparent concern. First and foremost, Peter was an FBI agent and one with a pretty black and white view of right and wrong. Which probably had more to do with his decision to bring his CI home than anything. Neal imagined that in Peter’s mind, it was just wrong to leave someone alone who was running a fever. But Neal couldn’t help hoping that it was more than that. He had no illusions, Peter was a cop, he was a con, but there could be a middle ground, a place where they could be partners and maybe one day friends, at least until Neal found Kate. And, even then, maybe he would stay with the FBI, finish out his four years. There was something appealing about being able to have a life with Kate that didn’t involve running from the FBI, or maybe that was just his fever talking.

At the Burke’s beautiful townhouse, Neal let himself be herded by Peter into the door and through to the living room. The sofa looked heavenly and he couldn’t help the soft moan that escaped his lips as he sat. Peter said something about the guest room, but Neal really didn’t want to move, he honestly wasn't sure he could even if he had to, so he told Peter he was fine where he was. Somehow, he felt worse than he had at the office, cold and overheated, and weak. So while Peter was off hanging up their coats, Neal took a moment to bury his hands in Satchmo’s soft, fur, relishing the Lab’s warmth.

After a few moments, he reluctantly let Satchmo go and stripped off his jacket, shirt, belt and shoes. And, then he was just where he had longed to be, flat on his back with his eyes closed. Peter made him sit up briefly to take some Tylenol, which Neal had to admit was a really good idea, and drink a few sips of tea, which hurt on the way down, but did soothe his throat a bit. Being prone was also a really good idea and Neal let himself sink down into the sofa and the soft pillow under his head. He felt warm and comfortable and he let the feeling lull him down.

He was on the ragged edge of falling into what he hoped would be a deep and healing sleep, when he sensed Peter’s presence looming. “Do I need to put up a no loitering sign?” He mumbled.

“No, of course not,” Peter replied.

Neal could hear a note of embarrassment in Peter’s voice. Did it bother him that Neal caught him staring or caring, or something?

Neal didn’t have the energy to even try to figure it out in that moment, despite the fact that analyzing Peter had been one of his favorite pastimes for the better part of seven years. So he just nodded and let it go. And, then he was gone too, his exhaustion and fever drawing him into sleep.

***

In the bedroom, Peter settled himself up against the headboard of his bed and called his wife. He already knew she would agree that he had done the right thing, but he wanted to let her know that she would be coming home to a con man on her sofa. As he suspected, she was utterly nonplussed by Peter’s news and even offered to stop off and pick up some chicken soup for the kid on the way home.

Then Peter called Diana to let her know that he wouldn’t be returning to the office. From the tone of Diana’s voice it was obvious that she was less than certain that Peter had done the right thing, but she had enough sense not to say so outright, which Peter appreciated. El understood what was best for Peter’s heart, but Diana, even as a probie, knew the importance of professional boundaries for an FBI agent. Something he suddenly seemed be to having a hard time remembering.

His phone calls completed, Peter settled in with the files he had brought home in his briefcase. He had handed out a decent stack at the morning briefing, but there were still far too many in his own inbox after his trip to Belize. The morning slid away into mid-afternoon before Peter came up for air. When he did, he snuck downstairs to grab a sandwich and make sure his CI and his silver were where they belonged.

Neal was still on the sofa, he didn’t seem to have moved at all since Peter had left him. He was breathing steadily, clearly asleep. Peter noticed that he still looked pale beneath the bright flush on his cheeks.

Satchmo was sprawled at the bottom of the couch, as if he was guarding the kid, or the house from the kid, one or the other. He lifted his head briefly as Peter went by, but maintained his vigil.

In the kitchen, Peter quietly made a sandwich and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. He thought briefly about waking Caffrey to see if he was hungry; was it feed a fever and starve a cold, or the other way around, Peter mused. In the end, he decided that the best thing for Caffrey right now was sleep and left him to it.

He took his sandwich back upstairs, fiddled with his phone for a few minutes while he ate and then returned to his files.

Maybe an hour later, Satchmo came into the room and stood next to the bed. “Hey Satch, what’s up boy?” Peter asked without taking his eyes off the case file he was reading.

Satchmo whined and shifted on his paws.

“You need to go outside, buddy?”

Satch woofed once and turned toward the doorway.

“Okay, I’m coming,” Peter said as he put the file aside and climbed to his feet.

On the way downstairs, Satchmo stayed just a few steps ahead of Peter, as if he was worried that his master would turn around and return to the bedroom if given the chance. When they reached the first floor, the Lab didn’t round the corner toward the back door as Peter expected. Instead he headed directly to the sofa.

With a quick glance back at Peter, Satchmo jumped carefully onto the couch and lay down gently on top of Caffrey. He let out a soft whine and then reached forward to touch his cold, black nose to that of the still sleeping man.

“Satchmo, no!” Peter exclaimed with as much steel as he could muster while whispering. “Caffrey needs his sleep.”

Usually the dog was pretty quick to acknowledge when he was doing something that Peter objected to, but this time, he just whined again softly and licked Caffrey’s cheek.

Peter knew from experience that wet, cold tongue was one heck of an effective alarm clock and he was surprised when the kid didn’t wake up, didn't move, or even appear to notice the 65 pounds of dog lying on him.

“Caffrey?” He called out in his normal voice, as he approached the couch.

The kid still didn’t stir.

Up close, by the light of the late afternoon sun, his CI looked worse than he had just this morning. Peter couldn’t really define how, but he was suddenly certain that the kid needed help.

“Caffrey, wake up,” Peter said as he gently gripped the younger man’s shoulder. An alarming amount of heat was radiating through the undershirt he was wearing. “Neal?”

Eventually, the kid's blue eyes slowly opened. “Peter?” He asked in a whisper.

“Yeah, it’s me. How are you feeling?

Caffrey blinked long and slow and then swallowed with a wince before answering. “I don’t know. Not so good.”

Peter placed the back of his hand against the kid's forehead. His skin was dry and absurdly hot. “Shit.”

“I didn’t do it,” Neal murmured.

“Didn’t do what?” Peter asked distractedly as he pondered his options for how to deal with this latest development.

“I didn’t steal it, I swear.”

Peter caught on to what the younger man was saying and asked, “Caffrey, do you know where you are?”

The younger man blinked again, and Peter was certain he could see his wheels turning. “I don’t know,” he finally replied hesitantly. It was then that he noticed Satchmo. “Why is there a dog here?”

This was bad, Peter realized, very bad. He shooed the Lab off the sofa. “Okay, Satch, good boy. I’ve got this.”

Satch climbed down delicately, but hovered close to the couch.

“We need to take you to the hospital, okay?” Peter put his arm behind the kid’s shoulders and levered him into a sitting position.

Neal went along with the movement, though he didn’t seem to comprehend what Peter was saying. Peter found Neal’s shoes and slipped them on and quickly laced them up. Then he patted Neal’s knee to get his attention. “I’m just going to get my own shoes and my phone. I’ll be right back.”

Peter bounded up to the bedroom, slid his shoes onto to his feet and grabbed his phone from where it was lying on the bed. By the time he made it downstairs, Neal’s feet were still on the floor, but he had slid back down and his face was half buried in the pillow.

Peter grabbed their coats from the entryway and after pulling his on he stooped down in front of Neal again. “Come on Caffrey, we need to go.”

The kid didn’t respond, so Peter took him by the elbow and pulled him upright gently. He moaned, but his eyes remained closed. “Caffrey, wake up,” Peter prompted sharply.

The con man’s eyes sprang open and Peter could easily see the fear written on the younger man’s face. “I don’t want to run, Moz.”

“Shit,” Peter muttered under his breath, his concern for his young CI growing by the second. “It’s okay,” he said softly. “We’re just going for a short trip.”

Caffrey nodded absently. It was clear to Peter that the kid really had no idea what was going on. The fever was baking his brain, hopefully not permanently.

He manipulated Caffrey’s coat onto one arm and then the other. Then Peter put his arms around him and lifted the younger man to his feet. Caffrey swayed and trembled in his arms and Peter waited until he seemed stable before guiding him around the coffee table and through the living room to the front door with Satchmo at their heels.

Satchmo whined as Peter opened the front door. He looked back at his dog with a fond smile. “It’s okay boy, I’ve got him. Stay.”

Satch woofed softly, but sat right there at the door as Peter maneuvered Neal out of the house.

The walk to the car was thankfully short since Caffrey was little help, barely managing to put one foot in front of the other, as Peter supported most of his weight. He more or less fell into the passenger seat, it was all Peter could do to protect his head from hitting the door frame. He buckled the kid in, climbed into the driver’s seat and then headed in the direction of The Brooklyn Hospital Center.

While they were waiting at a stop light, Caffrey turned to look at Peter and he was sure he saw tears in the corners of the kid’s glazed blue eyes.

“Hang in there, Neal. It’s going to be okay,” he said in an attempt to head off any emotional displays that he had no desire or idea how to deal with.

Caffrey nodded. “I know. I survived the first time. I can do it again.”

Peter’s mind whirled. When had the con man been this sick before? “When was that?” He asked as the light changed and he hit the gas.

“Three weeks ago. You know that Peter. You picked me up when I got out. Can you do me one favor? Can you tell Kate I'm sorry?”

Peter glanced over at the man slumped in the seat beside him. He opened his mouth to remind the younger man that they were just going to the hospital, but then he stopped himself. Caffrey was obviously too sick to know what was going on, and there was no point in adding to his confusion. So instead he took one hand off the steering wheel and gripped the kid's knee in an attempt to be as reassuring as he could manage. It didn't surprise him to find Caffrey trembling under his hand.

Things moved pretty quickly once they got to the hospital. While Peter attempted to fill in the medical history for his enigma of a CI, a triage nurse checked Caffrey's vitals. As soon as she pulled the thermometer away from his ear, they bundled him into a wheelchair and hurried him into the treatment area.

After Peter turned in Caffrey's mostly blank paperwork, he went outside and called El to let her know the latest and then went back inside to sit, and wait, and ponder how his rules for working with a CI had gone south so damn fast.

He was just beginning to wish that he had thought to drag his case files with him when a harried-looking intern appeared asking for the family of Neal Caffrey. Peter cringed a bit at the reference, as Caffrey's handler he held his medical POA, but that didn't actually make him Caffrey's family. Caring enough about the kid to have spent the last hour waiting on pins and needles on the other hand, might just qualify, he realized as he stood and walked over to the young doctor.

"I'm Dr. Mendoza."

"Peter Burke, Neal's my... " Peter struggled briefly to come up with the words that would accurately describe his relationship to his CI. "Responsibility and my friend." Rules, were after all, meant to be broken.

"It's a good thing you brought him in when you did. His fever topped out at 104.2. We've got him on a heavy-duty fever reducer and antibiotics to treat the strep throat that seems to be the root problem. His temp is down to 102 now and we'll let the IV finish and let him rest here for another couple of hours just to make sure the fever stays down and then we'll release him."

Peter nodded, thankful that the kid was going to be okay and thankful that his dog was smart enough to sound the alarm. Satchmo had earned himself the biggest rawhide bone Peter could find.

"Would you like to go back and sit with him?"

Peter nodded again and then followed the doctor back into the treatment area to the cubicle where Neal was lying asleep on a gurney. The younger man still looked like hell, but significantly better than when Peter had brought him into the ER.

There was a rolling stool in the corner and Peter pulled it next to the gurney. He sat down with a sigh and then pulled out his phone to text El and let her know that Neal was going to be okay and that they would be back at the house in a couple of hours. Then he checked his email again, replied to a couple and returned the phone to his pocket.

There wasn't much to do but sit and wait after that. Peter hmped at the irony of him sitting, watching Caffrey as he had done on many a stakeout in those years before he finally managed to catch the con man. All he needed was a thermos of coffee and a deviled ham sandwich to make the scene complete.

***

Neal didn't remember much after falling asleep on the Burke's sofa, just snippets of conversation and the sense of movement and a vague feeling of confusion. But, he knew he wasn't still there now. The pillow under his head was too flat, the surface beneath him too hard and uncomfortable. There was too much noise, the sound of people moving around, of wheels scraping on linoleum, of voices. But, it was the smell that gave away his location, antiseptic, cloying and slightly nauseating.

He opened his eyes slowly, leery of the fluorescent lights he knew had to be above him. Once his eyes adjusted he could see the IV pole next to his head and he knew he had it pegged.

"Hey." Neal heard come from beside him.

He looked over and there was Peter, perched on a stool next to him.

"Hey," he replied.

"How are you feeling?"

Neal took a minute to assess. His head still hurt, but not nearly as much as it had. He was achy and uncomfortable, but the gurney he was lying on surely had something to do with that. His throat still hurt. When he swallowed it didn't quite feel like his throat was lined with razor blades, more like glass shards, so better. "Better."

Peter nodded. "Good. I have to admit you had me worried there for a few minutes."

"What happened?" Neal wasn't truly sure he wanted to know, but it was probably better to have all the facts should anything he said or did come back to haunt him, or land him back in jail.

Peter shook his head. "Your fever got really high. I was working upstairs and I had no idea. Believe it or not, Satchmo came and got me."

Neal wondered for a moment how Satchmo knew, but he stopped himself from letting his mind go any further than that, to what if he hadn't. "Smart dog."

"Don't you know it."

"I owe him the biggest rawhide bone I can find," Neal resolved.

Peter chuckled at Neal's words.

"What?" Neal asked, confused by Peter's response.

"I had the very same thought."

Neal smiled weakly. "Great minds and all that?"

Peter nodded again, a small smile appearing on his face. "Something like that."

Neal blinked and let out a shaky breath. He was feeling exhausted again, even though he'd only been awake for a few minutes.

Peter settled his hand on Neal's wrist. "Get some more sleep. I'll wake you when they're ready to spring you."

"Thanks," Neal replied as his eyes drifted shut.

***

Two hours later, Peter once again led Neal in through the front door of his home, his supportive hand on the small of the younger man’s back.

El and Satchmo were there to greet them at the door. Neal immediately bent down to rub his hands through Satch's fur. "Thank you, Satchmo. I think you may have saved my life today, buddy, or at least a few of my brain cells."

Satch moofed and danced happily on his paws from the attention.

When Neal stood again he swayed slightly and Peter moved in protectively. "Easy there."

"I'm okay, thanks," Neal reassured, smiling over at Peter. "Just tired."

"Well, then let's get you upstairs and into bed," El interjected as she took Neal's arm and began leading him toward the stairs.

Neal allowed himself to be guided up toward the guest bedroom, and after hanging up his coat Peter followed behind as well.

Upstairs, he hung back in the doorway and watched with a smirk as El (s)mothered Neal. She turned down the bed and then helped Neal with his coat and handed him a pair of Peter's sweatpants. Peter saw the blush rise on his young CI's face when his wife failed to turn around as Neal began to unbutton his pants.

"Hon, let's give him a little privacy."

"Oh, sure," El uttered without a hint of embarrassment as she turned toward the doorway where Peter stood. "I'll just go heat up your soup." She stopped to give Peter a peck on the cheek as she passed by him and made her way back downstairs.

As soon as she was out of sight, Neal dropped down onto the bed with a sigh.

"You doing okay?" Peter asked.

"Yeah, just a little..." Neal hesitated.

"Overwhelmed?" Peter supplied.

"Yeah. I didn't expect this," Neal said with a sweep of his hand to take in the guest room and then some. "But I appreciate it, Peter. I really do. I don't know what would have happened if you had just dropped me off at June's."

Peter shook his head and shrugged. Here he was, in his home with his CI, who his wife was making soup for, who had been rescued by his dog, doing the confiding thing, breaking every rule he had come up with. "It's what friends do."
 
 
 
Sherylynsherylyn on July 26th, 2015 05:51 am (UTC)
Awwwwwwww!! I <3 this sooooo insanely much!!! This is absolute, complete perfection, and soooo very *them* about all of it. Love it, love it, love it!!

And yes, Satchmo deserves allllll the bones!! *huggles them all*
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 1st, 2015 07:01 pm (UTC)
LOL! Thank you!

It was fun to play in the first season pool again for a bit and write them as they were then.
sapphire2309sapphire2309 on July 26th, 2015 06:14 am (UTC)
Heartwarming and lovely. I'm melting. C:
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 1st, 2015 07:01 pm (UTC)
Oh no! Don't become a puddle of goo for anything!

I'm glad you enjoyed it!
pipiljpipilj on July 26th, 2015 01:23 pm (UTC)
Adorable story. Sick Neal, concerned and caring Peter, so much him trying to be aloof and smart Satchmo. Lots of belly rubs for Satchmo.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 1st, 2015 07:02 pm (UTC)
Satch definitely deserves all the belly rubs!

Thanks for reading and commenting, pipi!
dennih23: countermeasuresdennih23 on July 26th, 2015 01:52 pm (UTC)
All of Peter’s rules for a CI flew out the door the minute Neal stepped into his life --- these two need each other. This story is so them --- wanting to trust each other, but not quite there – Neal not wanting to call in sick since he’s afraid to trust Peter --- and Peter wondering momentarily if Neal is trying to con him.

Sweet story on how these two start becoming friends. And Satchmo deserves lots and lots of treats and ear rubs.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 1st, 2015 07:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks denni!

It was to go back and explore the beginning of their relationship. Neal certainly was not what Peter was expecting, that's for sure.
algeibanalgeiban on July 26th, 2015 04:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love this! And it feels very much like them in the pilot, a kind of liking and respect for each other, but not really friends, not quite yet.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 1st, 2015 07:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks algeiban!

I definitely was going for the Pilot feel in terms of their budding friendship.
kanarek13kanarek13 on July 26th, 2015 09:13 pm (UTC)
D'awwwwwwwww ♥ Oh, you have no idea what a flail attack I had when I saw this posted \o/ This story is sooooo much love, so very them at the beginning of their journey :D I love Peter's CI rules, I definitely think he had those at the very beginning and he was really set on implementing them, heee... poor guy, didn't know what was coming :D And this beautiful story is the perfect introduction to their new and developing frienship, heee :D

*cuddles fic*

Thank you so much for writing this ♥ You are the bestest fuzzy bear ♥
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 1st, 2015 07:06 pm (UTC)
HeeHee!

I'm so glad you liked it. Your art, as usual, was ridiculously inspirational.

And, yes poor Peter who had no idea what hurricane Neal was going to do to his life.
Jasmine: Peter - serious?reve_silencieux on July 27th, 2015 03:35 pm (UTC)
Hehe... Oh Peter, those rules were never going to last. Especially with El as your wife! This was sweet and touching, and very in canon for how they were at the beginning. And kudos to Satchmo! Smart dog.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 1st, 2015 07:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks reve!

Those rules never had a chance. It's Neal after all.
scarym1: Peter & Nealscarym1 on July 27th, 2015 08:03 pm (UTC)
YAY for Satchmo to the rescue!! I love Peter's rules and how quickly he broke them all. :)
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 1st, 2015 07:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks scarym!

It's was kind of inevitable that Peter broke them all, but Neal's fever certainly accelerated things.
caseyf123 on July 28th, 2015 04:40 am (UTC)
What a delightfully warm and tender story. I absolutely loved it. Great job!!!!!! It really makes me miss the series and the wonderful characters that we came to think of as family.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 1st, 2015 07:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks casey!

I miss them too. But that's what fic is for, to help them live on. I do admit to missing their season 1/2 versions the most.
elrhiarhodanelrhiarhodan on July 28th, 2015 05:26 pm (UTC)
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

I was needing this so much, but didn't even realize it. Thank you!
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 1st, 2015 07:15 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, happy to oblige!

And thank you for reading!
doctor_fangeekdoctor_fangeek on August 2nd, 2015 04:31 pm (UTC)
Belatedly stopping to comment (I actually read this the day it posted, I think)...I want to hug this fic and take it home with me. ;) I agree with other commenters who've spoken to how authentic and very S1/Pilot this feels, and how poor Peter and his rules never really had a chance. But that's not just because of Neal being Neal, but also Peter being Peter. He just couldn't bring himself to leave sick!Neal all alone at June's (and a good thing, too!). This was so lovely, and so very "them," and I loved it.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 7th, 2015 08:19 pm (UTC)
Awwwwwwwwwwwww! Thanks Doc! It was really fun to go back and revisit the boys before all the 'stuff' of the later seasons came along and changed their original selves.

I'm really glad you liked it!
Stacysahiya on August 3rd, 2015 02:34 am (UTC)
I loved this! Neal totally did get Peter to break all those rules eventually.

And yay, hero Satchmo!
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on August 7th, 2015 08:21 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Peter had no chance at keeping those rules intact with Neal around.

Thanks for reading and commenting!