Characters/Pairing: Peter, Neal, Elizabeth, Mozzie; Gen with canon levels of Peter/El
Genre/Rating: Angst, h/c; T
Word count: 1900
Warnings: Spoilers for 4x09, Gloves Off
Notes: Usually I try and write character stuff and it accidentally turns into h/c. This started off as me wanting to write a concussed!Neal tag to the episode and it somehow turned into Peter Talking To People. So yeah. *Claims this for my "combat" square on hc_bingo*
Summary: Tag to 4x09. Neal's not in great shape after the fight, and he won't let Peter near him. But at least Peter has go-betweens.
- - -
Neal wasn't hard to catch up with. Peter's steps slowed in relief as he saw Neal leaning against a wall, facing away from him. Maybe he had reconsidered. Maybe there was a chance to re-do that disastrous confrontation.
Then Neal bent over and was sick onto the sidewalk, and Peter's heart leapt into his throat. He began jogging towards him.
"Neal!" he called, and Neal jerked violently at the sound of his voice, almost unbalancing and slapping a hand against the wall for support. He spat, screwing up his mouth in distaste.
"Go away," he croaked, without looking up, when Peter reached him.
Peter put a hand on Neal's shoulder, but it was immediately shrugged off.
"I said, go away. I'm fine."
"I'm really not buying that," Peter said. Neal was shivering, and his face was an ugly shade of greenish-white. Even his lips were pale. Against his will, Peter flashed back to the image of Neal lying still on the mat of the ring. He had been terrified in that moment; he was only marginally less worried now. "Dammit, Neal, the reason for planning the fight beforehand was so you wouldn't get hurt."
"You'd know all about that, wouldn't you," Neal snapped, and Peter couldn't keep from flinching. Neal used his hesitation to escape — or, at least, he attempted to, but he was trying to move way too fast and his balance was totally off. After a couple of staggering steps his knees buckled and he went down. Peter lunged forward and managed to grab Neal just before he smacked into the paving stones, but was almost instantly shaken off. He backed away slightly, but remained crouching.
Neal pushed himself grimly up to sit against the wall. He glared at Peter, daring him to comment.
Peter, however, refused to be drawn into that game. He had just about had enough of this dancing around. "You're going to the hospital right now," he said, bluntly.
"Leave me alone."
"Yes, I'm really just going to leave you sitting alone and concussed on the sidewalk. Dammit, Neal!"
Neal folded his arms mulishly.
"Neal," Peter pleaded, moderating his voice. "I'm trying to help you here."
Neal kept on staring straight ahead. He was still shivering, and his eyes were gleaming almost feverishly. Anger was clearly what was driving him just then, keeping him going. "I don't want your help. Look where it gets me."
Even without that, Peter's eyes kept being drawn to the blossoming bruise on Neal's cheek. He felt numbed by the speed at which everything had gone so startlingly wrong. All he could think to do was to keep on pushing forward, and hope that they could eventually come out on the other side. "Neal, right now this isn't about me and you, or about Sam. You're hurt, and you need to see a doctor."
He didn't say, I hurt you. He didn't protest how much he had tried not to. And Neal didn't say anything at all.
"You have two minutes," Peter said, eventually. "Either you're in my car by then, or I call an ambulance. Which would you prefer?"
Neal pursed his mouth. "I'll find a cab."
"That option's not on the table." Neal could and probably would construe it as further evidence of Peter's lack of trust, but right then Peter was more worried about what might happen if he let Neal out of his sight.
"I don't want to talk to you," Neal said, after a few moments.
"You don't have to," Peter said, neutrally.
At last, Neal stood up, steadying himself on the wall. Peter resisted the temptation to offer help, even when Neal wavered dizzily as he got to his feet. But he recovered himself, and walked slowly back towards the Taurus without looking at Peter once.
It was an extremely silent ride.
- - -
"He won't talk to me, El," Peter said, miserably, hunched uncomfortably in an ER chair. Neal had been taken away for tests, and had emphatically refused Peter's company. "I wish… I just don't know the right thing to say."
El squeezed his hand. "You were trying to help him. He'll understand that, in time."
"Will he?" Peter rubbed his face, and winced as it set off muscle pains all up his torso.
Of course, El noticed. "Hon, are you okay?"
Peter nodded automatically. He had been running on adrenaline since the boxing match, and now that he was coming down his body was beginning to loudly register its protests. Wincing some more, he tried and failed to find a more comfortable position in which to sit.
"Let me look," El said, in a tone which wasn't at all a question.
Peter tried to help but she pushed his hands out of the way. He submitted to her unzipping his hoodie and lifting his t-shirt up, narrowing her eyes in silent, slightly uncomfortable scrutiny.
"That looks painful," she said at last, carefully neutral.
Peter looked at his injuries. In the short time since he'd got dressed, dark bruises had spread up and down his stomach and ribs. "It was for a case," he said, smoothing the shirt back down carefully. "We had to fight each other."
"Yes, you've explained that already." El didn't look any more impressed than she had the first time. "Are you going to try and tell me that Neal has this amount of bruising?"
"He was angry. I don't think he really knew what he was doing."
"That doesn't give him the right to do that."
"He didn't —"
"Peter. Don't." She lifted her hand briefly, and dropped it. "I'm going to get someone to check you out."
"I really don't think that's necessary."
El was good at controlling her expressions. She had to be, in her line of work. But the tight lines around her mouth and eyes told Peter that she was deeply angry, something he only saw rarely. "My husband has been beaten up by one of his best friends," she said, a tiny portion of that anger slipping into her voice despite her efforts to hold it in. "Someone I count as a friend. I really think I'm dealing with this very well, but don't push me."
"I know he's going through a lot," she said, in a more conciliatory tone. "And maybe if I hadn't reported on him to you…"
He reached for her hand. "None of this is your fault. You know that, right?"
"That's not the point." El took a deep breath. "You can sit here and worry about Neal all you like, but right now I'm worried about you. And I'm going to get someone to look at you, because you're in pain. Don't argue."
Peter smiled wryly at her. "I know when to hold my tongue."
She raised her eyebrows and gave him a look which was startlingly reminiscent of Neal as she turned away.
- - -
"Suit," Mozzie greeted him, pushing through the curtain surrounding the cubicle. "You okay?"
He was momentarily on his own, El having gone to pick up the prescription for painkillers and muscle relaxants he'd been given. "I'm fine. How's Neal?"
"Concussed, as I believe you've already gathered. They're letting him go home soon, under supervision." He gave Peter a measuring look. "So, I hear you have a fractured rib."
"Only hairline." Peter paused. "Don't tell Neal."
"Suit, while I do realise you're trying to protect him, I have to disagree with you here." Mozzie took a seat next to the gurney Peter was perched on. "Anyway, you're too late."
A sudden suspicion seized Peter. "El's with him right now, isn't she? You two swapped places."
"Are you accusing your wife of collusion?"
Peter couldn't stop the corners of his mouth turning upwards. "Of course I am. I know her."
"There is that," Mozzie admitted. He frowned. "Neal's very angry with you."
"I'd noticed that." And it hurt, but he didn't say that to Mozzie. Not that his confirmation was needed, since the El—Mozzie gossip line clearly had that covered. "I suppose he still doesn't want to talk to me." He wondered how much of Neal's anger Mozzie considered to be justified.
"Right now, I don't think he really knows what he wants. As well as being furious, he's also feeling guilty about using you as a punching bag, and angry that he's feeling guilty. And I think he's still in shock about Sam leaving."
"So I should give him time to sort his head out, is what you're saying."
"In more ways than one, yeah. Sorry." Mozzie sighed heavily. "You're being remarkably understanding, you know."
Peter echoed the sigh. "What else am I supposed to do? He's spiralling. I'm worried about what he's getting himself into, and he's shutting me out because I don't trust him. But I can't afford to on this, why won't he see that?"
"Even though current circumstances suggest the opposite, Neal's head can be remarkably hard," Mozzie said, dryly.
The tension eased a little, and Peter chuckled quietly. "Take care of him, okay?" he said.
"Tell him…" Peter hesitated. Tell him I'm sorry, he'd intended to say, but he couldn't truly be sorry for trying to protect Neal, even with this fallout. He was still afraid for the future, of what might happen, of whose bones were being disturbed even now. Protecting Neal wasn't something he intended to stop doing any time soon. "Tell him I'm here for him," he said, finally. "Whether he wants it or not, I'm still going to be here."
Mozzie nodded once; a gesture which was surprisingly respectful. "I'll make sure he gets the message," he said. "He'll come around."
"I hope so."
"I know so," Mozzie said. "I'm his best friend, after all. Trust me on this."
"Thank you," Peter said, and breathed out deeply. He was beginning to feel exhausted.
On cue, El reappeared. "Hi, hon," she said, bending to kiss him. "Sorry for being gone a while."
"Long queue?" Peter asked, grinning. "I'm guessing you've been asked not to tell me where you were."
"Plausible deniability." She winked at him.
"I'll be getting back to Neal," Mozzie said. "I'm glad we had this conversation, Suit."
"So'm I," Peter said, sincerely, and then anxiously sat forward a bit. "He's got the day off tomorrow. You'll tell me if he does anything that's… well, if he does anything?"
"Much as it pains me to report on him —" Mozzie paused — "Definitely." He stood up. "Goodnight, Suit. Elizabeth."
"Bye, Moz," El said. She squeezed his shoulder.
Mozzie glanced back at Peter as he opened the curtain. "Look after him," he murmured. Peter suspected he wasn't supposed to have heard.
"Always," El whispered, and watched Mozzie walk away.
She turned to Peter after a moment. "Hon, are you ready to get going?"
"I really am," Peter said, gratefully, taking her proffered arm.
Keep moving forward, that was the thing. Keep going, and hope they would reach the other side.
Before anything worse could happen.
- - -
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