"Tell me about London, Neal."
Neal blinked and slowly turned his head toward Peter. "Wha?"
"London. You just went to visit Sara. Tell me about it."
"Oh, um, Sara's doing good. Really good. She has this great flat that overlooks the Thames. It's small, but nice. Really nice." Neal paused to take a breath and moaned on the exhale. "Head hurts."
Peter wished there was more than he could do to make Neal comfortable. They'd gone upstate for Peter's Dad's birthday while El stayed in the city to attend to an anniversary party for a couple of her best clients. Neal had surprisingly developed a friendship with Peter's parents once he was off-anklet and able to visit their farm. Unfortunately, a blizzard had blown through while they were on the road, and Peter had hit a patch of ice in the Taurus. The car was no match for the elements. They crashed into a tree off a pretty desolate stretch of highway.
Neal was severely injured with a head wound, and his leg was trapped under the dash where Peter couldn't get to it to see how bad it was. Earlier, he'd relayed all of this to the 911 operator when he'd walked far enough down the road to get a signal. EMS was coming, but he didn't have an exact location to give so it would take time for them to be found.
Peter himself had some impressive bruising and probably some cracked ribs but had made it out relatively unscathed. He wished more than anything that he could trade places with his best friend right then.
"Did you go sightseeing while you were there?"
"Um-hm," Neal mumbled. "Louvre."
"The Louvre is in Paris," Peter gently reminded him. "What did you see in London?"
Peter hated to make Neal talk when he was obviously in too much pain to even think clearly. At some later point, when was feeling better, he was going to be mortified that he said the Louvre was in London.
"Tower. Henge." Neal added after Peter didn't say immediately respond.
"You went all the way out to Stonehenge?"
"Kate wanted to."
"Sara," Peter corrected while he shrugged out of his coat. Neal was shivering, which had to be uncomfortable. He tucked the wool around the younger man and also took the opportunity to check his pulse – thready but not too fast. "What else did you two do?"
Neal cracked a smile despite everything. "You don't really want to know."
"You're probably right about that, but you need to keep talking. Did you discuss the move?"
"Yeah." Neal's eyes drifted shut but Peter shook his shoulder lightly.
"Hey, stay with me. What'd she say?"
Neal opened one eye to glare at him. "Ready to come back. Bosch's retiring. Wants her to run New York."
"I'm sure she's the right person for the job."
"She's good. Really good."
"Yeah, she's good at what she does. Are you two going to-"
Neal sat up abruptly and groaned in pain. "Sick. Gonna be sick. Peter!" He reached out blindly and got ahold of Peter's arm.
"Breathe, Neal. Try to breathe through it." Peter's eyes darted around, trying to find something for Neal to puke into if it came to that. There was a plastic bag in the back floor where they'd stopped at a gas station to refuel and get road trip snacks that El would not have approved. He grabbed the bag and held it out toward his friend. "Take this."
Neal had just managed to get the bag in place when he leaned forward as best he could and retched. He whimpered and moaned between bouts of sickness, but there was little Peter could do to help besides rub his back.
When he finally collapsed back against his seat, Peter took the bag from him and pitched it outside. "You okay?"
"Wanna go home. Please, Peter. Please. Home."
"Shhh. Calm down, Neal. Take a breath." Peter ran his fingers through Neal's hair and moved his hand down to rub slow circles on the shoulder nearest to him. "Calm down, buddy. EMS will be here soon, and they'll take care of you."
"Please," Neal begged weakly. "I just wanna be home."
Peter dropped his head and fought back tears. If there was any way he could switch places, he would. If there was anything he could do to make Neal more comfortable, he would. If he could wiggle his nose and teleport them home, he would. He hated feeling so damn helpless.
Neal had gone quiet by the time headlights abruptly illuminated the interior of the car. Peter's head shot up, and he was immensely relieved to see a snowplow, an ambulance and a fire engine pull up outside.
Everything happened pretty quickly once the firefighters assessed the situation and got their equipment in place. As soon as Neal was free, the EMTs moved in and got him strapped to a backboard and then onto a stretcher. Peter was allowed to ride with him since the car wasn't moving without a tow truck, but Neal was completely unconscious and unaware of his presence.
The wait in the hospital was interminable. He'd been examined by someone who looked young enough to be his daughter and then discharged with a script for prescription-strength ibuprofen for his ribs.
On his way back to the waiting room from the pharmacy, he called Elizabeth to let her know what had happened. She'd wanted to rent a car and drive up, but the weather was still nasty, and he promised he'd call often with updates. He repeated the process with his parents, also promising updates to them, but hesitated in calling Sara until he knew more about Neal's condition.
After his fifth cup of caffeinated swill, a doctor came out to discuss Neal's injuries. His concussion was severe, but they were monitoring him closely and were cautiously optimistic that he hadn’t suffered any lasting damage. Then, there was his leg, which was badly lacerated, and both lower bones – the tibia and fibula – were broken. It would be treated with surgery once he was stable and able to tolerate the anesthesia, so it would be a few more days.
Peter had another cup of the vending machine 'coffee' before a nurse found him and showed him to Neal's room. His friend was resting comfortably, conked out on painkillers and oblivious to the world. Peter tried to get comfortable in the little recliner next to the bed while he texted Elizabeth that Neal was sleeping and then drifted off himself, glad that everything looked like it would be okay. Neal would heal, and this little misadventure would go down in the books as one to remember.
Thanks for reading!