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Innocent Bystander

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Peter never planned to get shot. In fact, he actively tried to avoid it whenever possible despite his high risk profession. It was ironic then that he wasn't shot while facing down a criminal or giving chase to a fleeing suspect. It happened while he was off-duty, walking the handful of blocks back to the car with Neal after a late dinner.

They had just walked by an alley when they heard a woman sobbing and calling out for help. Peter tried to keep Neal behind him as they hurried down the narrow passage. Before Peter could say anything more than, "Hey! Leave her alone!", the assailant turned, pulled a gun, and got off three shots.

The first pinged against the dumpster that Peter shoved Neal behind, the second burrowed into the brick wall behind him, and the third tore through skin and muscle to lodge in his shoulder.

He was still reaching for his own empty holster – a reflex action drilled into him by years with the Bureau despite the fact that he'd left his gun locked in the safe in his trunk – when the pain struck. His knees buckled, but Neal caught him before he hit the ground and dragged him behind the relative safety of the dumpster.

"Peter? Oh, god, oh, no." Neal eased him down and stripped off his own jacket so that he could apply pressure to the wound.

"Check on the girl," Peter said, grabbing Neal's arm to get his attention.

"You're bleeding!"

"Neal, focus. See if the guy's still out there, and then check on the girl."

Neal shoved his coat into Peter's hand and guided it to the wound. "Hold that," he said before peeking over the edge of the dumpster. "He's gone, but the girl's still there."

"Call 9-1-1. Then, go and get her. Bring her over here." It helped to focus on something besides the burning agony racing down his arm and across his chest. He curled in on himself a bit and forced the balled up coat against the wound. The bleeding still needed to be stopped.

Neal followed orders better than he'd probably ever followed orders in his life. He rattled off Peter's FBI badge number to the 9-1-1 operator like it was his own and relayed to Peter than help was on the way, only a few minutes out. Then, he cautiously but gracefully slid away from their hiding spot and disappeared from view.

Peter could hear him talking to the girl, but he couldn't hear exactly what they were saying. He lost track of time long enough that he was surprised when Neal and the girl appeared in front of him. Neal helped her sit before moving over to Peter and taking over the job of holding the bloodied cloth to his shoulder.

"Sorry about your jacket," Peter mumbled.

"It's okay. Stay with me. Help's almost here."

Peter wanted to stay, wanted to be conscious so that he could wipe the terrified look off Neal's face, but he was so cold, and his head was swimming, and he couldn't keep his eyes open.

"Peter? Peter! Stay awake! Peter, do you hear…"

~~!!~~

After waking up in the Emergency Room, Peter spent four long days in a semi-private room with a first time grandfather who couldn't – or wouldn't – stop talking about his granddaughter. He was in the hospital for a knee-replacement, and there had been a few complications.

He was never so happy as when the doctor told him that he was being discharged. He even sat in the wheelchair without arguing because he wanted out of the damn hospital pronto. Also, there was no way he would be able to walk all the way down to the car under his own power. He was still weak from the trauma, blood loss, and pain, much as he hated to admit it.

Elizabeth pulled the car around while Neal followed the nurse pushing Peter's wheelchair. The nurse had insisted on being the one to maneuver the chair, so Peter asked Neal to carry his overnight bag and the bouquet of flowers the White Collar division had sent him.

There wasn't much pain as Peter transferred himself from the wheelchair into the front passenger seat of the Taurus, but it did take a minute to figure out how to work the seatbelt around his sling. The analgesic shot the nurse had given him would hopefully hold out until he was home, up the stairs, and stretched out on his own bed. Preferably with Elizabeth on one side and Neal on the other.

They both looked exhausted, and Peter was worried that they hadn't eaten or slept well since the shooting. He'd been well looked after in the hospital, but he had a feeling that they had neglected themselves over the last several days.

Once Elizabeth pulled into traffic, Neal's hand snaked between the seat and the door to rest on Peter's uninjured shoulder. Peter reached up and squeezed Neal's fingers to let him know that everything was okay.

The trip was made in comfortable silence. Elizabeth double parked in front of their house long enough for Neal to help Peter out of the car, and then she went to find parking while Neal got him up the stairs.

"Do you want to rest on the couch for a little while?" Neal asked, once they were inside the door.

"No. Let's keep going before the good stuff wears off."

Neal nodded silently and guided him up the first couple of stairs. Peter frowned, having expected a different reaction from the younger man. The stairs were narrow, and Neal wasn't able to ascend them beside him, so Peter took comfort in the hand that was pressed to the center of his back, even though it was trembling.

Once they were in the hallway, standing side by side again, Peter gripped Neal's arm to keep him in place for a moment. "Are you doing okay?"

Neal flashed him a smile that Peter could have told you was fake with both his eyes closed. "Sure, yeah. How about you? It's not far, but I can grab a chair if you want to sit."

Peter made a face and waved off that suggestion. "I'm fine. Just want to lay down with my two favorite people."

He got a real grin that time, and Neal shadowed him into the bedroom. Once Peter was tucked in under the covers, Neal hurried out of the room before he could be stopped.

Peter sighed and watched the next several minutes unfold without comment. Neal and Elizabeth flitted in and out of the room to bring him water and medications and toast, fluff his pillows, and give him an icepack. Then, they both went on an inexplicable hunt for his favorite sweatshirt despite how many times he told them he wasn't cold.

"Stop! Would the both of you please stop looking for the damn sweatshirt?" Once he had both of their attentions, he patted the bed with his right hand. "Come and lay down with me."

Elizabeth and Neal exchanged uncertain looks but did as he asked. She lay down on his left side and turned so that she could throw a leg over his. When she placed her hand on his chest over his heart, he put his hand over hers and stroked her delicate skin. Within a few minutes, she was sleeping soundly.

That's when Peter turned his attention to Neal, who was sitting stiffly with his back against the headboard on Peter's right side. "Are you sleeping okay? You look tired."

Neal's eyebrows drew together in annoyance. "Is that your way of telling me I look like crap?"

"Yes, it is. Talk to me, Neal. Tell me what's wrong."

"You mean besides the fact that you were shot randomly in an alleyway and left for dead."

"You're being dramatic."

"Am I?" Neal's voice had risen, but he dropped it lower when El stirred. "Because you could have died, Peter."

"You were there," he replied, intertwining their fingers. He gave the still trembling hand a squeeze. "I knew you wouldn't let me die."

Neal took a shuddering breath and looked away.

"Hey, look at me." Peter waited until he could see the blue of Neal's eyes. "I'm okay. I'm not happy about riding a desk for the next two months, but I'm okay. The girl is okay. And we have you to thank for that."

Neal started to shake his head, but Peter moved his hand to cup Neal's cheek.

"You did everything you could from calling 9-1-1 to applying pressure to stop the bleeding." Neal winced at that, and Peter's thumb started to gently rub across his cheekbone. "You saved my life."

Neal closed his eyes and whispered, "I was so scared."

"I was too, but we're both okay." He pressed his lips to Neal's for a soft kiss, their first since the incident. Neal hesitated before returning it with a little more gusto.

"Love you," Neal said against his mouth.

"Love you too." He reluctantly pulled away and started moving further under the covers. "Let's get some rest. Come on, lay down with me."

Neal acquiesced, and Peter guided him so that Neal's head was on his uninjured shoulder and Peter's arm was wrapped around him. Once he was finally motionless for a few minutes, Neal was out like a light, but Peter was awake for a while longer. He loved that Neal worried about him, but he hated that the other man had been so upset about the whole incident. He vowed to make sure that Neal was really okay before he too drifted off to sleep.

~End

Thanks for reading!

Edited 1.27.14 to change Peter's hospital roommate from a grandmother to grandfather thanks to information from Loriltx. Here's an interesting article on whether or not the US is ready for co-ed hospital rooms though.