Even through the dizzying pain and the nausea, it’s the sound of breaking bones that really stays with Neal.
The pain is bad, it made him see stars and it hurts every time the ambulance hits a bump or makes too sharp a turn but it's the sound that keeps echoing through his head, almost overwhelming even the pain. It surprises him but he knows he shouldn't be. It's not hard for him to disassociate himself from the pain, to make it a distant feeling that spikes into reality every few minutes but it's harder for him to distance himself from the noise, the sickening crack of his own bones.
Peter rides with him and they stay silent, Neal only speaking when the EMT questions him for the paperwork. It could be worse, they both know that. After all, he's not shot and broken bones do heal, but the look on Peter's face says he's blaming himself and Neal is concentrating too hard on keeping the pain at a distance that he can't offer him any consolation.
He'll tell him at the hospital, after he's had enough time with the pain and the noise, that it settled into a dull ache and the sound is only part of the background.
Everything after the ambulance ride turns into a blur of pain and noise and people. He doesn't mind exactly, it's easy to lose himself in the latter two things while minimizing the former. He gets taken care of, people talk to him, ask him questions, he smiles and charms just about all of them. All the while the cracking sound sits in the back of his mind like a steady drum beat in his brain.
It's only when he's settled in the hospital room, his left leg and right arm both in a cast and sling, two broken ribs aching inside him and a number of small cuts and bruises scatter his body, that he finally opens his eyes and lets the pain strike him. It's not as hard a blow as he had expected, probably because of the pain medication and it feels good not to concentrate so much on pulling himself away from it.
His body relaxes into the bed and he sighs, settling into the ache.
Peter is there and he laughs a little before wincing. It hurt to laugh, it hurt to breath, but he tries not to think too hard about that.
"It's not your fault," he says simply. "We didn't know anyone was in the car." His voice sounds slurred and he wonders just what kind of medication they put him on. He's pretty sure they told him but when he looks back on everything that's taken place, the cracking of bones fills his mind.
Peter laughs and he manages to make it both sad and angry at once. "We should have seen it coming," he points out.
"Yeah," Neal agrees. "But that's not specifically your fault. That was all of us." He smiles weakly. "None of this is explicitly your fault. Stop blaming yourself. Go home and see your wife."
Peter shakes his head, about to say something.
"Go see her," Neal insists. "Then bring her back here so I can see her." The smile grows a little. "Besides, she'll probably make you bring her anyway."
Peter laughs again and it sounds a little more honest this time. "You'll get a care package," he says.
"I look forward to it."
Peter gets to his feet and Neal watches as he gathers his things. He waves with his good hand and Peter shakes his head a little, hesitating as he reaches the door.
"Are you su--"
"Go," Neal insists. "I'm tired anyway and I can't sleep with you staring at me."
Peter sighs and walks out the door.
Neal closes his eyes again and lets the pain take over his thoughts. It washes over him like a wave but he can't tell how bad it really is. The medication makes his head fuzzy and the pain just as fogged. He should probably be grateful.
It makes it easier to sleep though, his limbs feel heavy and his thoughts scattered. The steady cracking in the back of his mind no longer unnerving or discomforting but instead acts as a way to center himself. He concentrates on the sound of breaking bones until he falls into a light sleep.