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I'll Be Holding Your Hand

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Elizabeth woke with a start as Peter cried out something indecipherable, thrashing wildly next to her.

"Honey," she said, shaking his shoulder. "Honey, wake up."

Peter's eyes flew open, and he looked around the room wildly for a moment. He seemed to realize where he was, and that it had just been a dream. Elizabeth placed her hand on his chest and she could feel his heart pounding.

"I'm sorry," Peter mumbled. It was the third time this week he'd woken her up from a dead sleep with nightmares.

"Don't be," she replied, and stroked his hair for several minutes, letting him calm down. When his breathing was steady, she asked, "Do you want to talk about it? It may make you feel better."

In the dim light from the streetlamps outside, she could see the panic in his eyes, but he sighed and nodded. He turned onto his side and wrapped his arms around her, resting his head against her breast.

She held him close, and didn't say anything. He'd speak when he was ready.

"That day at the warehouse," Peter said softly. "When I -- I killed Adler. I can't stop think about it. I try to forget and concentrate on the work, but it won't leave me alone."

"You saved Neal's life," Elizabeth said.

"I know. I know, but... I didn't think. When I saw him, pointing the gun at Neal, I didn't give him a chance to surrender his weapon, to give himself up. I shot him. I killed him." Peter shuddered and repeated, "I killed him."

Elizabeth remembered the first time Peter killed a man. They'd been married four years at that time, and even though Peter seemed okay with it, he was sent to mandatory therapy through the Bureau. Peter had thought it was ridiculous. He'd been calm through the whole thing. There was nothing like this, and Elizabeth knew why.

Peter didn't regret killing that first man. He had been doing his job, protecting himself as well as two hostages. Two shots to the chest and it was over.

Since that time, while he'd shot several people before and after that, he'd only killed two others. None of it had affected Peter this way. Elizabeth wasn't entirely sure what she was supposed to do.

"Is that what's bothering you?" she asked, rubbing slow circles against the back of his tee shirt. "That you didn't him a chance to surrender?"

"I don't know," Peter mumbled. "Adler was a murderer. He killed Kate. He tried to kill Mozzie, he tried to kill me. I know that he wouldn't have thought twice about killing Neal."

"Maybe you should talk to someone," Elizabeth said. "A therapist. Like you did that first time."

"Maybe."

"You think about it," she said, and they fell silent. Even as Peter's breathing evened out when he went back to sleep, Elizabeth stayed awake. Just in case.

---

Elizabeth sat in the small, neutrally tasteful waiting room. She flipped through a year-old magazine, then set it down when the door opened.

"Hey," Peter said, surprised to see her. "What are you doing here?"

She stood up. "It's your first session. I wanted to be here for you, if you needed me."

"I always do," he replied, pulling her into a hug. He held for a moment, and the weight of his arms around her was reassuring. She couldn't quite read his face when he stepped back. He swallowed and said, "Can we not talk about it? Not yet?"

"Yeah," Elizabeth said, though she couldn't deny that she was a little -- disappointed? But if he needed to keep it to himself, she could accept that. She took his hand as they started out of the office. "We don't have to talk about it at all if you don't want to. It's up to you."

Peter squeezed her hand. "I will. I want to talk about it with you, but I think I need to sort it out for myself first."

"Honey, I'm here to support you in any way you need. Do you want to grab a quick lunch? That deli on Seventh?"

He smiled. "Sounds great."

---

The night after Peter's third session, Elizabeth sat up in bed, watching him sleep. He wasn't thrashing around or crying out, but he was mumbling. That wasn't uncommon. He'd always talked in his sleep, mostly nonsense, and any other time in her life, she found it comforting. Now, she was worried about what was going on behind his closed eyes.

She touched her hand against his shoulder. She didn't want to wake him, but she hoped he knew she was there for him.

---

Elizabeth was working from home that Thursday. It was all phone calls and budgets, and those things were considerably easier to deal with in her comfortable clothes with crappy daytime TV on in the background.

She looked up when the front door opened. "Honey?" she asked, blinking at Peter. It was the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," Peter said, sitting down next to her on the sofa. He brushed hair away from her face and smiled. "I wanted to see you."

Elizabeth closed her laptop and set it on the coffee table. She sat back and turned toward him. "What's going on?"

"I want to... I want to talk about what's been happening. I've been going to these therapy sessions for, what, six weeks now? I've been working through it, and I want to talk about it with you."

"Okay," she said, knowing she still sounded worried. He took the afternoon off to come talk to her? That was so unlike him.

He took her hand and smiled, trying to assure her. "I'm okay, El. I am."

She smiled too. "I know."

"I thought, well, it was like I felt guilty for killing Adler. And I couldn't understand it. He was a bad guy, he was a murderer, and he would have killed Neal if I hadn't been there. But it's not about Adler. It's about Neal."

"Isn't it always?" Elizabeth asked, her smile feeling much more genuine.

Peter chuckled. "Yeah." He took a deep breath. "Neal's hiding something. I know he is."

"I thought we proved that he didn't steal the art."

"I know. And... I don't know. Maybe. But whatever's going on, he's not telling me everything. I killed a man for him. I didn't think, I didn't hesitate, and I shot Adler. For Neal. For his life."

"And now you think he's betraying you," she said.

Peter nodded. "I filled out all the reports, and I went through all the meetings about shooting Adler. The Bureau said I did the right thing, and I agree. I would do it again."

"But?"

"But..." He closed his eyes, after a moment, a tear leaked out. Elizabeth reached out and touched his cheek. "It was a bad day. It happened so fast and I... I drove him away."

"Oh, honey."

Peter opened his eyes and looked at her. "I would do anything for him -- I've done everything for him. I killed a man for him. And I turned around and accused him of stealing the art. I don't know if it was all the adrenaline. The same way I didn't think about shooting Adler, I didn't think about what I was saying. I jumped to conclusions and I pushed Neal away. If he's planning something, I might have made those decisions he has to make very easy."

Elizabeth wasn't sure if she should say anything. She didn't know what the therapist had been saying to Peter, and she didn't want to undermine anything. "They're still his decisions to make," she said finally. She thought Neal could choose to be a bit more grateful to the man who saved his life -- literally and figuratively -- but she kept it to herself.

"I know. But, El, he... he drives me crazy. I spend half my time wanting to throttle him, and the rest of the time, I want to hang out with him and pick his brain. I think he's -- he's my best friend, and I ruined that. It's all wrapped up in that day, and... that's what I'm feeling guilty about."

Peter dropped his head onto Elizabeth's shoulder, and wrapped her arms around him.

"I miss him," Peter muttered. "I see him every day and I miss him."

She held him close, cradling his head the way she did when they were in bed together. There wasn't an easy solution to this, and she certainly didn't have the answers. So she did what she could. She could hold him.