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Torn Stitches

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The island doctor hadn't given Neal any painkillers, not that he would have taken them anyway. He'd needed to be clear-headed to escape from Collins' custody.

Peter had only offered drugs once, after he'd checked out Neal's wound and re-bandaged it at the house before his bartender lessons. As it turned out, narcotics were pretty easy to come by when you weren't on US soil, but Neal had shaken his head and Peter had understood immediately. There was too much to do and too much of that depended on Neal being mobile.

Now, however, they had switched planes in the Canary Islands to a government charter with some rows of two by two seats. Collins was keeping a close eye on McLeish in the back, which meant the eyes he could feel burning into the side of his head were Peter's. Neal was even less surprised when Peter dropped into the aisle seat beside him and reached for the wound.

"Whoa, hey." Neal grimaced as he jerked his leg away from the FBI agent and hovered a hand protectively over his thigh.

"I need to check your leg," Peter said. "There's blood on your pants."

Neal looked down and frowned at the growing spot of red. "Damn," he swore softly.

"How are you feeling?" Peter asked, digging through the first aid kit that Neal hadn't realized he had with him. It was one of the larger versions, which meant it belonged to the airplane. There was also a bottle of water balanced on the armrest between them.

"I've been better."

"You ready to take some painkillers now?"

"Peter-"

"Neal, you've been walking around, hell climbing up trees, on that leg. It's a pretty safe bet, since it's bleeding, that you've torn some stitches. And you probably have a bit of an infection. You don't want me poking around it without some drugs in your system."

"I don't want you poking around it at all."

"Tough shit," Burke replied as he pulled a small knife out of his pocket.

Neal eyed the knife warily. "What's that for?"

"Calm down." Peter all but rolled his eyes. "It's just in case you can't or don't want to take your pants off."

"What? I'm not taking my pants off!"

"I've got to get access to that wound somehow," Peter pointed out.

Neal sighed, gritted his teeth, and moved to stand up. He wasn't prepared for his vision to swim or his muscles to protest the sudden change of position. "Aaah," he bit back the cry to a strangled moan. He was still aware enough to not give Collins the satisfaction of hearing his suffering.

Peter immediately helped guide him back down into the seat. "Easy," he murmured, also not wanting Collins to hear.

"Pills," Neal hissed through clenched teeth and held out his hand. He kept his eyes closed, hoping the world would right itself quickly.

Peter gave him the drugs and then helped him drink some water to wash them down. Then, he gave Neal a few minutes to get himself back under control. While he waited, he rummaged through the nearby compartments to find a couple of pillows and blankets.

After a minute, Neal's eyes popped open when he felt hands on his pants. Peter had the knife out and was starting to cut through the fabric beside the growing circle of blood. He watched as the FBI agent took the bottle of water and dumped some on the bandage.

Neal gasped at the sudden pain. "What was that for?"

"Softens the dried blood so that the bandage won't stick to the wound. See? Easy peasy." Peter peeled the bandage from Neal's thigh and whistled softly under his breath. The wound was puffy and red around the torn stitches. The doctor had only put in two, though there clearly should have been more.

"Infected," Neal didn't pose it as a question, but Peter nodded anyway.

"Not too bad. There isn't any pus that I can see."

"You always know how to brighten a guy's day, Peter," the ex-con deadpanned.

"Hey, I'll take any positive notes right now. It's still a ways to New York, and you haven't done yourself any favors with this leg."

"I did what I had to do," Neal defended himself, but the usual strength wasn't quite there. The Vicodin was taking affect.

"I know," was all Peter could say as he started tending to the wound. He doused it with alcohol to help slow the infection until they could get a real doctor to prescribe antibiotics. Then, he applied a pressure bandage as best he could in the tight confines of the airplane seats. "Still with me, Neal?"

"Um-hmm," was Neal's reply. His eyes were closed again, and he'd been drifting in a drug haze for the last few minutes.

"Good. Let's get you a little more comfortable."

"No, no. I'm good. This is good. I like it here. Right here." He raised one hand to clumsily pat the armrest of his chair.

Peter chuckled and stood up. He put up the middle armrest and then leaned over to grasp Neal's knees. "Turn with me, okay? I want to get your leg elevated a little bit."

Neal was little help, but Peter eventually got him laying down across the two seats with his head on a pillow and his thigh elevated a little on another pillow. Neal's legs were hanging out in the aisle, but there wasn't much Peter could do about that. He shook out a couple of blankets over the injured man and then returned to his own seat.

"He okay?" Collins spoke up from the back.

"You'd better hope he will be," Peter fired back. "His leg's infected and I doubt your island quack bothered to give him any antibiotics."

Collins was smart enough to not poke the bear any further. He held up his hands and sat back in his seat to return his attention to McLeish.

The plane was quiet for the next half hour or so until Neal started to hum. Then, he started to sing, albeit with a bit of a slur, "Summer lovin', had me a blast." He hummed through the girl's parts but sang the man's, getting louder with each verse. "I met a girl crazy for me… Summer days driftin' away, to uh-oh those summer nights… uh, well-a, well-a, well-a, huh…"

Peter chuckled and shook Neal's left knee. "Quiet down."

"Sing with me, Peter," Neal mumbled. "You know the words. You can be Sandy."

"No, no. I'd rather not. Just try to get some sleep, Neal."

"Sing!" Neal insisted, opening his eyes and leveraging himself up onto his elbows. "I'll start again. Summer lovin', had me a blast…" When Peter didn't chime in, Neal pointed at him. "Now it's your turn. Summer lovin'…"

"Neal-"

"Peter!" Neal was getting worked up. His breathing was faster and becoming erratic.

"Calm down." Peter tried to push Neal down with a hand on his shoulder, but Neal just pushed him away.

"Hey!" Collins called out. "Everything okay up there?"

"We're fine," Peter replied. Then, he looked at Neal, "Right?"

"Spoilsport," Neal muttered, laying back down.

Peter let him sulk for a minute while he sought out the bottle of water. "Here," he said, putting it in Neal's hand. "You need to drink some water."

He was about to protest when he realized how thirsty he was, so he gulped what was left in the bottle. "More?"

Peter had a second bottle standing by. "Slower this time," he said before he handed it over. "You'll be sick."

Neal heard the warning but couldn't stop himself from gulping more water. Peter had to grab the bottle form his hands. Then, he saw Peter start to move away and grabbed for his arm, managing to get a fistful of the white button-down instead.

"You okay?" Peter asked, untangling Neal's hand and squeezing him.

"Stay."

"I'm just going back to my seat. It's not far."

"Don't…" Neal trailed off. He was silent for a moment and then, "I missed… How's Elizabeth?"

"She's good. She's missed you."

"Are you guys ever going to have kids?"

Peter's head snapped up in shock. "What? Where'd that come from?"

"Always wondered."

"We, uh… Well…" Peter hesitated. "We can't have kids."

"Adoption?"

"Do you know how hard the adoption process is? It takes years, and… why am I telling you this?"

Neal shrugged. "I asked."

Peter laughed. "What about you, smart guy? You see any little Neal Caffreys running around in the future?" When Neal remained silent, another thought occurred to Peter. "Are there already little Neals out there somewhere?"

"No, no, no. Well, I don't think so. No."

"Don't sound so sure of yourself there."

Neal was saved from answering by gripping his stomach and moaning. "Gonna be sick," he said as he rolled on his side and vomited back up the water he'd drank.

Peter managed to get out of the way. He squeezed Neal's knee, letting the younger man know that he was there until the heaving finished and Neal collapsed back, completely spent. "Get some rest," Peter said. "We'll be landing in New York soon, and then we'll get you to the hospital."

Neal groaned at that but didn't feel like doing anything more than throwing his arm over his eyes and trying to block out his misery.

~Finis

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