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Neal had been in New York a few days before he finally got a chance to go home. First, there'd been the hospital, an experience mostly lost to a fevered, half-conscious haze. Then, when he was more or less mobile and coherent, he'd been taken into custody and held until the DOJ could process Peter's request to reinstate his old deal. Finally, he was in the semi-comfortable passenger seat of the Taurus, and he'd never been more relieved in all his allegedly illustrious life.

June held the door open as Neal painstakingly made his way up to the stairs with his cane as Peter hovered behind him. She smiled, and her voice was full of warmth when she spoke, “Welcome home, Neal.”

“Hi, June,” he replied in kind, visibly relaxing as he crossed the threshold.

“It's so good to see you,” she couldn't help but pull him into a gentle hug.

His arms closed around her and his grip was stronger, if a bit shaky. “You too.”

Peter cleared his throat and moved past them, careful not to bump into Neal. He held a drug store bag out to June. “Antibiotics and painkillers. Instructions are on the bottles.” He glanced at the younger man for a moment and smirked. “Good luck with those. I even threatened to drop him back off with the Marshals, but he won't take the Vicodin.”

“Peter.” Neal rolled his eyes. “I'm an adult. I think I can decide for myself when I need to take a pill and when I-.”

“Don't worry,” June cut off Neal's rant and took the bag. “He'll be taking all his medicine and going straight to bed.”

Peter couldn't contain his smile. He nodded at June and turned to Neal, saying, “I'll pick you up Monday morning at seven. Get some rest.”

Neal just glared as the Fed left, pulling the door shut behind him.

“Well, then. You look exhausted. Do you think you could make it up to the second floor? Susan's made up the Eastin room for you.”

“No, no. Nothing but the penthouse for me.” He took a deep breath and started climbing the stairs, using both the cane and the banister.

“On that leg? You might make it there before Monday morning,” June teased him gently as she followed his careful ascent.

He made it to the second floor before he all but collapsed on the sofa by the trap-door table. “Just need a minute.”

June called out, “Susan, please bring Neal a glass of water.”

“I'm fine,” he protested.

“You are going to take your pills, and then go to bed.” She was already holding the bottles up to the nearby lamp to check the dosage.

He knew better than to argue with her, and he didn't really have the energy for it anyway. He accepted both medicines and the glass of water, which he drained quickly. June sent Susan to get him more as he pushed himself up and headed for the stairs.

“Where do you think you're going?”

“Penthouse, remember?”

“Neal-”

“I need my own bed in my own apartment,” he tried to explain as he climbed. When she raised an eyebrow, he frowned. “You know what I mean.”

“That apartment is just as much yours as it is mine. And I do understand. I'm concerned about you.”

“And I'm fine.” Neal wanted to snap but couldn't do it to his landlady, his friend.

“That's not what Peter says.”

“Well, Peter's always had a big mouth. And he's never known when to shut it.” He was surprised to see that they'd made it to the third floor while they were talking. “He had no right to talk to you about me and my health.”

“Shush,” June gave him a look that he wasn't about to challenge. “Peter's worried. We've all been worried.”

The last flight was taken in silence, and they were both relieved when Neal's door came into view.

“Will you be okay from here?” she asked, patting his arm.

“Yeah, the meds are starting to kick in. Thanks. For everything.”

June waved a hand and left him standing by the door. “Sleep well.”

Neal twisted the antique doorknob, feeling better by the second. He never thought he'd ever be back here, in New York, in June's house, in his apartment. He took a deep breath, the familiar scent of oak and vanilla, and something floral soothing him just as much as the painkillers circulating through his system.

“I thought you were never going to get here,” a familiar voice startled him and he almost lost his balance. “Whoa, Chaplin. You good?”

“Mozzie! Don't do that,” Neal regained his balance and hobbled to the kitchen table to sit down.

“Sorry, sorry.” Mozzie held up a wine glass. “Bordeaux?”

“Can't. June made me take the painkillers.”

“And you didn't cheek them? I was sure I'd taught you better than that.”

Neal chuckled and shook his head. “Remind me to never get shot again.”

“I'm already working on setting up a more welcoming home away from home, if you will.”

Neal had to concede that it was always nice to have a back-up plan, but... “Moz, I'm way too tired to think about that tonight.”

“Of course, of course,” the older man nodded and sipped his wine. “Do you... need any... help?”

“No.” Neal couldn't stomach that thought. “I'll be fine. Just give me a second.” The room was wavering, and he didn't feel safe getting up just yet. “I really hate painkillers.”

“You and me both, my friend.”

In the end, Mozzie helped Neal to the bed but let Neal keep what was left of his modesty while he changed out of the black slacks and polo that Peter had brought him to wear after his release from custody. He pulled on a clean t-shirt that Moz or June had left on the bed for him but didn't bother with the pajama pants. He was too tired, and his black boxers were fine. He glanced at the bandage on his thigh and decided that it was fine since there wasn't any blood on the gauze. He'd clean and re-bandage the wound in the morning.

Neal was, predictably, asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. The exertion of the day and the climb up the stairs, the pills, and the deep relief at being back in such familiar surroundings had all combined into what would be a deep sleep. Especially since Neal knew that both Mozzie and June were there in the house to watch his back while he finally got a good night's rest.

~Finis

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