Peter gently lathered Neal's hair, making sure to scratch along his scalp as he worked the soap in. Neal had his eyes closed, so Peter didn't school his features out of the look of fierce concentration and concern. Neal had only been home from the hospital a week. Peter couldn't keep his hands off him; he kept wanting to reassure himself that Neal really was warm and breathing and safe beside him. Peter had thought that... well, it'd been a tense few hours between the sound of gunfire over the wire and Neal's surgeon meeting with Peter and Elizabeth after his operation.
"Mmmm... keep doing that." Neal had a small lazy smile on his face, one of his rare unguarded ones.
"Tilt your head a little more to the left." Peter kept working up the lather. Neal's hair was straight now that it was wet; the length always surprised Peter, it never looked this long dry.
"This feels fantastic, Peter." Neal's eye lashes fluttered and Peter quickly moved to mop up the soap from his brow in case he opened them.
"I'm going to rinse you now, keep your eyes closed." Peter reached for the sink sprayer and tested the water temperature. He gently sprayed Neal's sudsy hair, keeping a dry washcloth across his forehead to catch any stray rivulets. Neal shifted when the water hit him and gave a pained grunt.
"You okay?" Peter asked, unable to keep the concern from his tone. He had Neal on a bar stool with his head over the sink. The dressing across his chest couldn't get wet and his incision wasn't healing well, so they had to be doubly sure no moisture got on it.
"Yes. The water just startled me." Neal looked up to give Peter another smile, this one appearing a bit wan.
"We're almost done." Peter finger combed Neal's hair, trying to make sure that all the suds were out. Peter didn't like that Neal was so tired from only having him up and getting his hair washed. The kid wasn't ready to be moving around this much, but he had begged to have it cleaned. Sometimes Neal was worse than a cat about his grooming. "Does it feel like all the soap is out?"
"It feels divine." He reached up gingerly to feel his hair, pausing mid arm lift to bite his lip. The staples were probably pulling. "All clean, now no more itching."
"Easy there." Peter put the sprayer away and got a towel ready to place around Neal's shoulders. "I'm going to help you sit up now." He wrapped his strong arms around Neal's shoulders and neck, draping the towel as Neal sat up farther. It frightened Peter to see Neal still so weak, so far from his normally hale self.
"Thank you, Peter." Neal's blue eyes gazed at Peter, alight with his sincerity. Peter tried to ignore the pain that had taken up residence there as well. He wanted to only focus on the love in his lover's eyes.
Peter placed a chaste kiss on Neal's chapped lips. "You're welcome."
"Do that again," Neal said playfully.
Peter leaned down, still steadying Neal, and kissed him again, letting a hint of his pent up passion and love leak around the edges. They let the kiss continue for more than a minute; this was the most intimate they'd been since that horrible evening. Peter finally pulled back, licking at Neal's parted lips, once he felt Neal starting to sag against him. No matter how badly he wanted to have Neal as a lover again, it would still be weeks until Neal was up for anything more than a few passionate kisses.
"Let's get you back onto the couch. Elizabeth will be home soon and we can watch that movie you asked her to pick up."
"Peter! You're going to watch a Bogart film with us? I'm shocked!" Neal tried to sound normal despite the way he leaned heavily against Peter in preparation for standing.
Despite the situation, Peter felt something tight in his chest begin to unwind as he helped Neal up. Neal was really here with him; warm, solid and alive. As he helped Neal back to the couch he let himself entertain the thought that maybe they'd get through this. That maybe, they would all come out the other side stronger than they had gone in.