They had been searching for Mozzie for hours. No one knew the locations of all of Mozzie's safe houses — not even Neal. There had been no sign of him in the park, and that was the place they had figured he would most likely be.
Peter finally sent Neal home, with the reasoning that maybe Mozzie would show up there. It had been a hard day for Neal, and if they wound up finding what Peter was afraid they would find, he didn't want Neal to see it.
He also didn't tell Neal that he had put in a call to the morgue with a description of Mozzie.
Finally, around midnight, one of the feelers he'd put out finally paid off. He got a call from the county hospital: a gunshot victim fitting Mozzie's description had been brought in from the park a few hours ago. He was currently in surgery. The NYPD had thought it was just a mugging gone wrong, and they hadn't spent much time investigating. Unfortunately, the scene would be thoroughly contaminated by now.
Not that Peter cared overly much about the crime scene right now. He was more concerned about Mozzie — and about Neal.
He asked when the FBI would be able to question Mozzie. The question was met with a sharp rebuke. The man was still in surgery, the nurse reminded him. Even when he came out of surgery, assuming he survived, he wouldn't be able to be questioned for quite some time. No, Peter shouldn't even bother coming to the hospital; they wouldn't let him anywhere near Mozzie. They'd call him if there were any changes.
Peter hung up the phone and stared at it for a few moments. He should call Neal. Neal would be sick with worry — if Neal really had gone home.
Fuck it. He'd just go to Neal. He should hear this news in person, and he'd need a friend right now.
When a bleary-eyed Neal opened the door to his apartment, Peter could tell that he was expecting the worst.
"Mozzie is alive," Peter said without preliminaries. "But he's in critical condition. He's been shot in the chest. Point-blank range. He's in surgery right now. I'm afraid it's touch and go at the moment."
Neal grabbed his jacket. "What hospital? Let's go."
Peter took the jacket away from him. "No visitors. No, not even with the badge," he added, anticipating Neal's objection. "Remember, he's still in surgery. Even when he's out of surgery, they're saying he might not wake up for a day or two."
"Peter, I'm all Mozzie has in terms of family. They have to let me see him." But Neal was too exhausted to put up much of a fight. He didn't object as Peter gently pulled him over to the couch and sat him down.
Peter didn't even think about what he was doing as he placed an arm around Neal's shoulders and pulled him close. "Tell me about Mozzie," he suggested. "His help has been invaluable to us on the cases we've worked on together, but I really don't know anything about him."
Neal smiled a little sadly. "Mozzie is.... Well, except for you, Mozzie is really my only friend. Before I started working with you, he was the only person I could depend on, the only one I could trust. I can't lose him, Peter."
Suddenly Neal burst into tears.
At first, Peter wasn't sure how to react. It wasn't like he'd never seen people cry before, even grown men. But he hadn't quite been expecting this from his partner. If it were Elizabeth crying, he'd simply hold her in his arms, stroke her hair, maybe rock her a little bit.
Well, said the little voice in his head, why not do the same for Neal?
Because Neal is not my wife, Peter said to the voice. Neal is not even a woman.
Peter, the voice scolded, Neal needs comfort. Most of all, Neal needs you.
Peter didn't like to argue with the voice in his head. It was usually a waste of time.
A bit hesitantly, he put both arms around Neal and pulled him into an embrace. He stroked Neal's hair, patted his back and let him cry for as long as he needed to.
When Neal was finished he pulled back from Peter's embrace, obviously embarrassed. "I don't know what came over me," he said.
Peter grabbed a box of tissues and handed it to him. "What came over you was a whole mess of things that you've been dealing with over the past couple of months, including the plane explosion, your epic Tarzan imitation at the museum this afternoon to confront Fowler, and now hearing that your friend has been badly hurt." He laid a hand on Neal's shoulder. "There's nothing to be embarrassed about, Neal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with crying. It might even be good for you."
"It doesn't feel good," Neal replied, refusing to look at Peter.
Peter pulled Neal back to his side again, his arm around Neal's shoulders. "I imagine nothing feels good right now."
"Actually.... This feels good," Neal said quietly.
"What does?" Peter asked, not understanding what his partner was saying.
"What you're doing now — holding me." Neal turned toward Peter and looked directly into his eyes. "It feels very good."
The two men sat there facing each other for what seemed like a very long time. Peter told himself that this was the completely wrong time to make any sort of move on Neal. Neal was vulnerable right now. Making a pass at him — did people still call it that? — would be taking advantage of him.
The voice in his head was completely silent, which was good, because if it had said anything at this moment that indicated it was not in favour of kissing Neal, Peter would have ignored it.
"Does this feel good too?" Peter asked as he took Neal's face in his hands and kissed him.
Neal's response didn't need words. His arms snaked around Peter's neck as his lips opened to let Peter in. They kissed and touched each other for a long time, hands roaming, lips moving, tongues meeting.
Finally, Peter called a halt. "Neal," he said gently, pushing him away. "It's time to stop now."
Peter looked at his watch. "For one thing, it's two in the morning. For another thing, I have to call Elizabeth. Don't panic," he said when he saw the expression on Neal's face. "El and I have an understanding when it comes to you. And she'll want to know about Mozzie, as well as be wondering where I am."
Just then Peter's cell phone rang. He checked the number. It was the hospital. "Speaking of Mozzie...."
To the great relief of both Neal and Peter, the news was good. Mozzie had made it through surgery and was in recovery. His recovery would take a while, but the prognosis was good.
"I'll take you to the hospital in the morning," Peter told Neal after delivering the good news. "It's outside your radius, so you'll have to go with me tomorrow, but I'll arrange it so that you're allowed to go on your own after that."
"I thought you said they wouldn't let anyone in to see him."
Peter laughed. "Since when have rules like that stopped Neal Caffrey? Just don't swing in on any banners or anything like that." Then he turned serious. "Look, we have a lot of things to talk about, a lot of stuff to sort out about Alex, Kate, the music box, Fowler — and most of all, about us."
"Is there an us?" Neal asked.
"Most definitely there is an us," Peter answered. "But we're both beyond exhausted right now. Is it okay if I stay here tonight?"
Neal smiled in relief. "Only if you don't sleep on the couch," he said. "The bed is big enough for two."
The idea of spending the rest of the night in bed next to Neal's warm body sounded amazingly good to Peter right now. He stood up and stretched. "I have to call Elizabeth. How about you go and warm up the bed. I'll be right in."
Neal kissed him. "I'll be waiting. Don't take too long."