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I Lived

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I Lived


He didn’t know how it happened, or even where the bullet came from.  One moment he was talking to the suspect while trying to get him to say something incriminating, and the next he was lying on the floor staring up at a dirty old ceiling in some random warehouse.

As the world around him drifted into a fog, random words danced through his mind in its place.

Hoping you take that jump

What was that from… was it lyrics?  Eh, it didn’t matter anyway.  As the line kept playing through his mind, it seemed to take on the form of a challenge.

Hoping you take that jump… would he?  The more he thought about it, the more he realized he had taken the leap.  He became an agent of the CIA after all.  Diving into government work meant he took the jump into a world of darkness; a world of criminals, undercover work, and daring battles between life and death with high stakes, like the safety of the world, in his hands.

But don't fear the fall

The lyrics kept coming like the song was slowly playing through his mind.  Once he had thought through one part, the next line followed.

Taking the challenge, he tried to find some aspect of his life that fit the line.  Don’t fear the fall… Oh, he could probably count protecting Chuck and the Intersect towards that.  He fell in his status as trustworthy both times.  First, in respect to Chuck, he lost the trust of his best friend.  Then, he lost the trust of his partner and his country with Operation Sandwall.  Sure his name was eventually cleared, but he fell for a long time and those relationships would never be the same again.

He didn’t fear the fall, he had walked right into it with his eyes open and he would do it again if necessary.

Hope when the water rises

Flooding… floods of trouble?  He had been through that before.  What else would you describe an army of secret Fulcrum and Ring agents ready to attack from any angle?  The fight had raged for decades and he had worked to stem the flood since his first year in the field.  It was a lot of work and it never really ended, but the battle was worth the fight.

You built a wall

Like out of brick?  He had never built a literal wall, but he had many other walls such as walls of mask to hide his real identity, walls as in plans to obstruct his enemy’s goals, and walls to keep his real thoughts and feelings away from those around him.  To Chuck he seemed like a wall of stability, for Peter a wall of mystery, and to his enemies an annoying wall that seemed to constantly be in the way.

Hoping the crowd screams out

There weren’t a lot of crowds in his life… at least not in his government work.  If there was a crowd around screaming, then something was going wrong meaning that he either needed to be getting to something to handle it, or getting away from something as the situation bode ill for him. Screaming your name

Oh for the days of college when crowds of classmates surrounded him.  They would cheer him on in gaming sessions, track meets, and at parties… those were the days when life was classes, friends, and fun.  It was easy to relax and enjoy life with his best friend.

Too bad he could no longer be in touch with Chuck.  Ever since his last death, he had been cut off from the only person who could connect two parts of his life.

Hope if everybody runs

Why did all of the students in college always take the easy way out when trouble struck?  If a bully started pushing his weight around, the others backed down.  When someone spread rumors about a classmate and caused emotional havoc, the students happily gossiped about it.

How many agents turned rogue rather than standing up to Fulcrum and the Ring? 

He had lost count of how many times he had seen people cower before the criminal in fear of retribution.

It seemed that people were more likely to run when things got hard.

You choose to stay

Even as a young college student, he couldn’t stand by and watch people getting hurt.  Protecting Chuck from Operation Omaha was just one big example of how he acted in college.  Things like taking the bully in pool and conning the slanderer were smaller example of ways he liked to watch out for his fellow classmates.

In the field, he obviously held his ground… which is why he often got himself shot, held hostage, chased, and generally in trouble with every rogue agent and criminal he came acrossed.

Hope that you fall in love

There were a few women that managed to steal his heart. 

First, there was a cute girl in college, but she transferred to another school ending their relationship before it had much of a chance to begin.  Second, there was Kate and they got along fabulously.  She was even the one he planned on popping the question too.  Third, there was Sarah.  Their relationship started out as professional, but turned romantic due to being in close quarters with no means of telling anyone who they really were.  Finally, he had briefly been involved with Sara, but she had broken up the relationship due to the belief that he had stolen the U-boat treasure.

And it hurts so bad

Really, the few people who managed to get close enough to take a piece of his heart tended to leave with it.

The girl in college left, Kate was killed, he had to leave Sarah, and Sara left him.  None of his relationships ever lasted very long or got close enough for anyone to see beyond whatever identity he was wearing at the time.

Sometimes, sometimes he wished he could get closer to people, let someone see behind the masks and illusions he put up.  Unfortunately, he seemed to be destined to love and loose… and it really did hurt.

The only way you can know

Who is he… is he his father’s son, an engineer, a legendary agent, a hero, or simply a con artists?  His identity was something that even he always battled with.  How could he know the answer?

Only way… maybe he knew who he really was based on his actions?

He was his father’s son biologically, his college degree made him an engineer, there were legends about him as an agent, and he was currently conning the FBI into thinking that he was a criminal.  Maybe, maybe he was something of all of them?

The only way he could know who he was, was to compile all of the different pieces of who he was.  Really, he was an agent who could fix a computer, con a mark with his blue eyes, and save the day.  They were all aspects of his identity.

Is give it all you have

He did… he gave it all that he had.  In his effort to leave his past behind, to achieve his goal of being the man he wanted to be, he worked so hard and sacrificed everything.

In protecting Chuck, he sacrificed his best friend.  Working to complete his missions, he became the weapon the government required and sacrificed his innocence.  Becoming that man, doing those things… he sacrificed pieces of himself little by little.  In protecting the Intersect, and all of the information it contained, he died for his country… twice.  The first time he lost his family and most of his connections to the civilian world, while the second time he lost the team and his last connections to the world at large.  Immersed in his role, there wasn’t much left of the person behind the mask for people to see.

 How much more could he give than his all?

And I hope that you don't suffer

Did he suffer?  No, he didn’t really suffer.

Granted, there were the times that he hurt, a lot… usually when a bullet was going through him, when Chuck looked at him with those big hurt puppy eyes, Peter’s distrusting glances, or when he was generally getting beaten up.

But suffering?  No, he was more likely to shake it off as his actions were for a reason.  Why would he let Chuck’s puppy eyes daunt him from saving his life?  If he were placed in the same places, he would do it all again.

But take the pain

Pain… that was definitely not a stranger. 

He took emotional pain from watching his two dearest friends give him looks of pure hatred and from the women who took pieces of his heart before sweeping out of his life.

Mental pain was just another part of thinking on his feet and stressing to pick up the pieces as everything fell apart.

Physical pain certainly wasn’t a stranger.  After all, he took beatings, knives, falls, and even bullets… like the one sitting in his chest causing the stream of blood he was enduring.

Whatever life had to throw his way, any pain dealt, he took it, because it was worth it.

Hope when the moment comes you say

His moment was certainly coming again.  He could feel the cold seeping through his back and into his bones.  The pain in his chest was increasing as the shock wore off and the he was fading as his blood leaked acrossed the floor.

What did he have to say at the moment?

Hmm, he didn’t have any regrets.  That is what he wanted to say.  He didn’t have any regrets.

I, I did it all

Noise burst into the room as the chorus started drifting through his consciousness.  It caught his attention as the team had arrived.

 He knew there had to be a lot of noise as Diana led the agents to bust the perps in the warehouse, but it was muffled.  Like his head was submersed in water while they shouted around him. 

Then he was vaguely aware of Jones hauling the sniper through on his way to send him off with the other criminals.

Thinking, Neal was pleased to see they caught everyone.  At least they wouldn’t be getting away with their crimes.

I, I did it all

A gust of air and a frantic voice surrounded him.

“Neal… Neal!”

Looking up, he could see the general shape of Peter as the man crouched over him.  Then brown eyes got closer as Peter checked to ensure he still had a pulse. 

He was so still.  His body was frozen between the pain, shock, and blood loss.  It was no wonder Peter had to check to reassure himself.

Relieved to find he was still alive, for the moment at least, Peter shifted to stemming the blood flow.

As he pressed against the wound, Neal found stars exploding before him as he exhaled sharply in pain.

“I’m sorry Neal, but I have to stem this…”  The ‘or you’ll die’ was left unsaid.  Besides, he seemed to be dying anyway.

“P…P…Pe…Peter…”  He tried to talk, but he couldn’t get the words out.  He couldn’t reassure his friend, couldn’t tell him goodbye, couldn’t say any of the many things he wanted Peter to know.

With tears lining his eyes and making them shiny, Peter tried to persuade Neal to save his energy.  “Shhh.  Shh, don’t talk… you need to save your strength.”

“Trust you… more than… you… think.  B… b… best… friend.  Thanks…”  Neal was barely speaking above a whisper.  He wasn’t even sure if Peter got the message as his words were quiet and his lips hardly moved.  Still, he had to try.  Chuck never got these words, so he was going to tell Peter if he could.

“No, no, no, no.  Come on Neal.  You got to say with me.”  Peter pleaded.  He was shaking with emotion and stress.

Wincing in pain, Neal tried not to upset him more, but he couldn’t help reacting as Peter’s shakes were causing the pressure he was applying to shift… something painful to endure.

“Sorry, I’m so sorry Neal.”  Peter had a few of those tears running down his face as he realized he was only hurting Neal, but he couldn’t stop it either.  Stopping meant he had given up, that he was going to let Neal die, and that was never going to happen.

Part pleading, and part trying to reassure his friend, Neal settled on simply looking at Peter.  He was fading.  Despite Peter’s efforts, there was no stopping the damage that had already been done.

Feeling the cold seep further into his bones and the edges of his vision shift into blackness, Neal knew it was coming.  With the last of his strength, he mouthed ‘I’m sorry.’

“Neal?… Neal!  No, no, no… stay with me Neal.  You can’t die!  I have you for the rest of your sentence, so don’t think you are going to get out of this so easily!”  He was part growling, part pleading, and part crying the words.  They both knew what was happening.

Unable to stop, Neal felt his head lolling to the side slightly, but he managed to keep his eyes on Peter.   Watching until the last as his friend begged him to stay, while his body forced him to leave.

Falling into the blackness of death, Neal knew he was dying again.  This wasn’t a new experience, he knew what to expect.  Drifting into nothing, he faded in darkness.

I owned every second

There was a distance of unconsciousness to his thoughts.  For being dead, why was his mind still rambling through lyrics?  Mentally shrugging, Neal forgot why he was shrugging as his mind repeated the line causing him to think it over.

The more he looked back over his life, the more Neal knew he didn’t regret it.  He had lived, he had loved, he had saved lives, he knew what it was to laugh and to cry, he had good friends at his back, and he knew a good days work … in short, he had owned every second. That this world could give

He did the best he could with the hand he had been dealt.

Growing up, Ellen had tried to help him through his mother’s absence in his life, but she couldn’t always be there for him.  ‘Picking himself up by his own shoe laces,’ Neal had worked hard to learn what he needed to get by.  Even as a child, he learned well enough to provide the basics and to keep the truant officers, CPS, and the creditors at bay. 

Moving on to college, he had gotten an education, his first best friend, and an unexpected career.

Finally, in his government work he had gotten his skills, adventures, his second best friend, and so much more.

What else could the world give?

I saw so many places

Walking on six out of the seven continents covered a lot of places… how many countries had he been to anyway?  That wasn’t even mentioning cities or the places in them… yep, he had been to so many places.

The things that I did

His mind started to catalog, but he decided it wasn’t a good path to pursue.  Sure, he had plenty of good things he had done, like training with Ellen, playing video games with Chuck, strategizing with Peter, and saving lives which were all things to tally up.  However, there were things like killing people to prevent bad things that weren’t exactly pleasant things to remember.  It was done with good intentions, but it didn’t make for good memories.

With every broken bone

…Cuts, scrapes, bruises, knife wounds, bullet holes… there were always injuries to go with a life of adventure.  Breaking beyond the norm meant encountering rough terrain, and that was never easy.

I swear I lived

Beep…Beep…Beep.  There was noise beyond his own thoughts, but it faded quickly as unconsciousness claimed him again.

Hope that you spend your days

There was always something to do.  It didn’t matter if he had a small problem to solve, like how to get to school, or if he had a big problem to solve, like how to save the world, there was always something that needed to be planned or a plan that needed to be executed so he spent his days doing what he could.

But they all add up

It had taken him a lifetime to become the man he was and to accomplish the things that he had done.  Some days he had to fight for his very survival, while other days he enjoyed living, but they all added up to the life he lived.

And when that sun goes down

It had gone down three times.  With each death, he had left his worries behind in the hands of someone he trusted.  Chuck got the responsibility of saving the world and guarding the Intersect, while Peter got to finish making a criminal’s death worthwhile by ensuring the arrest and prosecution of the guilty.

Hope you raise your cup

Did Chuck still miss him?  Would Peter?  What would they say if they were both to toast him at his funeral?  He had never asked Chuck and he could never ask Peter.

I wish that I could witness

Too bad he couldn’t at least watch over them.  He sometimes wondered how Chuck was faring in the new life that he had chosen… After all, Chuck wasn’t simply going to walk away and leave the Intersect for the Ring to have, so he must have done something to protect it which would have drug him back in again, willingly.  Then he also wished he could watch over Peter.  The man was idealistic like Chuck and that brought a protective side out of him.  Sure, the man was a more experienced agent in age, but Neal was a more experienced agent in the darkness of the world.  It wasn’t something to be proud of, but if he could spare men like Peter and Chuck from the worst of it, then so be it.

All your joy and all your pain

Sometimes Neal tried to imagine what it would have been like to be at Chuck and Sarah’s wedding.  Considering the amount of time that had passed and how much the two were attracted to each other, it had to have happened by now, right?  He hoped the best for them and imagined a happy life of normal bliss mixed with a life of adventure and drama.  Chuck had come from a seemingly normal background so he knew how to portray it, but they were also both aware of the CIA and caught in the web of espionage so nothing would ever be entirely normal.

Peter would be going through pain though.  His last words and expressions were of loss and sorrow at the prospect of losing Neal, so he must be hurting a great deal more to have lost him.  If only Neal could have a moment, just one moment to tell him he was simply thinking through lyrics so death wasn’t so bad… which jarred his thoughts to thinking that death wasn’t about lyrics and songs.  The last times he had died had been terrifyingly empty with nothing.  He wasn’t dead long enough to get very far… was this what he had missed?

But until my moment comes

Beep… Beep… Beep.  If he was dead, why was he hearing the beeping sound?  Following it, he opened his eyes.

I'll say

Looking through a crack, he softly opened and closed his eyes unnoticed as he adjusted to his bright surroundings.

I, I did it all

Peter looked gruff and was trying to keep his emotion in check, but he was failing based on the red rimmed eyes and obvious fatigue.

“In the ambulance… there was another attack on his life.”  Looking up at his wife, Peter was struggling to tell her what had happened.  “An SUV hit us and sent us spinning.  The driver worked to react to the attack while the paramedic in the back fought to keep Neal alive… but he failed… and I had to watch Neal die again.”  He rubbed his hand over his eyes as the tears welled up to overflow.  “If there hadn’t been a patrolling police cruiser nearby to respond to the call… we would have been in trouble… Neal definitely would have remained dead.”

He broke down a little bit as the emotions hit him.  Watching his friend die once was bad enough, twice was hard to endure.

Continuing to watch his best friend’s pain, Neal wished he had the strength to speak up, to reassure him.  Since he didn’t have that strength yet, he turned his eyes on Elizabeth.

I, I did it all

Elizabeth had tears running down her face as she moved to hug Peter.  It wasn’t as reassuring as Neal would have liked to provide, but at least it was supportive.  Based on the way Peter clung to her as he breathed to calm his emotions, her touch was needed to help him deal too. 

Reassured, Neal knew Elizabeth would help Peter get by until he could reassure him that he was okay.  Although Peter needed Elizabeth more, he had come to need Neal in his life too.

Drifting back in to unconsciousness, Neal closed his eyes with the promise to put smiles back on his friend’s faces.

I owned every second

Conscious again, Neal was too tired to open his eyes so he simply listened to the people in his room.

“How is he doing?”  June was asking. 

Apparently, his land lady had just arrived and was asking for an update so his eavesdropping was well timed.

“The same.  He is in and out of consciousness, but never awake enough to respond to us.”  Peter seemed to mumble from his seat.

“When was the last time you slept, Peter?”  She turned her concern on him. 

“That’s not so much the question as ‘when was the last time I slept well?’”  There was the sound of a yawn breaking up his answer.  “Every time I try to sleep, I keep finding myself picturing Neal laying there on the floor… the blood was everywhere and then… he…”  He paused to shudder while the images played through his mind again.

“He died.”  She sniffled as she tried to handle her own emotions.  “At least he is alive, and there is hope he can recover.  That must count for something.”

Weary, Peter didn’t sound enthusiastic.  “There is still a lot of damage and the doctor is worried about infection from the warehouse floor… he says we shouldn’t get our hopes up… that there is still a chance he’ll relapse.”

“He doesn’t know our Neal.  It may take him a while to get back on his feet, but he will Peter, he will get back on his feet.”  Carrying her determination, June worked to reassure Peter and herself that Neal was going to be okay.

Listening to her voice, Neal was once again glad for the existence of June in his life.  She was the rock who gave him a place to call home and a shoulder of support no matter how ‘criminal’ his latest decision turned out to be.

Lulled by the musical undertones of June’s voice as she tried to calm Peter, Neal found himself relaxing as he drifted off into unconsciousness again.

That this world could give

Soft noises… Neal’s consciousness had zoned in on something that didn’t sound right in his room.

Was he under attack again?

Listening as keenly as his weakened state would allow, Neal really hoped he wasn’t about to be murdered in his bed.

Muttering.  He could just hear the voice of someone muttering as they checked over his chart.

The person wasn’t a nurse, or his doctor… then the person moved closer to him and he was able to recognize the voice.  Mozzie was making an off hours visit.

As he was trying to be quiet and not draw the attention of the guard who was apparently standing outside of the room, Mozzie tried to play off his role as a medical staff making a random check so he didn’t stay long.

Relaxing, Neal let himself go back under again.

I saw so many places

“Come on Neal.  Please, just something to say you can hear me.  I have been talking myself hoarse for two weeks and you haven’t made one crack about my choice of topics… at this rate I’ll even be happy to hear you ramble on about art if it means you are strong enough to talk.”

Opening his eyes, Neal simply looked at his pleading best friend.  Although Peter was looking better in some respects, he still looked tired and emotionally drained.  Peter wasn’t looking back at him, so Neal stared at him and waited for the man to raise his head.

After several moments, Peter finally lifted his head in the motion of looking somewhere other than the floor.  Noticing a slight hint of blue on his way to the window, he unconsciously looked to the difference.   It took another few moments for his tired brain to register the slightly open eyes of his best friend as the source. 

“Neal?”  His voice picked up a little bit.  There were the beginnings of excitement building.

Blinking slowly, Neal did the best he could to signal that he was seeing and aware of Peter, but not strong enough to respond yet.

Squeezing his hand lightly, Peter was glad to feel Neal responding to his touch as he twitched his fingers slightly in his grip.  “It’s good to see you awake, Neal.  How about you get some rest so we can talk later.”  His eyes were shiny, but there was relief on the rest of his face.  Continuing to hold Neal’s hand, he gently talked to him until Neal’s eyes were too heavy to keep up.

 Although he wasn’t strong enough to make Peter smile, he had managed to give him some peace in knowing that he was listening.

And things that I did

Waking up again, Neal listened quietly as Peter talked to Elizabeth.

“He is listening to us.”  His voice sounded a little better rested and more peaceful.

“How do you know that?”  Elizabeth asked.

“A few hours ago he opened his eyes.”  There was a light rustle of clothe as he moved.  “I have been talking to him for two weeks without a sign of his even hearing… so I asked him to let me know if he was.  When I looked at him, he was looking back at me and listened to my random conversation until he fell asleep again.”

There was the light sound of happy tears as Elizabeth responded.  “That’s the best news I have heard in weeks.”  Sniffling.  “So that is why you were sleeping so soundly when I arrived… Neal is recovering.”

“Neal is recovering.”  Peter repeated.

With every broken bone

“How is the case progressing Diana?” 

Neal woke to the rumblings of Peter talking on the phone.  He had spent so much time by Neal’s hospital bed that he was checking in to see how it was progressing.

“Another agency is sending in consultants?”  Peter questioned.

Unable to hear Diana’s side of the conversation, Neal was pretty well left in the dark as to what was happening.

“They believe there is something else behind the attempts on his life?  What reason did they give for that?”  He continued to question.


Did the general… did someone tell the FBI that he had associations with other agencies?  That would explain Peter’s shock and why others would be getting involved.

“So he used to work with other agencies… Neal… is just an alias?” 

Peter knew… he knew Neal was more than he seemed.

Finishing up the conversation, Peter hung up the phone.  Not knowing that Neal was listening again as his eyes were closed, Peter started talking to him.

“All this time you have actually been an agent, but you couldn’t tell me.”  Taking a deep breath, Peter seemed to be surprised by the reveal, but happy overall.  “When you get better we are going to have a long conversation about that, but I want you to know that I am proud to hear it… very proud.”

Falling quiet, Peter seemed to revert inwards to think about everything that would be changing. 

With nothing to listen to, Neal fell asleep again.

I swear I lived

Waking up to a voice he hadn’t heard in years, Neal couldn’t resist the call.  Opening his eyes, he saw that Chuck had cut his hair.

“Hello, my name is Charles Carmichael, but you can call me Chuck.  I’m an old friend of Neal’s so we were assigned to help with the case.”  He was introducing himself to Peter while they shook hands.

If Neal could do more than crack his eyes open, he would smile to see his dearest friends meeting.

“Peter Burke, but you can call me Peter.  Neal is a very close friend of mine, but I am discovering that even then he is still a man of mystery.”  There was a hint of sadness to his voice, he had missed so much.

Snorting, Chuck wasn’t surprised.  “That is Neal for you.”  At Peter’s questioning look he explained.  “I roomed with him for four years and still missed when he was recruited.  He is very good at keeping secrets when he has to.”

Glancing over at Neal to make his next comment, Peter dropped the conversation when he saw that Neal was watching them.  “Neal.”

Startled, Chuck whipped his head around to look at his friend.  Seeing that Neal was indeed watching, he smiled brightly.  “It’s good to see you Neal.”  Walking over to his side, he held his emotions in, but they still showed.  “We have a lot to talk about when you get better… but I’m glad I can be here to help you this time.”

Blinking at him, Neal showed he was listening.

Reaching out to his friend, Chuck put his hand on Neal’s arm.  “I have never gotten to be here for you when you needed me… and the one chance I got, I was too late.”  He was upset. 

Mentally sighing, Neal didn’t like to see both of his friends standing sadly by his hospital bed.  Sure he was happy to see both of them together, but he wished it was under better circumstances.

Unable to keep up with both of them at the same time, it didn’t take long for Neal’s eyes to close again as he drifted off.

With every broken bone

Neal had slept for a while before he was conscious to the lyrics in his brain and his surroundings again.

Listening, he noticed it was quiet in his room.  Then he heard a rough sound… like snoring?  Opening his eyes in curiosity, he saw that Peter was asleep by his bed to one side, while glancing to the other sound, he noticed that Chuck was reclined in sleep as well.

Getting up the strength, he smiled slightly.  Apparently, the long rest had given him more strength.  Still, as there was nothing better to do, he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep to the sounds of his friend’s restful snores.

I swear I lived

The next time he woke up, his room was noisier than before.  It seemed that all of his friends had stopped by to see him at the same time.

Unable to focus on all of them, and not ready to take them all on at once, he simply listened to the snippets that he could catch.

“We have caught the people responsible for blowing his cover.  Although I can’t share the details, let’s just say that they are going to regret it.”  Chuck happily stated.

“I’m glad to hear that.”  Peter said.  He was obviously happy to hear that the people responsible for nearly killing his friend had been taken off of the street and were facing the justice system.

“He is really an agent… wow!  I wasn’t expecting that to come out of all of this.”  Jones commented.

“Just wait until he gets better.  He is in so much trouble for nearly dying on us and lying for so long.”  Diana threatened.

A hand stroked through his hair gently.  “It will just be nice to see his blue eyes and hear his voice again… I miss his company.  The house has felt so empty without him.”  June lamented.

“There is a lot he has missed.  He has been dead to us for years and out of it here for a number of weeks… I think he will be happy to see all of us together.”  Sarah was talking about the groups.

“We have so many things to talk to him about.  I look forward to seeing what he has to say.”  Elizabeth was curious.

Loving the sound of his friends all gathered together, Neal listened to them for a while before he started to drift off to sleep again.  As he drifted, he heard one last voice.

“I think he was listening to us for a while… although it looks like he is falling asleep, he is smiling slightly.”

With every broken bone

Hearing a rough sound, Neal woke up in confusion.  As he focused, he could feel that the ache in his chest had strengthened into pain.  Groaning again, he realized the noise that woke him was the sound of his own reaction to the pain.

“Hey buddy, the medical staff is just trying to cut back on your pain medication.  No one wants you to get addicted so they are taking precautions.”  Chuck explained what was going on before a nurse entered the room.

“Is there something wrong?”  She asked.

“Yeah, he is hurting and keeps groaning.  I think he woke himself up, but he isn’t really reacting.”  He explained why he had pushed the nurse call button.

“We’ll give him a little more to help him sleep.” 

Then there was the sounds as she checked his vitals, gave him more medications, and made sure he was comfortable before she left.

“Go back to sleep buddy.  When you wake up, we eventually have a lot to talk about, but I’m happy to know you’re alive and looking forward to settling some things.”

While Neal drifted off to sleep, he listened as Chuck started to fill him in on things he had missed, things he had learned about his life as Neal, and things he looked forward to with their friendship in the future.

I swear I lived

Waking up to a quiet room, Neal enjoyed a little bit of time to think to himself instead of listening to the others.

It seemed that the third time was really a charm.  Three times he died, twice he lost, and once he gained.  This time he got to have Chuck back in his life, Peter got to know that he was an agent, and they were all here in his life together.  Smiling slightly, he happily looked forward to what it would mean to have them all around.

Daydreaming, he chose to while away some time by imagining what was awaiting him.  There would be conversations on accounting with Peter where he could show his love of numbers.  Chuck would probably insist on some online gaming to keep in touch and make up for missed times.  He would actually be able to show Jones how to fix the computer problems when he ran into them instead of playing dumb while his fingers itched to help.  Sarah could tease him with Diana… the two had oddly similar personalities as strong women.  Elizabeth wouldn’t have to worry so much about them in the field as she would know that he could protect Peter.  June would get to know about the additional security he had added.  Basically, he would finally be able to be himself with the people who mattered to him most.

Eagerly anticipating the chance to experience it all for real, Neal drifted off to sleep again in the hopes he would be able to begin soon.

I, I did it all

The next time Neal woke up, he was surprised to open his eyes to see that none of his friends were in the room. 

In only a few moments, he discovered why when a couple of nurses entered the room and began to disconnect some of the equipment before shifting them to be removed from the room.  Once they were finished removing the unnecessary equipment, the nurses proceeded to make sure that Neal got fresh bedding, was refreshed, and comfortable again before they left him to rest.

Tired out by the activity, Neal settled back to sleep.  He was stronger, but not yet ready to be moving about.

I, I did it all

Quietly growing stronger, Neal continued to wake more often for longer periods of time.  Although he didn’t always open his eyes for the others to see, he did continue to listen whenever he was alert enough to do so.  Slowly, their voices, including Peter’s, got more cheerful and they got more eager for the day when Neal would be strong enough to talk to them.  Day by day, Neal grew closer to reaching that goal.

I owned every second

Opening his eyes again, Neal reached a point where he was tired of sleeping.  Yawning contentedly, he watched as his friends chatted to the side of the room.  At first they didn’t notice him, so he simply watched them with a smile.

That this world could give

While he watched, Peter and Chuck got into an animated conversation about their experiences in the field.  They recounted tales of playing comedic roles, the amusing expressions on the criminal’s faces, and all of the other crazy and unexpected situations that they had found themselves in.

Snickering softly in response to one tale, Neal knew that Chuck was over dramatizing it based off of the reports… or the reports had been down played?  Either way, the story was still detailed in such a way as to cause more amusement than worry.  After all, who couldn’t escape from a terrorist driving at twenty two miles an hour?

Peter returned with a story about Neal playing a clever trick on their mark in an effort to make him accidently tell how he committed his crime.  When it worked, he recounted just how comedic the man had looked when he realized what he had just done.  Laughing, Peter was unable to hold back his humor at the memory.

I saw so many places

Elizabeth got into the conversation as she expressed her enjoyment at hearing some of the tales they had to share.

“It sounds so interesting when you turn your cases into stories.  Almost like the cases that Watson wrote about Sherlock Holmes.”  Grinning, she teased.  “Could you imagine how popular his paintings would be if Neal turned the stories into pictures?”

And things that I did girl

There were stories she would never want to see in picture, but there were aspects that could make for a nice painting or two.  “I could give it a shot… sometime.” 

His voice sounded rather croaked and it wasn’t strong, but it was music to their ears.

“Neal!”  Three voices were excited to see him not only awake, but to hear his voice for the first time in weeks.

With every broken bone

In a rush, they all moved to stand near to him.

Peter ruffled his hair lightly like he was his younger brother before moving his hand to rest gently on his shoulder furthest from his injury.  “Welcome back partner.”  There was a glistening to his eyes and a broad smile on his face.  His sheer joy at seeing Neal doing so much better was obvious.

Lifting his hand, Neal responded by resting it on Peter’s hand comfortingly.  “I’m not ready for the office yet, but it’s good to be more awake again.  It’s getting on time to participate in the conversations instead of simply listening.”

“Well, we are glad to have you getting involved again, Neal.  You’re energy and enthusiasm has been sorely missed.”  Elizabeth was hovering behind Peter knowing he needed the reassurance of Neal’s growing strength for himself, but not willing to be far away as she also needed to see him improving too.

Reaching for Neal’s other hand, Chuck showed his joy at hearing his friend’s voice for the first time in years.  “You have beat death three times buddy.  I’m just glad I got to be here for you this time in more ways than simply picking up the pieces for you.  It’s about time you got something instead of always losing.”

“I always had something… just never all at the same time before.  It’s going to be a lot more interesting when I don’t have to be dead or nothing more than a criminal anymore.”  Although he didn’t mean to be self depreciating, it came off that way to his friends.

Turning Neal’s hand over to squeeze it, Peter gave him a light telling off.  The heavier one would come later.  “You were never just a criminal, Neal.  Even when I didn’t know you were secretly an agent, you were always something more.”  His eyes conveyed his belief that Neal was a dear friend and honorary family member.

“Have you already forgotten that you are the ultimate of super spies?  Do I need to start drilling your self worth into your head now?  Your one of my closest friends, so rest assured that I will return that favor as well if you make me.”  Chuck lightly threatened, but it was a threat he would make good on if need be.

Elizabeth simply glared at him with an expression that spoke volumes.

Smiling to hear their value of him, Neal reassured them.  “I meant in pretend Peter, my role was simply a criminal with no agency training.”  Then he looked to Chuck.  “Don’t worry about me Chuck, I’m just glad to hear that you finally got the point about yourself.  It took you long enough to realize that you really are a superspy in your own right.”  In answer to Elizabeth, he acknowledged her unvoiced speech.  “You don’t have to voice that speech El, the glare carried your point.”

Content in their presence, Neal relaxed and enjoyed their conversation.

I swear I lived

Looking around the room as they chatted, Neal couldn’t help but think that he had defied the odds again.  He had died, although they didn’t focus on telling him, he knew.  After dying twice before, he knew he had died again.  Still, he also knew just as surely that he had lived again.

He was holding the hands of his two dearest friends who had both stood by his side through the situation and Elizabeth was hovering behind Peter showing her support to both of them.  Based on the things he had heard during those times he eavesdropped on their conversations, everyone was around somewhere.

Before losing himself in the conversation of the moment, he allowed himself one last thought.  He had lived!  And he could look forward to having all of his friends present in his life for the first time.  Having been given the chance, he would live to see what else life would have in store.