to love and to hold;
Coda: 1.14: Out of the Box.
They’re worried about him. How could they not be? After what happened on the airstrip with Kate and the jet, and now Neal’s not eating, hasn’t spoken more than a handful of words since they brought him home- not home to June’s place, but home to theirs. It was a sign as to just how deeply Neal had integrated himself into their lives that both Elizabeth and Peter had dropped any and everything they had planned for the next week to better take care of him.
It’d been three days since the explosion and Neal hadn’t left the room they’d made up for him in Peter’s study except for meals (which he barely touched) and bathroom breaks. They’d tried talking to him, tried keeping him occupied and distracted but the blank looks Neal gave them whenever they did so soon put paid to that. They didn’t know what to do. Of course they understood the nature of his grief and that all he wanted was to be left alone to his mourning, but the place Neal was at right now, closeted away and hiding within the confines of his own mind, they knew it was no place for him to be- no healthy place.
They just wanted to help him.
It wasn’t until the third evening, where they were wrapped up in bed together, lying awake and unable to properly sleep, before they had their chance to give Neal the comfort they knew he so desperately needed.
It started with the click of a door being opened, Elizabeth tensing at the sound, her ears prickling for further sound. Then came the soft padding footsteps and the click of another door closing; the bathroom. She relaxed minutely, Peter’s arms wrapping protectively around her waist.
“I wish there was more we could do,” she whispered.
Peter sighed his agreement. “We said we’d give him more time.”
“I know, it’s just…” Elizabeth hesitated, twisting in Peter’s arms to better speak to him. “I hate seeing him like this, Peter.”
They heard the flush of the toilet, the gurgle of water running down the sink, and then the click of the bathroom door being opened. They heard Neal’s footsteps as he made his way back to his room… he faltered, his footsteps pausing just outside their bedroom door.
Peter didn’t need to think about their next move as he unwrapped himself from Elizabeth and climbed out of bed. He was at the door a heartbeat later, peering out into the darkened hallway and the silhouette of Neal standing but paces away, his white sleep shirt a beacon in the darkness.
“Hey,” Peter called to him. Neal looked up but gave no sign of recognition. Peter stepped forward, reaching out to touch at Neal’s arm; it was cold, and even as his fingers closed around his forearm, Peter felt the goosebumps crawling their way up his flesh.
“Hey, it’s okay, Neal,” he spoke again, watching as Neal frowned, first at him and then around the hallway, as if he wasn’t quite sure where he was supposed to be. Peter felt his heart stutter. “Come on, Neal, come to bed.”
He easily led Neal into his own bedroom, his lips twisting a sad smile as he saw Elizabeth had already turned down the covers, shifting over to allow room for Neal in their bed.
“Peter?” Neal’s voice was impossibly soft and scared sounding as he stepped into the room.
“I’m here, Neal,” Peter reassured, squeezing then releasing his arm. “We’re both here.”
Neal nodded in that dazed way they’d become accustomed to since bringing him home before he moved forward, climbing onto the bed and allowing himself to be pulled into Elizabeth’s open arms.
Peter climbed in behind him, drawing the covers up over them both and moving to hug Neal from behind.
Neal lay, tensed, head buried in the crook of Elizabeth’s neck for a long, long time before his body began to shake and he finally, finally, let go and let himself feel for the first time since the explosion.
Peter tightened his arms around Neal whilst Elizabeth stroked his hair and murmured soft words of encouragement and comfort, her lips brushing his forehead every so often as he clung to her.
He met her eyes over Neal’s shuddering form.
This wouldn’t fix anything, they knew, not by a long shot, but it was a start. And if there was anything they could offer Neal now, it was that.