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05 November 2013 @ 01:38 pm
FIC: Under the Weather  
Title: Under the Weather
Rating:  PG13
Warnings:  None
Genre:  H/C, Angst
Pairings: None
Word Count: ~ 1,940
Spoilers: Major season five stuff, especially for 5.03.
Summary:  Tag to 5.03.  Sick!Neal.  Written for ivorysilk, because she commanded it, AGAIN.  ;)  This will most certainly be jossed on Thursday.


Under the Weather

It was a dark and stormy night.

Neal groaned and rolled over onto his back breathing roughly through his mouth.  He wasn’t sure whether it was the thunder and lightning that had awoken him or the nauseated feeling growing in his stomach.  He cursed softly which turned into a cough, which made his nausea escalate even further.

He wanted to curl up into a ball and go back to sleep.  But lying on his side was making him feel worse instead of better and his body was too tense to let him drift back into sleep.

He scooted up slightly against his headboard, bunching the pillows up under this shoulders and head and then slowly pulled his knees up so that his feet were flat on the bed.  The position was less stressful on his aching back and afforded him a view out the balcony doors to the late summer storm raging outside.

The thunder was intense enough that he could feel it vibrating through his bed.  The flashes of lightening were brilliant, illuminating his entire apartment in an eerie white glow for their duration.

Neal tried to let the weather distract him as he breathed slowly through his nose struggling to keep his nausea at bay and his headache to a dull throb.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t working very well.

He hated throwing up, the horrible burning taste in his throat and mouth, the painful clench in his stomach, the tender feeling left over in his ribs.  For as long as he could remember it had always been his philosophy to do whatever he could to hold off the inevitable in the hope that his nausea would simply dissipate and leave him be.

Feeling overheated, he pushed his covers carefully off to the side trying not the jar his sensitive stomach.  Two minutes later, goose pimples rose on his arms and his body began shivering from the chill that ran through him.  He tried to grab for his discarded blanket but in his weakened state he overbalanced and tumbled to his side jarring his belly beyond its capacity to recover.

He pulled himself out of the bed as quickly as he could, lurched through his apartment from the bed to the wall, to the dining table to the hallway door to the bathroom swallowing convulsively the entire distance.

He managed to drop to his knees in front of the toilet just in time to completely lose control of the situation.

He threw up for what seemed like an endless amount of time.  One hand pressed to his stressed ribs, the other hugging the rim of the bowl.  He throw up until there was nothing left in his stomach.  And, then he threw up bile for some time after that.  And, then he dry heaved and dry heaved some more.

Eventually his stomach settled.  His head was pounding, his knees and his back screaming in pain from his position on the floor, but he was finally done throwing up.

There was no way that he could make it to his feet, let alone the miles back to his bed, so after flushing the toilet he eased himself down to the porcelain tiled floor instead and curled in on his sore stomach muscles.  Almost as an afterthought Neal reached up and tugged on the corner of his bath towel dragging it from around the bar to fall across his midsection and down along his thighs in a meager attempt to keep warm.

Even in this interior space, Neal could still hear the thunder rumbling outside.  Now that he no longer had to concentrate on keeping his sickness at bay, Neal’s mind flashed back to standing in the rain earlier in the evening, next to Peter, on a sidewalk above the body of the man who had been his handler.  The man whose death Neal was likely responsible for.

At the thought Neal’s stomach gave another small lurch.  Despite a desire to keep the younger man at a distance, Siegel had been growing on him.  Neal had clearly underestimated the agent’s attention to detail in regard to Neal’s tracking data and Siegel had likely paid the ultimate price for it.  He should have suspected that Siegel could be following him.  He should have insisted on a much more discrete, crowded and preferably indoor meeting place with Hagan. 

Neal closed his eyes against the image of Siegel’s white shirt soaked through with his red blood.  The stark contrast had been hard to look away from that afternoon and it was even harder to dismiss from his thoughts now.

Neal shivered against the hard tiles and pulled his knees a little tighter toward his chest.  When Peter reviewed Neal’s tracking data, and Neal knew he would, he would know exactly what Siegel had been doing in that part of town and the shit storm that Neal had desperately been trying to tap dance around would hit him harder than this stomach bug that had him lying helpless on the floor.

Eventually Neal’s exhaustion got the better of the aches, pains and constant trembling and Neal drifted off to sleep.

He awoke to the feeling of a warm hand pressed against his forehead.  “Neal?”  Peter’s voice sounded loud in the confines of the small bathroom.

“Mmmm,” he replied, hoping that Peter had heard the words he wanted to utter I’m sorry, please help me, in his pitiful murmur.      

“Come on Neal, wake up for me now.”  Peter’s hand grew heavier as it moved gently from his forehead through his matted hair.

Neal sighed and suddenly the cold tile floor beneath him felt unbearably hard and uncomfortable.  He groaned and tried to unfurl his legs so that he could roll onto his back.  He wasn’t prepared for how much his body had stiffened up in the time that he had been sleeping.

“Take it easy.”  Peter said from somewhere above him.

Neal kept moving slowly and eventually he was flat on his back.  He opened his eyes squinting against the brightness cast by the overhead light.

“Peter, what are you doing here?”

“You didn’t answer your phone when I called you this morning.  And, then you didn’t show up at the office.  So I came to check on you.”

Neal closed his eyes again, confused.  “But you’re not my handler anymore.”

Peter sighed.  “Technically until such time that someone else is assigned, I am indeed your handler.”

“Oh,” was all Neal could manage in response.

“Come on, let’s get you off this freezing floor and back into your bed.  You’re like a damn icicle.”

Neal nodded slowly, and then allowed Peter to manhandle him up and onto his feet.  A flare of white hot pain bolted through Neal’s brain and he wavered.  It subsided into a nasty throb quickly and with Peter’s arm supporting him Neal managed to stay on his feet.  He was very afraid that the change in position was going to make him nauseated again, but his stomach thankfully stayed sore but still.

“You doing okay?”  Peter asked once Neal seemed relatively stable.

Neal swallowed against his exhaustion and gave a short nod.  “Yeah.”

They moved slowly, glacially, from the bathroom to Neal’s bed.  Despite the pace Neal was shaking from the exertion by the time Peter helped him down onto the mattress.  Neal sat there on the edge of the bed for a moment trying to get used to that position and waiting until he had enough energy to engage in a controlled fall so he could get prone and go back to sleep.

“Do I need to take you to the ER?”  Peter asked as he pressed an open bottle of water into Neal’s hand.

Neal shook his head and regretted the move instantly when his headache escalated again.  “The worst is over.  I just need to sleep.”

“Drink some of that water first.  You’re dehydrated.”

Neal knew Peter was right, so despite his fear of upsetting the delicate truce he currently seemed to have with his rebellious stomach he lifted his shaking hand to his mouth and sipped at the cold water slowly.  It tasted exquisite and he had to resist the urge to gulp the whole bottle down.

He let himself drink half of it, slowly and then he placed the bottle on the nightstand and carefully lay down.  It felt wonderful to be vertical again, in his own bed, with his soft feather pillow beneath his head.

Neal glanced out the French doors.  It was still raining.  The thunder and lightning had passed, but the rain didn’t seem to want to release its hold on the city.

Neal zoned out for several minutes watching the drops as they splashed against the glass doors trying to keep his mind from wandering back to the day before and the rain splashing against the cold body of David Siegel.

The bed dipped beside Neal’s legs pulling him from the dark thoughts of shame and guilt that were yet again dominating his thoughts.

“Neal?”  Neal blinked his dry, red eyes and looked over at Peter.

Peter was regarding him with an expression that Neal recognized all too well.  “You pulled my tracking data.”

Peter nodded, his mouth forming a thin line that when directed at Neal always showed his disappointment.

Unexpectedly it occurred to Neal that he might be in the very same position that Peter had been in just a week ago, accused of a murder he didn’t commit.

He pulled himself up against the headboard, struggling to keep his trepidation from becoming all consuming.  “I didn’t kill him Peter.”

“I know,” Peter replied quickly, placing a reassuring hand on Neal’s knee.  “I know.  Your data shows you had already left the area before time of death.”

Neal exhaled, closing his eyes.

“Did you know that Siegel followed you there?”

Neal shook his head.  He was so tired.  He couldn’t have this conversation now.  He slid back down in the bed and tried to turn away from Peter.

The con was beyond him, he was too sick to prevaricate, but he couldn’t admit the truth to Peter either.  If he confessed to meeting Hagan, willingly, then the fragile house of cards that Neal had been constructing since before he helped secure Peter’s release would blow over and Neal would lose everything, again.

Neal felt tears prickling at the corners of his eyes.  “Can we talk about this tomorrow?”  He asked, hopefully.

“Need time to come up with your story?”    

Neal flinched under the hand that still rested on his knee and opened his eyes to glare at Peter.

It was the truth, Neal couldn’t refute that, but as usual the world wasn’t as black and white as Peter always tried to make it.  Neal was living in the gray in between, a gray that was undeniably darkening more and more toward the black.      

Against his will a single tear dropped onto his cheek and the anguish that Neal felt over his father’s indecency and deceit, Peter’s false incrimination, Hagan’s twisted games and David Siegel’s needless death came sliding down with it.

“Yes, I do.”  He admitted, his voice soft and quavering.      

Neal’s uncharacteristic admission appeared to take Peter aback.  The righteous look that Neal had been the object of fell away and Peter’s face softened into a look that Neal hadn’t seen on his former partner in a long time.

He patted Neal’s knee gently.  “Okay,” was all he said.

It was enough for Neal, for now.  He closed his eyes again and allowed the rhythm of the rain drumming against the skylight and the French doors to lull him into a painless sleep.
 
 
 
kanarek13kanarek13 on November 5th, 2013 08:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, Neal ♥ Poor guy, it's really becoming just too much for him, awwww. I would definitely love a scene like that in canon, just the right amount of whump, and Peter trying to help and get to the bottom of what is going on ♥

Awww *hugs them both*

Wonderful story \o/ Thank you :D
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 5th, 2013 09:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I would love a scene just like this in canon myself, which was why I had to write it, since we'll never get it from Eastin.

I am working on your prompt by the way, over 3000 words in. I hope to have it posted sometime this weekend.
kanarek13kanarek13 on November 5th, 2013 09:43 pm (UTC)
YAY \o/ Oh, wow, you just totally made my evening... and my weekend :P Thank you :D
elrhiarhodan: Neal - Icebagelrhiarhodan on November 5th, 2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
I was going to harass you a little for your false pretenses... "A dark and stormy night" indeed. Clearly you did that just to torment a certain segment of your flist.

But this is so wonderfully painful and real and while it might not be canon, it's still brilliant and probably a hell of a lot better than what we're going to get on Thursday.

Thank you!
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 5th, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you!!!!

This really is more along the lines of what I would like to see happen Thursday.

Neal truly sacrificed himself for Peter and he is paying a very heavy price for it. At some point I hope Peter buys a clue and figures out what Neal was willing to go through for him.

Also, the cracky porn got me started on that Bulwer-Lytton quote. I may have to see just how many fics I can open with it. Because who doesn't like purple prose? ;)
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: White Collar - Peter & Nealembroiderama on November 5th, 2013 09:53 pm (UTC)
Aw, Neeeaaaaal. This is wonderful--I love it! (And you! And Ivory! :D)
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 6th, 2013 02:32 am (UTC)
Aww, thanks E!

Love you too!
miri_thompsonmiri_thompson on November 5th, 2013 10:45 pm (UTC)
I love Peter's simple "Okay." It hearkens back to that faith Peter spoke of last season--the faith he and Neal had that whatever the other one was doing, there was a good reason. Beautifully done!
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 6th, 2013 02:35 am (UTC)
Yeah, it does. I didn't even remember that scene when I wrote this. Thanks for pointing it out. It makes me feel even more strongly about my soon to be completely jossed fic.

I hope Eastin gets on board with getting our boys back on the same page soon.

And, thanks so much for reading!
angelita26: NealDruggedangelita26 on November 6th, 2013 02:02 am (UTC)
Awwwwww, poor puking Neal! *snuggles him gently*

I love how Neal leans on Peter here and Peter is willing to give him time to get his shit together. They're too cute and I just want to snuggle them both.

Thank you for sharing!

(PS Miss you!)
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 6th, 2013 02:37 am (UTC)
I want to snuggle them too and then buy Peter a clue. He needs to get on board with what Neal has sacrificed to get him out of prison, soon.

(P.S. I miss you too!!!!)
algeibanalgeiban on November 6th, 2013 02:34 am (UTC)
Yay - sick!Neal and hope for our boys to be okay again! What more could you want?
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 6th, 2013 02:40 am (UTC)
For Eastin to read this and somehow get it into this week's ep. I'm afraid it's still going to be awhile before the boys get it together in canon.

I'm glad you liked it!
Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on November 6th, 2013 04:51 am (UTC)
There is never enough sick!fic in the world :) Loved Peter worrying about Neal and coming to find him <3
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 10th, 2013 05:58 pm (UTC)
I agree, more sick!fic!

I'm glad you liked it.

Thanks for reading!
Stacysahiya on November 9th, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
Oh Neal. This totally broke my heart, especially the bit at the end.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 10th, 2013 05:57 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry I broke your heart. ;)

But, I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Thanks for reading.
ocmiss: Nealocmiss on November 12th, 2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
Aaaw, poor Neal :(
I really felt bad for him in there, especially when he admitted to needing time to come up with a story (means he's REALLY not feeling well). Stop harassing the guy, Peter!
Heartwarming fic, thank you very much !
pipiljpipilj on November 22nd, 2013 01:21 pm (UTC)
Aww poor Neal.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 25th, 2013 04:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading!