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07 February 2014 @ 04:25 pm
FIC: And Reigns the Winter's Pregnant Silence Still  
Title: And Reigns the Winter's Pregnant Silence Still
Author: pooh_collector
Rating: G
Characters/Pairings: P/E/N
Spoilers: None
Warnings: None
Word Count: 2,175
Summary: Another timestamp to Of Christmases Past, Present and Future. Set between Blow The Bitter Winds Away and The Storm Will Pass, the Spring Will Come. Elizabeth’s fears come to light.
Note: Title from a poem by Helen Hunt Jackson.

Happy Birthday angelita26!



The February air was brisk with a sharp bite in the breeze as Neal stepped out into the bright, blue afternoon. He squinted, his eyes reacting to the glare even behind the lenses of his sunglasses, increasing the pounding in his skull.

He was relieved when he spotted the cab that he had prearranged already waiting for him at the curb. He readjusted the messenger bag holding his sweats and sneakers on his shoulder and made his way slowly down the rehab center’s cement ramp, holding tightly to the handrail, trying to jar his aching head as little as possible.

The headache was a nasty one. He had woken up to a dull ache behind his eyes and had done his best that morning to hide the fact that he wasn’t feeling 100 percent from Peter and El. Since he had come home from inpatient rehab, and almost immediately come down with a wicked cold, Peter and El had hovered relentlessly, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But, Neal didn’t want them to worry. They had devoted too much energy and time to their selfless pursuit of his wellbeing for far too long now. So he had surreptitiously taken three Advil when he went in to take his shower, smiled brightly and ate all four of the pancakes El put on his plate that morning despite a complete lack of appetite, and then left for his day at outpatient therapy.

The Advil had helped initially, but Neal had physical therapy, followed by occupational therapy, followed by speech therapy, all of which he still found exhausting on his best day. And today was definitely not his best day. He struggled for five hours to make his body and his mind comply with the once simple demands that his therapists put on him. Each time he had to think to get the right word out, or process his was through an easy task like tying his own damn shoes or concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other without stumbling his head pounded a little harder, his whole body felt a little wearier. He felt like he was barely holding it together as he finally made his way across the sidewalk and into the backseat of his cab.

The drive back to DeKalb Avenue was blessedly short. Once he made it inside the house, Neal kicked off his shoes, dropped his coat on the back of a chair, dumped his sunglasses on the coffee table and then gingerly curled up on the sofa. He just wanted to rest for a few minutes, to make the pounding settle just a little. Then he would go upstairs, take some more Advil and climb into bed and sleep off the worst of his headache before El and Peter returned home.

***

When El’s last appointment of the day cancelled she saw it as a sign to leave her office early, pick up a roast, some fresh root vegetables and make a hearty dinner on this cold winter’s night. Neal had been doing well over the past three weeks since he had gotten over his cold, but he was still too thin, too fragile and she wanted nothing more than to see him hale and whole again.

When she entered the house, she nearly tripped over the wingtips that were strewn on the floor. They were Neal’s and it really wasn’t like him to leave them out like that. She picked them up and put them to the side, hung up her coat and then carried her groceries into the living room.

Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Neal curled up tightly on the sofa, one arm hugging a pillow, the other thrown over his eyes. It was still hard for her to see him lying so still, as he had for the long weeks that he was comatose.

Satchmo was lying on the floor just beneath Neal and he lifted his head in her direction and thumped his tail briefly before returning to napping with his newest master.

El put the bags down quietly and went over to stand before Neal. She placed a gentle kiss on his head and then pulled the afghan from the back of the sofa and spread it over him. He sighed and snuggled into its warmth.

El closed her eyes for a moment savoring the proof that her lover was sleeping, just sleeping. Then she took her bags into the kitchen, prepared the veggies and the roast and set them into the oven to cook.

With nothing left to do until the roast was done, El returned to the living room, picked up the book that she had been reading and settled into the lounge chair across from where Neal still lay asleep.

She tried to focus on the words of her novel, but they kept blending together into an incomprehensible muddle, her mind and her eyes kept wandering over to Neal, listening to him breathe, watching him as he occasionally shifted on the sofa. Her position, book in hand, next to Neal as he lay there reminded her too much of those days in the hospital, as she read A Christmas Carol, desperately hoping that he could hear her, that he knew somehow how much she needed him and wanted him to come back to them.

***

When Peter opened the door a couple of hours later he was greeting by the wafting aroma of roast beef and an unusually quiet house.

He shed his coat and shoes and then stepped into the living room. Neal was lying curled up on the sofa sleeping and El was folded into the chair across from him. A book lay ignored in her lap, her eyes focused on their partner.

“Hey hon,” Peter greeted quietly.

El turned her head and blinked, noticing Peter’s presence for the first time. “Hi.”

“Everything okay?” Peter asked glancing over toward Neal.

Elizabeth shrugged and turned back toward the sofa again. “He was like that when I got home.”

Peter didn’t like the uncertainty he saw in his wife’s face. “I’m sure he’s fine. He was probably just tired after therapy today.”

El nodded absently.

Peter took hold of the other chair and pulled it closer to where his wife sat. “Hey, what is it?” He asked gently.

El shook her head. “I need get the roast out of the oven.” She stood as she spoke and then headed back toward the kitchen.

Peter waited a moment, unsure whether or not to pursue her and try again. The past few months had been the hardest of his life, a torturous roller coaster of unknowns and fears and hope renewed. Thanks mostly to Neal, he had started to come to terms with all of it, but maybe El hadn’t yet. Maybe, her relentless attempts to feed Neal, to help him with every task, to take care of him in every way imaginable were more than just the mother henning that she was so adept at.

When Peter reached the kitchen, El was standing over the roasting pan, poking at the vegetables with a carving fork. Peter reached around, carefully removed the fork from her hand and then turned her around to face him. “What’s wrong, El?”

She shook her head again. “It’s nothing, it’s irrational.”

“There’s been a lot of irrational going on around here lately.”

That made her nod and smile faintly.

“Tell me,” he pressed.

She hesitated for another moment. “I’m afraid he isn’t going to wake up. That somehow he’ll slip back into a coma and that he’ll never wake up again. The three of us will go to sleep one night and we won’t realize that something is wrong and we’ll lose him.” El looked up at Peter, her impossibly blue eyes wet with unshed tears.

“Intellectually I know that won’t happen, and I have no reason at all to believe that it will, but I can’t seem to help myself. I’m still so afraid of losing him.”

She threw herself into Peter’s arms then, squeezing him tightly. Peter held her back and kissed the top of her head.

“Can I make a confession?” He asked after a moment.

He felt her nod against his chest.

“I’ve had that same fear a time or two myself. You’re right, it’s completely irrational, but the memory of Neal lying in that coma, knowing how close we came to the cutoff point where he was unlikely to ever wake up, sometimes it comes back so sharply, and I get so scared.”

El pulled away just enough so that she could look up into Peter’s face. “I don’t know what we would do without him now.”

“I don’t either,” Peter confessed. “Want to know what I do to fight it?”

El nodded.

“I give him a little kick. Not enough to wake him up, but just enough to make him flinch.”

“You do?” El asked incredulously.

Peter nodded. “Yeah, if he moves, he’s not deeply comatose, right?”

“Peter Burke, I can’t believe you would do that.” She replied, slapping him on the arm.

Peter gave El an unbelieving look. “Yes, you can.”

El laughed, short and sharp. Then she nodded.

“Want to go do it right now? Just to make sure the methodology is sound.” He asked in mock seriousness.

Elizabeth looked at him hard for a moment, and then a sly grin spread across her face. “Let’s.”

Together they stole back into the living room to the side of the sofa. Neal was still lying curled in a ball facing then, one arm still tightly gripping the throw pillow, the other covering his eyes.

“Give it a try,” Peter said.

El looked down at Neal, his face angelic in sleep and thought about how devilish it would be to wake him. So instead of Peter’s kick she ran a hand through his hair and kissed his temple.

Neal sighed, but didn’t move at all.

“That’s not the way you do it,” Peter said as he lifted his foot toward Neal’s knee. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as well balanced as he thought and instead of just a gentle tap Peter ended up kicking Neal’s knee with some force as he pin wheeled his arms to keep from tumbling backwards.

Neal startled and jerked awake from the impact. Peter managed to right himself just in time for Neal to look up at the both of them towering over him. He blinked, confused and then asked, “What’s going on?”

Peter looked sheepish as he tried to cover for his clumsiness. “Dinner’s almost ready.”

“Oh,” Neal replied as he sat up slowly and covered his face with his hands, apparently oblivious to Peter’s actions.

El sat down next him, feeling both a bit guilty for letting Peter make her complicit in his antics and slightly amused by it all and put an arm around Neal’s back. “Are you okay, sweetie?”

Neal took a moment to assess now that he was upright and feeling a little more awake. His headache had receded back to a minor annoyance and his body felt rested and relaxed. He dropped his hands and smiled over at her. “I was pretty tired when I came home from rehab, but I feel fine now.”

After he spoke he noticed a twinge in his knee, like he had recently banged it against the edge of the coffee table. He rubbed at it, feeling for a bruise. “That’s odd; I don’t remember bumping my knee.”

Peter instantly turned red, and El couldn’t help the snort of laughter that erupted from her throat.

“What?” Neal asked looking at El and then up to Peter. “Peter, did you hit me.”

“No,” Peter replied immediately. “Not exactly.”

Neal glared at Peter, waiting for him to explain.

“I sort of kicked you, but I didn’t really mean to.”

A light bulb slowly came on in Neal’s head ignited by half-remembered feelings from the middle of the night. “You’ve been kicking me during the night.”

Peter’s face went from red to dark crimson and he sank down into the chair across from the sofa. “Um, yeah, but just a couple of times. And, I wasn’t trying to wake you up.”

To Peter and El’s surprise Neal started laughing, hard, rocking back on the sofa. “Oh, Peter,” he said once he was finally able to pull himself together. “That’s priceless. “

“You’re not mad?” Peter felt compelled to ask.

“No, of course not,” Neal replied seriously. Then he laughed again briefly. “How could I possibly be mad at you for caring enough to need to be reassured that I’m okay?” Neal shook his head. “How could it possibly make me mad to know that you love me that much?”

Neal looked at them both to be sure that his words had sunk in. “But you know,” he continued with a mischievous lilt in his voice, “There are much more enjoyable ways to check my level of consciousness. And maybe after dinner, we should try out a few.”


 
 
 
angelita26: Matt - Happyangelita26 on February 7th, 2014 11:41 pm (UTC)
!!! A story from my favorite 'verse!! How exciting!

I absolutely loved this so, so much. I felt so bad for Neal because he was feeling poorly, and then for Elizabeth because she was so worried and then for Peter because of his worries. And then Peter made me laugh with his pin-wheeling arms and Neal's innocent 'I don't remember hitting my knee' - they all care so much for each other - I just want to hug them all and never let go.

Thank you very much, little bear! *HUGS*
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on February 8th, 2014 12:01 am (UTC)
You are very welcome!

Happy Birthday!!!! And, many, many, many more!
kanarek13kanarek13 on February 7th, 2014 11:43 pm (UTC)
Oooooh, another timestamp to Christmases \o/ It's like Christmas in itself, really :D

Love it that we got to learn a bit about how El was/is coping with what happened. Awww, they are both so afraid of losing Neal, but then again, who can blame them when they love him so much and he loves them ♥

But LOL about Peter's method of checking whether Neal is fine, heeee :D And that epic fail of a demonstration D :D :D They are beyond adorable \o/ But Neal is definitely feeling better if he's already getting naughty thoughts :P

Wonderful as always ♥ Thank you :D

And happy birthday, Ang \o/
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on February 8th, 2014 12:02 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I thought it might just be time to inject just a bit of humor into this verse.
Frith: El+Neal+Peterfrith_in_thorns on February 8th, 2014 02:05 am (UTC)
Awww, this was so cute, and also sad with them both worrying over Neal like that. And it also made me laugh, poor Peter XD
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on February 9th, 2014 08:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much.

I'm glad you enjoyed it and that more poor attempt to inject some humor into this verse worked.
caseyf123 on February 9th, 2014 04:02 am (UTC)
Peter kicking Neal to make sure he was alive--too funny! I can just picture him doing it. Feel so bad that Neal is still struggling with trying to recover from his injuries and Peter and El are still so traumatized over seeing him go through it. Love the way Peter and El are so protective of Neal. Another great chapter as always.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on February 9th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad to hear that you are still enjoying this verse.
scarym1scarym1 on February 9th, 2014 07:02 pm (UTC)
That was great. Very funny & Moving. Love how concerned El is and Peter's confession was Priceless. : ) : ) It was sweet how Neal figured it all out in the end and told them that he loved them.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on February 9th, 2014 08:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I thought it was time to inject more of El's concerns into the verse.

Glad you liked it.
love_82 on February 11th, 2014 12:30 am (UTC)
I am happy to see another story in this verse. The original story was so wonderful and I love all of these timestamps to it.

Poor Neal having such a bad headache. I liked seeing El's fears here. I started giggling at this point

“Peter Burke, I can’t believe you would do that.” She replied, slapping him on the arm.

Peter gave El an unbelieving look. “Yes, you can.”


And Peter's failed attempt to demonstrate. :D Peter. <3

They all love each other so much. <3

Thanks for sharing.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on February 15th, 2014 03:50 pm (UTC)
You're welcome.

I'm glad you enjoyed it and that the humor came through.

Thanks for reading and commenting!
joy2190joy2190 on June 9th, 2014 08:18 pm (UTC)
Poor Neal, like he's not been through enough without Peter kicking him all night.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on June 22nd, 2014 10:06 pm (UTC)
Peter's just trying to get some payback for all the sleepless nights he had while Neal was in his coma.