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16 July 2012 @ 09:47 pm
FIC: Dreaming in Kiswahili  

Title: Dreaming in Kiswahili
Rating: PG13
Pairing: OT3 P/E/N
Word Count: ~ 6,250 for the story and another 550 in Author’s Note at the end including translations of the Swahili.
Spoilers: None
Time frame: Post Kate, Pre Adler
Summary: When I read on Neal’s wanted poster that one of his many languages was Conversational Swahili, I couldn’t help myself. It’s my second language. So Neal gets sick, Swahili happens and then he gets hurt by the bad guys. Hurt and comfort abound.

Note: This was written for Whumpapalooza at whitecollarhc. This is unbetaed. My apologies for any booboos.

Dreaming in Kiswahili

The dala dala was packed tighter than a can of sardines, hot, sweating bodies elbow to elbow and knee to knee.  The air was thick, searing, stifling.

An old woman with a cane boarded and Neal gave his seat up for her.  The ceiling of the dala dala was low so he was forced to stand with his shoulders slumped and his knees partially bent.  He felt a bit like a pretzel in a deep fryer.

Neal didn’t particularly like Dar.  Regardless of the time of year it was always sweltering.  It was loud, crowded, smelly, and exhausting.  It had one redeeming quality, the Tanzanian people.  Neal adored them.  They were warm, open, giving even when they had nothing, and so, so proud of their nation and their national language, Kiswahili.  Neal started out just learning some simple greetings because it made the people he encountered so happy whenever he even opened a conversation in their language.  From there it was easy to keep going and add more words to his vocabulary.  The grammar was a bit tough but Tanzanians are very forgiving. 

Ten minutes later they turned onto Makataba Street and Neal maneuvered his way out of the sliding door and onto the bustling, noisy street.  The heat as so oppressive that Neal felt like the air itself was pushing him back so that he was moving at half speed while the native Tanzanians flew past him.  

He passed St. Alban’s Church, crossed the street and sauntered up the walk to the YWCA entrance.  It was immediately cooler in the vestibule, and quieter.  Neal took a deep breath, straightened the strap on his shoulder bag and moved across the dingy black and white checkered linoleum toward the little front office. 

Mama Mkunde was sitting in the small room, her head bent over her paperwork, her glasses still held together by a nail threaded through where the rim screw should be. 

Neal rapped lightly on the open top of the Dutch door.  “Hodi.”

“Karibu.”  Mama said, her head still bent toward her desk. 


“Marahaba,” she replied looking up from her work.  She smiled broadly when she recognized Neal standing in the doorway.

“Habari za asabuhi?” He asked customarily.

“Nzuri, nzuri.  Na wewe?

“Salaama tu.” Neal replied smiling brightly at her.  Mama was a true sweetheart and he loved seeing her every time he came to Dar.

“Unahataji chumba?  Mama asked.


“Nina moja kwa wewe tu.” She said with a mischievous smile.

Neal laughed.  “Asante mama.”

“Nina kitu kwa wewe.”  He said as he opened his bag and started searching for the little eyeglass kit he had purchased at the expensive sunglasses shop at Sea Cliff.


“Ndiyo.” He replied as he pulled the small cylinder from his bag.

“Kunipa degage yako tafadhali.”

Mama frowned slightly, but removed her glasses and handed them to Neal.  In under three minutes he had replaced the nail with a shiny new screw and Mama’s glasses were as good as new.

He handed them back to her with a flourish. 

“Oh asante sana.”  Mama exclaimed as she placed the glasses back on her nose.

“Karibu sana.”  It felt good to do something for someone else with no expectations, no promise of reward except a smile and a thank you.

Half an hour later Neal was ensconced in a small, single room on the second floor of the Y.  He was exhausted from the trip down from Arusha even though he had taken the risk of riding the expensive tourist bus.  He tried to stay under the radar, which was one of the reasons he really liked the Y, it was filled with young adventurers and aid workers and no one batted an eye at him here.

He turned on the overhead fan, took off his shirt and his khakis and lay down on the bed closing his eyes.  He felt overly hot, even for Dar, his head hurt terribly and he was pretty sure he no longer had the strength to move.  He could hear people wandering about in the hallway, doors opening and closing, friends talking as they moved to and from the stairwell or the bathrooms.  He heard the whoosh of the fan overhead, felt the air move across his overheated body.  The pain in his head grew and he tried to concentrate on breathing through it knowing he just didn’t have it in him to get up and get some ibuprophen from his bag. 

He was probably sick.  He should probably do something about that.  Later, when he could move again, he would go to the pharmacy and get something. 

*  * *

Neal woke up with a familiar feeling of malaise and a terrible headache.  Daylight was streaming into his room from the skylights above turning his tiger oak bed a warm orange.  He had been dreaming of Tanzania and the first time he had malaria.  It had been years since he had a recurrence.  It didn’t seem possible for him to have it again, but there was absolutely nothing else like a malaria headache. 

Neal shut his eyes against the light and sighed heavily.  He took a moment to gather his strength and then reached over to this nightstand and grabbed up his phone. 

It took a moment to think through the haze of the fever and the headache but finally Neal remembered Moz’s current phone number and keyed it into the device. 

Moz picked up on the first ring.  “Hey, I’m on my way to the diner for breakfast.  You should join me.  I have idea that we should discuss.”

“Moz,” Neal croaked.  “I need a favor.”  Neal was breathless by the time he finished that simple sentence. 

“What happened?  Where are you?  What has the suit done to you now?”

Mozzie was talking too fast for Neal to process what he was saying, so he just ignored him and plowed ahead.  “I need you to get something for me and bring it to June’s.”

“Whatever you need man.”  Moz replied seriously.

“Coartem, or whatever the newest malaria med is.”

“Neal, are you sure?  It’s been years.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m sure.”  Neal huffed, ill and exasperated. 

“I’ll be there within the hour.”

“Thanks, Moz.”

Neal hung up and dropped the phone beside him on the bed.  He didn’t have the energy to return it to the nightstand.  He’d give up the Raphael to Sarah right now in trade for three Advil and a glass of water. 

On the bright side it was Saturday and Neal would have almost 48 hours of rest and meds before he needed to present himself at the office.  Peter and Elizabeth had gone to El’s sister’s place for the weekend for some family event so they wouldn't be expecting him in Brooklyn at all.

Mozzie arrived about 45 minutes later medication in hand.  He helped Neal to the bathroom, plied him with pills and water and crackers and ginger ale. 

Neal drank as much water as he could, took all the pills dutifully, and managed two crackers and one sip of the ginger ale.  Then he was done.  He slept fitfully for the rest of the day, sometimes not even certain through the fever and the exhaustion whether he was actually asleep or awake.  He kept hearing the whir of the ceiling fan, the one from his little room in Dar. 

Mozzie showed up at odd times throughout the weekend making sure Neal took his meds, that he had plenty of water and that he ate.  Moz had very limited success with that last one; Neal was just too drained and too sick to eat more than a few crackers with his medication. 

By Sunday evening Neal was feeling a little better.  His fever had abated.  He managed to eat a couple of slices of toast sitting up in his bed and his headache had dulled significantly.  He hoped that he would feel even more human by the morning. 

He awoke to the sound of his phone ringing.  Dawn had only just begun to break.  He registered the fact that he still felt like crap as he reached over to the nightstand for his phone.

It was Flannigan.


“Neal, sorry to be calling so early, but everything is in place.  I’ll have someone pick you up on the corner of 5th and 35th in an hour.”

“Sure, I’ll be ready.” 

Well, this sucks, Neal thought as he attempted to gather the necessary energy to get out of bed and into the shower.  They had been working on the Flannigan case for nearly a month and today would of course be the day that things came to a head. 

Flannigan was the very careful leader of an international ring of counterfeiters.  From the intelligence and the information that Peter, Neal and the team had been able to gather over the last several weeks, Flannigan was ultimately responsible for more than 500 million in forged bonds, securities and stock certificates.  Flannigan was smart and had done an amazing job of keeping himself clean, his name was linked to none of the forgeries and all of his personal accounts looked to be completely legitimate. 

Neal had known of Flannigan before he went to prison, but had never worked with the man.  And, Flannigan had certainly known of Neal, after his highly publicized bond forgery trial.  It had been easy to arrange for them to coincidentally meet at an upscale bar that Flannigan liked to frequent just off Park Ave.   

And, today was the day that their first and last job together would begin and end.

Neal hit speed dial one on his phone.  When Peter picked up Neal informed him about the call from Flannigan.  Peter would need to get to Neal’s in the next 40 minutes to remove his anklet in time for Neal to get to their meeting place.

Neal had showered, dressed and downed three Advil and his Coartem, stuffing the packet with his last remaining dose in his jacket pocket just as Peter arrived. 

Peter took one look at Neal and almost called the whole thing off.  Neal looked exhausted, deep, dark circles under sunken eyes, pale skin, white lips and a furrowed brow. 

“Hey, want to explain to me why you looked like death warmed over?”  Peter asked, as he ran his hand gently through the still damp curls on Neal’s head. 

“Not really, no. I’ll be late for the meet if we don’t leave now.”  Neal stated sharply as he hoisted his left foot onto one of the dining room chairs revealing his anklet. 

“Okay,” Peter drawled.  He removed Neal’s tracker and then Neal led the way downstairs and out onto the street.  

Fifteen minutes later Peter pulled into a parking space about two blocks from the corner of 5th and 35th.  Jones was there waiting with the GPS watch.  The van was parked across the street.

As Neal was securing the watch to his wrist, Peter said softly “Are you sure you’re up for this?”  His worry for his very ill looking partner had only grown on the trip downtown.

Neal looked up at him, his face grim, determined.  “I have to be Peter.  We’ve been working on this for too long to let Flannigan walk away because I’m a bit under the weather.”

Peter’s look was incredulous.  “A bit under the weather?”

“Please Peter, leave it alone.  I’ll be okay, I promise.”  Neal surreptitiously squeezed Peter’s elbow in a gesture that was meant to be reassuring, but left Peter feeling even more concerned.  

Peter scrutinized Neal for a long moment balancing Neal’s words against how ill he looked and then nodded this assent.  “Okay.  We’ll be right behind you in the van.  Anything feels wrong, anything at all, you give the signal.  Got me?”

“Caffeine fix.”  Neal replied, using their pre-arranged signal to let Peter know he understood.

Then he was off down the block, he only had a couple of minutes to make it to the rendezvous.

*  * *

Neal sat in the back of the green sedan that had picked him up, a blindfold covering his eyes.  Old instinct had him attempting to gauge the distances and count the turns they were taking, but his headache was making the task herculean.  So instead he attempted to sit back and use the time to gather his strength for the task ahead.  Besides, he knew Peter and the team were right behind him.

Jones was watching the GPS monitor closely as they approached the Midtown Tunnel.  It glitched for moment, and Jones held his breath then it came back.  Then the van entered the tunnel and Jones lost the signal again.  He waited hoping, but it didn’t return.

“Peter, we may have problem here.”

“What is it?” 

“The GPS signal cut out.”

“They have no choice but to go through to Queens.  I’m sure we’ll pick up the signal again once we’re all out of the tunnel.” 

Jones nodded, his eyes never leaving the display.

Peter listened intently to the two-way, but there was no sound coming from Neal’s end, it was either completely quiet in the car or they were out of range.  He tried not to worry, but the way Neal looked this morning kept haunting him.   

* * *

Neal felt hands on his body and startled.  At first he thought the malaria was making him hallucinate.  Then his phone and the watch were removed.  He felt moving air as the window was opened and his links to safety were tossed away.

So much for Peter and the team being right behind him.

At least he had a really good idea of where he was.  There was a very distinctive quality to the sound in a tunnel and considering how short a time they had driven from 35th, it had to be the Midtown.  Neal was on his way to Queens.

The moment they exited the tunnel, Neal did his best to pay attention to their path.  Across the Pulaski Bridge, down McGuinness to Greenpoint.  They ended up in what Neal assumed was a warehouse parking lot about a block from the river.   

When the car stopped and Neal stopped focusing on where they were going he realized that his fever had returned and his headache had reached near blinding proportions.  This day was really going downhill fast.

Neal was ushered inside the warehouse and the blindfold finally removed.  Ian Flannigan stood before him. 

“So Neal, we have ourselves a bit of dilemma.  I know about your association with the FBI.  Under normal circumstances I would have simply cut ties when I found out, changed the details of the job, kept things neat, clean.  But, I’m afraid I have a rather urgent need for someone with your skills.  So here we find ourselves.”

Neal hoped that Peter was hearing this, because it didn’t bode well.

* * *

Peter was solid as a rock on the outside, but on the inside he was freaking out.  They had exited the tunnel to find the GPS signal coming from behind them, back inside the tunnel, unmoving.  It took 30 minutes to get NYPD to close off the tunnel so they could go in to find the watch.  Thankfully, Neal was no longer attached to it, but that fact posed another set of problems.  To make matters worse Neal’s cell phone was found crushed a hundred yards from the watch.

Now Peter’s only hope was that Neal still had the two-way in his ear and that they could get close enough to start picking up his signal again, before it was too late.

They had an APB out on the car, but Peter didn’t think there was much hope in finding it anytime soon. 

* * *

Neal had been working to match the inks on the bond Flannigan wanted to forge for a couple of hours.  He was more or less faking it, in part to stall for time, in part because he was honestly incapable of doing the work in his current condition.  His head hurt so bad it was messing with his vision, or maybe that was the fever, he could no longer tell.  He wanted to lay down, just for a little while to rest, but Flannigan was being rather insistent and Neal was pretty sure that he planned on killing Neal when this was over anyway, so why bother giving Neal the time to feel better.

There was a crackling noise in his left ear.  He shook his head to try to clear the fog, but that only served to ratchet his headache up another notch.

“Neal, do yo… py?”  Strange, the noise in his ear sounded a bit like Peter.

“Neal, come in.”  Great, now he was having auditory hallucinations.  Didn’t that just take the cake?

He tried to ignore the voices in his head or more specifically, Peter’s voice in his head and focus on the inks. 

“Neal, answer me.”  Man, the Peter in his head was really demanding, just like the real Peter.

“What?”  He mumbled.  Neal was pretty incapable of ignoring Peter when he took that tone, even if he was only a hallucination. 

“Neal, thank god.  Can you give me your location?”

“Huh?”  Why did the Peter in his head need to know where Neal was?

“Neal, can you tell me where you are.”  Peter repeated.

“What?”  Neal asked.  He was having a really hard time following what was going on at the moment.  Maybe if he could lie down for a little while he would feel better. 

“Caffrey, shut the hell up and get back to work.”  Neal started.  He had forgotten that he wasn’t alone in the room.

Peter heard Flannigan’s goon yelling at Neal through the two-way.

“Neal, I’m going to ask you some questions.  I want to you hum once for yes and twice for no, okay?”


“Do you know where you are?”  The Peter in his head sure was asking a lot of questions.


Peter sighed, clearly relieved.

“Okay, I’m going to name some streets, hum when I name the one you’re on.  Clay, Dupont, Eagle, Freeman, Green, Huron…”

What was Peter going on about?  Were these code words he was supposed to remember?  God, his head hurt.

“Kent, Greenpoint…”

Greenpoint, that one sounded familiar.  Neal hummed.

“Good Neal, that’s good.  Are you away from the river?”

Neal didn’t think so, “Hmmm, hmmm.”

“Near the river.” 


“Okay, four blocks?”

“Hmmm, hmmm.”


“Hmmm, hmmm.”

“Caffrey!  Shut the hell up.”

Neal jumped again.  He had been concentrating so hard on the Peter voice in his head that he had forgotten where we was.  Where was he?  And, why did his head hurt so much?

Neal moaned as a particularly brutal stab of pain cut through his right temple.

That was apparently the last straw for Flannigan’s henchman.  He got up from the crate he had been sitting on, crossed over to Neal and cuffed him viciously on the side of the head.

Neal went flying out of his chair, his head slamming violently onto the concrete floor.  Briefly he saw stars and then everything abruptly went black.

The sound of the crash was so loud in Peter’s earpiece that he winced. 

“Neal?  Neal, answer me.”  No further sound came through the earpiece except some mumbling, other voices in the room where Neal was.  Wherever that was.

“Diana?” He yelled to the front of the van.

“We’re almost there Boss.  Do you have an exact location?”

“He’s within two blocks of the river.  Hopefully, we’ll find the sedan.”  Please let us find the sedan, Peter prayed.

When Neal woke up there was all kinds of yelling going on.  Flannigan was yelling at someone who was yelling back and then someone was yelling inside of Neal’s head.  It was awfully loud.  All the yelling was making his head hurt and he really just wanted everyone to be quiet.  “Usu!”

Flannigan and his henchman looked over at Neal where he was lying on the floor.  They didn’t look happy, but at least they had listened to him and shut up. 

Now if only the voice in his head would stop yammering.  “Na wewe pia,” he told it.

Flannigan approached him a menacing look on his face.  “You had better stop whatever it is you’re playing at and get back to work Caffrey.”

What had he been working on, Neal wondered.  It didn’t matter.  He was too tired to work and his head hurt too much.  “Naumwa.”

“That’s it.”  Flannigan yelled.  “Collins get him off the floor and back to work.” 

Neal tried to scoot away when Collins, the henchman, approached him but he didn’t really have the strength.  Collins grabbed him by his lapels and hauled him to his feet.  Neal immediately swayed from the change in altitude.  Now he had to add dizzy to his list of symptoms.

Someone, Peter, was still talking in Neal’s head.  But he couldn’t focus enough to hear the words; it was hard enough paying attention to what was going on directly in front of him.

Collins pulled him back over to the table where Neal had been working.  Collins righted the chair and shoved Neal down into it.  Neal groaned. 

“Now Caffrey, get it done.”  Flannigan yelled.

Neal just stared at the supplies laid out before him.  What was it he was supposed to be doing? 

In the meantime, Peter, Jones, Diana and a backup team had found the green sedan and were positioning themselves around the outside of the building. 

“Neal, we’re here.  We’re coming in.”

“Sawa,” Neal whispered.  His vision had begun to fade in and out and gray around the edges.  He didn’t think he was going to be able to stay awake much longer.  Hopefully, the Peter in his head would hurry.

Moments later there was banging and more yelling as the FBI stormed the building. 

Flannigan pulled a gun from the back of his waistband and aimed it at Collins.  “You were supposed to make sure there was nothing on him they could track him with.”

“I did.”  Collins replied.  “I don’t know how they found us.”

Peter saw Flannigan shoot his lackey from across the large open space of the warehouse.  Then he watched horrified as Flannigan turned the gun on Neal firing once.

“Flannigan drop the weapon.”  Peter yelled as he ran the length of the building toward Flannigan, his own gun at the ready.

Flannigan spun, his gun arm still outstretched.  Peter fired and Flannigan went down. 

“Diana.”  Peter said motioning toward the fallen man. 

“On it, boss.”  She said as she ran forward, swept Flannigan’s gun away and kneeled to check the man’s vitals.

Peter had more important concerns than Flannigan at the moment.

Neal was lying on the floor.  There was blood matting the hair on left side of his head and more alarmingly, blood flowing steadily from the gunshot wound to his chest, just above his heart. 

“Neal,” Peter cried as he fell to his knees beside his partner.

Neal’s eyes fluttered open. 

“Peter?”  How had Peter gotten here, he was only in Neal’s head just a moment ago.

“I’m here.  You hold on, okay.”

“Inaumwa.”  Neal slurred. 

“Shhh, it’s okay, you’re gonna be okay.”

“Samahani.  Usamehe?”  Neal sighed and then his eyes closed.

“Hey, Neal, don’t close your eyes.”  Peter said forcefully, while brushing Neal’s sweaty hair away from his forehead.  Neal was burning with fever.  God, what had he done?

“Where the hell is that bus?”  Peter yelled, his guilt and anxiety growing with each drop of blood that spilled from Neal’s chest. 

“Two minutes Peter.”  Jones yelled from somewhere across the space. 

Peter pulled off his jacket and used it to try and staunch the flow of blood coming from Neal’s chest.  It was soaking through Neal’s shirt and jacket.  Neal curled in on himself slightly against the pain when Peter pressed down, but he showed no sign of returning to consciousness.

“Please stay with me Neal.” Peter begged.

Paramedics showed up minutes later.  They gently pushed Peter away and began to frenetically work to stabilize Neal.

“What’s his name?” One of them asked Peter.

“Neal, his name is Neal.”

“Neal, can you hear me?”  There was of course, no response from Neal.  The other paramedic began rattling off numbers to the first one, pulse, fast and thready, blood pressure low and falling, respirations shallow, no response to painful stimuli.

They moved quickly setting up and I.V., transferring Neal to a gurney and heading out to the ambulance.  Peter wanted to go with them, would have given anything to go with them, but they insisted they needed room to work.  That it would be best for Neal if Peter followed behind and met them at the hospital.

A half an hour later Peter was pacing the trauma center waiting room when a harried looking doctor in green scrubs emerged from the treatment area.

“Neal Caffrey?”  He asked looking around the room.

“Yeah,” Peter replied heading toward the man.

The doctor held out a blister pack that contained one lone pill toward Peter.  “Do you know what Neal was taking?”

“No, I didn’t know he was taking anything.  I knew he looked sick this morning, pale, tired, but he wouldn’t tell me what was going on when I asked him.  He deflected.  What’s going on?”

“We’re not sure, but he’s running a high fever and his system appears to be pretty depleted.  He’s been ill for at least 72 hours.”

Peter shook his head, he never should have given Neal a pass this morning.  He knew his partner was sick.  What the hell had he been thinking letting Neal take risks like that?

“We’ll send this down to the lab and get them to identity it.  And, we’ll run some blood tests to see if we can pin it down that way.  In the meantime, we need to get him up to surgery, get the bullet out.  It nicked the aortic arch.  We’ve got the bleeding under control, but the sooner we can get the bullet out and the repair the damage the better.  Then we can deal with the head injury and whatever is making him sick.”

Peter nodded.  He really didn’t know what to say.

“I’ll have one of the nurses show you up to the surgical floor.”

“Thank you.”  Peter said, his voice catching in this throat. 

He needed to call Elizabeth.  How was he going to tell her what had happened to Neal?

Peter walked down the hall to the designated cell phone area and pulled out his cell.  He took a deep breath and then hit the preset for Elizabeth.

“Hey Sweetie,” El said in greeting when she answered.  

“El, I screwed up.”  Peter said with a gasp, unable to hold back the guilt he felt over Neal’s injury. 

“Peter, what happened?  Are you alright?”

“He was sick El, I saw it and I let him go in anyway.”  Peter felt hot tears sliding down his cheeks as he spoke to his wife.

“Peter, honey where are you?”  El’s voice was calm and warm, a balm to his troubled heart.

“Bellevue, we’re at Bellevue.”

“I’ll be there soon.”

Four hours later Peter sat holding El’s hand, Diana and Jones sitting across from them waiting for Neal to come out of surgery when a doctor walked into the waiting room.

Peter stood, holding even more tightly to El’s hand and she pulled herself up beside him.

“Neal came through the surgery as well as can be expected.  Right now we’re taking him down to have a head CT.  I’m fairly certain he’s only looking at a concussion, but we’d like to be on the safe side.  After that we’ll be moving him to the ICU.”

“Did you find out why he was so sick?”  Peter asked anxiously.

The doctor nodded.  “Neal has malaria.”

“What?  How is that possible, he hasn’t been out of the country in more than six years?”

“There are forms of malaria that can be recurring.  The parasite that causes the disease can hide out in the liver for months, even years and then cause a relapse.  We’ve started Neal on another round of anti-malarials and when he recovers there is a treatment protocol that will probably prevent further relapses.

“I’ll have someone take you down to the ICU and as soon as they get Neal settled and you’ll be able to see him.”

“Thank you.”  Elizabeth said, taking the doctor’s hand.

“You’re welcome.”

* * *      

It hadn’t taken Mama Mkunde too long to learn that Neal had not emerged at all from his room.  When she found him he was barely lucid and dangerously ill.  When she spoke to him in English, he responded in Swahili.  When she spoke to him in Swahili, he answered her in English.  And, most of what he said made no sense at all, regardless of the language he spoke.

She recruited another of the regular guests at the Y to go to the drugstore on Samora Avenue to get Neal the good drugs, the ones that Westerners could afford.  She prayed she would not need to send for a doctor or take him to the hospital.     

For the first few days of his bout with malaria Neal was never certain whether he was dreaming or awake.  Strange people came and went plying him with water, meds, Coca Colas, and chapatis.  Even stranger people who could not possibly have been in Dar visited him, Mozzie, Alex, Kate, even Agent Burke.  The visits from Kate made him long for her all the more; the ones from Mozzie and Alex made him anxious and guilty for getting bitten by a mosquito.  The visits from Agent Burke were the strangest.  They were soothing.  The agent held his hand, wiped the sweat from his brow with cool clothes, spoke gently to him.  They made him feel cared for, loved.  Often there was a woman with him, long hair, kind blue eyes and hands as loving and gentle as Burkes’. 

Eventually, the dreams with Agent Burke and the dark haired woman shifted, changed.  He was no longer lying in the narrow bed in his small room at the Y.  He could no longer hear the whir of the overhead fan.  Now, he was in a white room, there were strange beeping noises and his chest hurt as much as his head.

He moaned.  He was really tired of feeling so awful.  He just wanted it to stop.  A hand squeezed his gently.  Another softly stroked the hair off his forehead.  “Shhh, it’s okay.  You’re going to be just fine.  Can you open your eyes for me buddy?”

Peter, Peter was here.  Then he felt a warmth in his other hand as well, softer, Elizabeth.  They were both here with him.  How had they gotten to Tanzania? 

“Neal, buddy, open your eyes for me.”  Peter had that insistent tone; the one Neal found it really hard not to obey.

His eyelids weighed tons, but eventually he managed to raise them just enough so that he could catch a glimpse of his surroundings.  Peter’s haggard but smiling face hovered directly above him.

“Hey here,” Peter said.


“Hey, why don’t you try English?”

“My love,” Neal whispered.  Peter’s smile grew.

“El’s here too.” Peter said as he tilted his head toward the other side of the bed.

Neal looked over and saw her warm, blue eyes shining down on him.  “Na wewe pia.”   

“Okay, you need more sleep.”  Peter stated with mirth.

Neal nodded slightly.  “Nimechoka sana.”

“Peter laughed lightly.  “Close your eyes.”

Neal obeyed and felt first Peter and then Elizabeth kiss him on the forehead as he drifted back to sleep.

* * *

Three days later Neal’s malaria symptoms had abated.  His head still hurt, he was told from the concussion, and so did his chest and he was still so exhausted he could only manage to stay awake for a few minutes at a time.  But, whenever he woke up Elizabeth and or Peter was there.   

“Hey,” Neal whispered.  Peter’s head was down, a magazine in his lap.  Neal cleared his throat and tried again, louder this time.  “Hey.”

Peter startled, the magazine dropping to the floor.

“Sorry to wake you.” Neal said quietly, guilt blooming in his chest over all the stress and lost sleep he had gifted to Peter.  He had put Peter through so much because he had been unwilling to admit that he was sick, that he shouldn’t go undercover.

“Hey, no, don’t worry about that.  How are you feeling?”  Peter asked as he stood and leaned over the railing on the bed.

“Better.”  Neal was looking down at his hands as he spoke. 

“If you’re in pain, we can do something about that you know.”  Peter said, taking Neal’s hand in his own.

Neal shook his head, still looking down. 

“Then tell me what’s wrong.”  Neal could hear the concern in Peter’s voice.  He was still causing Peter unnecessary stress.

“I’m sorry.”  Neal said so quietly Peter barely heard him. 

“You’re sorry?  Sorry for what Neal?”

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was sick.  I’m sorry I went to the meet knowing I wasn’t 100 percent.”

Neal was still staring down at his hand clasped in Peter’s.

“Hey, look at me.”  Peter said as he raised their hands up toward his chest.  Neal’s eyes slowly followed.  “I’m sorry too.”

“For what?” 

Neal’s voice was so unsure, so innocent it nearly broke Peter’s heart.   Peter brought Neal’s hand up and kissed it, holding it against his face, breathing in the scent of a Neal who was alive and getting better as tears rolled down his cheeks.


“It was my fault Neal.  I knew something was wrong.  You looked so awful and I let you go anyway.  It was my decision and I made the wrong one.  And, I almost got you killed.  I am so sorry.”  All the anguish, fear and guilt seemed to pour out of Peter with his words. 

“Please Peter, don’t.  It’s okay, I’m okay and I promise I will never hide something like this from you again.”  Neal soothed, reaching up with his free hand to wipe away Peter’s tears.

The position he was in, with both hands raised up, made his chest hurt like hell, but it didn’t matter, easing Peter’s guilt was all the mattered.  Making this right was all that mattered. 

* * *

Three days later Neal was finally released from the hospital.  Peter and El took him home, to their home.  Despite Peter’s support up to the bedroom, Neal was breathless and shaking by the time he was able to sit on the edge of the bed.

Peter sat beside his partner and placed a supportive hand on Neal’s back.

"Can I get you anything?”

Neal shook his head.  “No, I’m just tired. “  Neal said with effort.

“Then let’s get you settled in bed.”  Peter said as he reached to unbutton Neal’s shirt.  It was actually one of Peter’s shirts, big enough to accommodate the bandages on Neal’s chest.  Peter undid all the buttons and then carefully pulled the sleeves off each arm.  Then he helped Neal remove the jeans he wore and get into a pair of pajama bottoms. 

Just as Peter was getting Neal settled into the bed El came in with mugs of hot tea and a plate full of her homemade cookies. 

Peter and Elizabeth settled in on either side of Neal, tea mugs in hand, cookies resting on the bed between Neal and El. 

He sighed contently and snuggled close to Peter.  “Thank you.”

“For what?”  Peter asked.

“For staying with me, comforting me when I needed you the most.”

“Where else would we have been?”  El asked placing her warm hand on Neal’s thigh.

Neal shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I’m just not used to having anyone take such good care of me.”

Peter leaned into Neal and kissed him gently on the temple.  “You were alone the first time you had malaria weren’t you?”  He asked curiously.

“Yes and no.  I was in Dar es Salaam and there were people there who helped.  I might well have died there if …” Neal shook his head, dismissing the might have been.  He had no desire to dwell on it.

Peter gently pulled Neal around to rest against his own chest wrapping his mug free hand around Neal’s waist.  “Is this okay?”  Peter asked conscious that he might be pulling on Neal’s stitches.

“It’s perfect.”  Neal replied, burrowing into the safety and warmth of Peter’s arms.   

“You don’t ever have to be alone like that again Neal.”

“I know.  That’s why I said thank you.”

“Well, in that case you’re welcome.”  Peter replied lightly.    

“You where there then too, in Dar.”  Neal said quietly, hesitantly.

“Neal, I never even knew for sure that you were in Africa at any point, let alone Tanzania.”  Peter replied clearly confused by Neal’s statement.

“That’s the way I wanted it Agent Burke.”  Neal teased.

“Mmm hmmm, smartass.”  Peter tightened his arm slightly around Neal’s waist.    

“When I was sick I dreamed that you found me.  It made me, you made me feel safe, comforted even then.  I guess I should have seen it as a portent.”

“Of better thing to come?” Elizabeth interjected. 

“Of the best of things to come.”

The End.


Yeah, I know that two way radios have twenty plus mile radiuses, but I needed that NOT to be the case here, so it wasn’t.

The Swahili conversation at that beginning of the story is translated below.

Neal rapped lightly on the open top of the Dutch door.  “May I come in?”

“Welcome.”  Mama said, her head still bent toward her desk. 

“Shikamoo.” - This doesn’t really translate; it’s a traditional greeting to your elders.

“Marahaba,” she replied looking up from her work.  She smiled broadly when she recognized Neal standing in the doorway. - Again, this really doesn’t translate; it’s a reply to the traditional greeting.

“What is the news of your morning?” He asked customarily.

“Good, good.  And you?

“Just peaceful” Neal replied smiling brightly at her.  Mama was a true sweetheart and he loved seeing her every time he came to Dar.

“Do you need a room?  Mama asked.


“I have one just for you.” She said with a mischievous smile.

Neal laughed.  “Thank you mama.”

“I have something for you.”  He said as he opened his bag and started searching for the little eyeglass kit he had purchased at the expensive sunglasses shop at Sea Cliff.


“Yes.” He replied as he pulled the small cylinder from his bag.

“Please give me your glasses.”

Mama frowned slightly, but removed her glasses and handed them to Neal.  In under three minutes he had replaced the nail with a shiny new screw and Mama’s glasses were as good as new.

He handed them back to her with a flourish. 

“Oh thank you so much.”  Mama exclaimed as she placed the glasses back on her nose.

“You are very welcome.”  It felt good to do something for someone else with no expectations, no promise of reward except a smile and a thank you.

More Kiswahili words/phrases:

Kiswahili - Swahili for Swahili

Usu - quiet

Naumwa - I’m sick

Na wewe pia - and you too

Sawa - okay

Inaumwa - it hurts

Samahane - I’m sorry

Usamehe - forgive me

Chapattis - yummy savory pancakes

Nimechoka sana - I’m very tired

I was fortunate never to have malaria when I privileged to live first Ghana and then Tanzania.  Several other ex-pat friends had it and I helped out while they were sick.  It was nasty but, we all had the good drugs from the store on Samora Ave. in Dar.  Another friend, a native Tanzanian, got malaria when he was off visiting family in a smaller village some distance away.  Eventually, his family brought him back to our village, Kibaya, to the hospital, but by then he had also developed pneumonia.  He died because of a lack of medication that costs about $5 and a hospital so ill-equipped it had no oxygen.  He left behind a wife and a young daughter.  Another friend, again a native, contracted malaria while in the fifth month of her pregnancy.  She lost the baby and nearly her own life as well.  It took two months for her to recover her health.  It had taken her eleven years to get this far in a pregnancy again after the birth of her only child.  Unfortunately, I had no idea she had become ill until she was already back home from the hospital.  When I asked he why she had not called me she had she did not wish to burden me.   

I have no words to describe the tragedy that is malaria in Africa. 

*Climbs off soapbox.*

kanarek13: pic#111809005kanarek13 on June 17th, 2012 09:10 am (UTC)
Wow, this is absolutely amazing \o/ I have so much love for that fill. We actually got Neal speaking Swahili. And a double whump for Neal. Poor guy.

I think my favorite part (apart from Neal speaking Swahili :D) is how you managed to merge past and present and create this feverish haze and confusion in Neal's mind - that feels so real \o/

Wonderful fill, it was definitely worth waking up a bit earlier just to find this posted :D Thank you :D
pooh_collector: cricketpooh_collector on June 17th, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!

Once I learned about the Swahili I knew I wanted to write a malaria fic where he speaks it, but malaria alone is certainly not enough whump for a whumpalooza so I stepped up my game.

I'm so glad to past/present merging thing worked.
WPAdmirerwpadmirer on June 17th, 2012 10:54 am (UTC)
Really wonderful story. Malaria is a tragedy, and simple things like the right medicines and netting for beds can help so much. I participated in a program a few years ago to raise money for mosquito netting for beds.

I'm sorry you lost one friend, and nearly another.
pooh_collector: cricketpooh_collector on June 17th, 2012 03:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you for enjoying the story!

And, thank you for you for your understanding.
Winter: prompicwinterstar95 on June 17th, 2012 12:55 pm (UTC)
What a great piece to wake up to in the morning. I adore it. I loved the pushing of past into present and Neal's confusion with the ear bud. You really whammied him! Malaria, shot, and a head wound!

And I feel for you with your loss. It is a terrible thing that people will spend $$ on coffee each day and people are dying for $5 dollars worth of drugs. Also, my heart aches for your friend and her pregnancy loss. From someone who has suffered infertility, I can understand the complete devastation.

And really no soapbox, just plain human kindness!
pooh_collector: cricketpooh_collector on June 17th, 2012 03:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Thank you!

I'm really glad you got the confusion and that it didn't come off too trite. And, I had to go for the trifecta, it is whumpalooza after all.

And, thank you so much for your understanding.
ladyrose42ladyrose42 on June 17th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
There's something about a multi-lingual person being delirious and the poor souls around him can't translate. Or those who can, find the conversation rather funny. Nice use of language to fit the canon.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on June 17th, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Neal hatsholio on June 17th, 2012 05:27 pm (UTC)
Nice story! Neat way of interweaving past and present, and that's cool you were able to use a language you know to write Neal!

And I'm sorry about your friends; I hope your second friend is doing well today.
pooh_collector: cricketpooh_collector on June 17th, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I'm glad it worked for you.
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: White Collar - Neal b&wembroiderama on June 17th, 2012 08:38 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, this is wonderful. I love the way the past flowed into the present via Neal's fever dreams, and it was lovely to get that glimpse of him speaking the language and interacting with the local people.

And the reality of it is such a tragedy--thanks for sharing that.
pooh_collector: cricketpooh_collector on June 17th, 2012 10:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you liked the way it flowed.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - wake upfrith_in_thorns on June 17th, 2012 09:57 pm (UTC)
I really loved this! Poor Neal. I loved how you wrote his confusion, and I also loved Peter and Elizabeth being there for him :)

And, god, I know more about TB than malaria, but both situations in Africa are so fucked-up :( I'm very sorry for the loss of your friend.
pooh_collector: cricketpooh_collector on June 17th, 2012 10:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

And, fucked-up is a really appropriate way of phrasing it.
elrhiarhodanelrhiarhodan on June 20th, 2012 01:07 pm (UTC)
This is simply, utterly terrific. It's original, thoughtful and heartbreaking.

One of the more enjoyable things about White Collar is how the show is so self-aware of the ridiculousness of some of Neal Caffrey's skills - and the "conversational Swahili" is one of them.

But you've taken what was meant to be a joke and made it into something meaningful.

A beautiful, haunting story - one that will live with me.

Thank you.
pooh_collector: cricketpooh_collector on June 20th, 2012 02:07 pm (UTC)
I guess on some level I have been aware that it is rather ridiculous that Neal is so amazing at so many things. But, it's always played so straight that in some ways it has gone over my head as well. I've always viewed Neal as a modern version of a Renaissance Man and just kind of went with it.

I think I now need to contemplate this the idea that his amazingness is a bit of a joke as well. More fodder for the fic writing cannon.

And thank you, thank you for your lovely compliments.
EbeneezerDark: OhNoes!!!ebeneezerdark on October 14th, 2012 10:11 am (UTC)
Poor Neal...

Loved this story. The malaria background's scary... Doesn't it also sometimes cause liver failure? Could Neal have future life-threatening complications?

Isn't there a charity (Bill Gates', maybe?) that provides mosquito netting in countries prone to malaria?
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on October 15th, 2012 02:58 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Liver failure is not a normal complication though in rare cases with people who have had repeated malarial infections they can get enlarged livers and spleens. This is very rare, thankfully.

Kidney problems are actually more common.

The Gates Foundation and some others do distribute bed nets. Unfortunately there are millions of people who could benefit from them. Also,while bed nets help while a person is in bed, mosquitoes come out a twilight and most people spend hours awake and susceptible.
bassabassabassabassa on November 1st, 2012 04:28 am (UTC)
I too have Malaria! Maybe 'had' is a better word as I haven't had an recurrence in years. So nice to come across fic set in Africa, it is my second home as well!
FYI there are some GREAT Inception slash fics set in Mombasa.
deepasoceandeepasocean on June 1st, 2013 09:11 am (UTC)
Their love and care is so beautiful.
Neal being sick while at gun point was so intense. I'm so glad everything wen't well.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on June 3rd, 2013 02:15 am (UTC)
Oh thank you!

I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
where the paper flowers meets purple skymarissaangell on September 13th, 2013 09:07 am (UTC)
absolutely amazing. I've wanted Neal speaking Swahili ever since I saw that poster. yay, it finally happened.
and great work of merging past and present in Neal's fevered state.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on September 13th, 2013 01:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I was excited to learn that Neal speaks my own second language so I had to go there.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.
joy2190joy2190 on June 9th, 2014 09:06 pm (UTC)

Such a fun read and amazing how much of the conversation could be gleaned without the translation.

I was so sorry to read about your friends at the end though.

A donation to nothingbutnets.net was made in honor of your story.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on June 9th, 2014 09:11 pm (UTC)
Oh joy!!!!

That was so amazingly thoughtful and generous of you! Thank you so very much!