Characters/Pairing: Neal, Peter; Gen
Word count: 2500
Notes: Written for anodyneer's fandom_stocking. Also counts for the "broken bones" square on my hc_bingo card.
Summary: H/c floof. Peter breaks his ankle, and Neal's there to help.
Neal wouldn't have said he had any particularly strong feelings on snow. It was undeniably extremely pretty to look at, and could add an extra romantic flourish to a winter's day. On the other hand, it was cold and wet and, especially when trodden into dirty, salted slush, it could do nightmarish things to good fabric and shoe leather.
Also it was hellish to chase suspects in. Neal had only started considering this factor recently (during the last thirty seconds, in fact) but it was already beginning to tip the scales of his opinion as his soles slithered on the path. It was mixed with plant debris from the surrounding park, which made it even worse.
Then Peter, just ahead of him, skidded and went down sharply. Neal tried to stop before he could trip over him, but his feet turned on the same patch of ice which the path had been concealing beneath a thin layer of snow and he was lucky to be able to control his fall enough to land on his hands and knees. The gravel gouged up both.
It was more than enough to make up his mind. Snow was definitely in the category of things he felt negatively about.
"Neal?" Peter demanded.
"I'm fine," Neal said, pulling a face in disgust as he wiped his palms on his coat. They stung, more so as the wool scraped against the cuts and grazes. The thief they'd been chasing was already well out of sight. "You okay?"
"Uh," Peter said. He sounded rather embarrassed. "I think I might have broken my ankle."
"What?" Neal pivoted round, forgetting instantly about his scrapes. "Are you sure?"
Peter was still mostly lying on his back, but had propped himself up onto his elbows. There was snow and slush all over him, and he looked somewhat dazed. "I felt it break," he said. "Did you see where Phillips was headed?"
"What? No," Neal said, shuffling over as quickly as he could. Phillips had altogether fallen off the bottom of his current list of priorities. He hovered uncertainly over Peter. "Which ankle?"
"My right one," Peter said. "It's weird. It doesn't really hurt. Just feels… weird."
"Like a sort of buzz?" Neal asked. There had been a strange, almost electric-shock feeling when he'd broken bones. The actual pain took a while to set in. (He'd made it all the way through a European border, once.)
Peter nodded, still with that dazed, shocky look. "So stupid," he muttered, apparently to himself.
Neal put a hand on Peter's shoulder, mainly because he knew that was what Peter would be doing for him. He looked around, trying to decide what to do next. Chasing Phillips had taken them deep into the park, and there was no one around to help. "Should I call an ambulance for you?" he asked.
Peter started, which was the first actual animation he'd managed to achieve. "No!" he insisted. "I don't need that. Just give me a hand back to the car."
"I'm not sure moving's such a good idea," Neal said, skeptically.
Peter rolled his eyes. "I'm the one who decides what I can cope with," he said, with an air of decided aggravation.
"El is going to kill me," Neal muttered under his breath (but loudly enough for Peter to hear). Still, he got to his feet, wincing as his knees reminded him they were also suffering from the patch of ice. Now would be a great time for a pedestrian to show up, but it was just them and the trees. And the snow, hiding god-only-knew how many more similar icy pitfalls.
It was less difficult than he had been expecting to get Peter to his feet. Or foot, rather. He kept the injured one well above the ground, leaning heavily on Neal.
"I want to state for the record that I think this is a bad idea," Neal said.
"Yes, noted," Peter said, impatiently. His face was very white, but Neal was pretty sure that it was still just from the shock, rather than from pain.
They made rather ungainly progress back the way they'd come, with Peter hopping clumsily and Neal doing his best to keep balance for both of them. They were doing better than he'd expected — although low clouds were moving in overhead, threatening yet more snow. Exactly what he didn't want.
In fact, shortly they came into view of the road. Which was when Peter said, "Ow," in a surprised sort of way, and a moment later came to a dead stop, inhaling sharply. His face went chalky, and suddenly the weight he was putting on Neal was threatening to topple them both.
"Here, sit down," Neal said, alarmed.
Peter shook his head grimly, jaw clenched tightly shut. He jerked his head forwards.
"I really think —" Neal began, nervously, but Peter interrupted him with a ferocious grunt. "Okay, okay! You're an idiot, though."
Peter glared at him, but only for a moment before his expression scrunched back into what Neal was pretty sure could best be translated into a long string of swear words. Yup, he was familiar with this part too.
"If you faint before we make it to the car I am calling an ambulance," Neal warned. "I'll tell them it's urgent, too, and make them put their sirens on."
Another glare was his answer. It occurred to Neal that he had a possibly unique opportunity for smart-talk while Peter was unable to answer him back. But Peter looked so miserable that he was unable to take advantage of it. "We're nearly there," he said, instead, hoping he sounded reassuring rather than anxious.
Peter didn't make a sound for the rest of the way to the car, mostly because he refused to unclench his teeth enough to let any out. Neal fished the keys effortlessly from Peter's pocket (when Peter wasn't looking, because some habits died hard), and opened the passenger door so that he could ease Peter into the seat. Peter made a strangled sort of noise as he finally had to let his foot touch the floor.
Neal went around to climb into the driver's seat, and tried to be gentle about pulling out into traffic. "How are you doing?" he asked.
Now that he was no longer suffering through the agonies of moving, Peter had felt able to ungrit his teeth. "I forgot how much this sort of thing hurts," he groaned. "I haven't broken a bone since my sports days."
"Yeah, and when you get hurt on the field they send the medics out to you," Neal commented. "Many people think that's a good idea."
Peter sighed. "Not a word."
"I'm just saying."
"In weather like this the EMTs are busy enough," Peter said. "No need to waste their time."
Neal shook his head as he dodged slow-moving traffic. "And you call me stubborn."
"I do," Peter said. "Because you are."
"Well, so are you."
Peter sighed, and leaned his head back. He was still alarmingly pale, and Neal felt bad about being short with him. Except for the part where it was completely justified, of course.
Peter kept his eyes closed for most of the journey to the hospital, and Neal didn't talk, wanting to let Peter doze if he could escape from the pain that way. He pulled into one of the reserved parking spaces, putting the FBI placard in the window.
Inside, he flashed the badge he'd taken off Peter, careful not to let the photo show. "My partner's outside with a broken ankle," he said. "Can I get some help?"
That got him an orderly with a wheelchair, which Peter grumpily submitted to after being prodded awake by Neal, who also took the opportunity to return his badge before he could realise it was missing. Miraculously, he was taken almost immediately to have an x-ray, leaving Neal to wait in the ER for him.
And to make some calls. (The realisation was somewhat belated.) He spoke to Jones first, explaining what had happened, and then dialled Elizabeth. She picked up just before her phone went to voicemail, sounding harried. "Neal?"
"Peter's broken his ankle," Neal said. He had decided it was probably best to lead with that, and get it over with.
"What happened?" Elizabeth demanded, her voice anxious.
"He just slipped on some ice," Neal hastened to assure her. "I think he's annoyed by how undramatic it was."
Elizabeth let her breath out. "I was expecting something worse," she admitted. "Is he there?"
"He's being x-rayed," Neal said. He hopped up to sit on the bed Peter had barely had time to get comfortable on before he'd been taken away. "The doctor who looked at him said it seemed like a clean break."
"Good," Elizabeth said. "Oh, hang on…" Her voice went muffled as she talked quickly to someone in the background, before returning to the line. "Which hospital are you at?"
She sounded stressed. Right before Christmas was one of the busiest times of the year for her, after all. "You don't have to leave your event," Neal said. "I can drive Peter home and hang around until you get back."
"No, I can't make you do that," Elizabeth said. "What kind of a wife would I be to not pick my husband up from the ER?"
"One who runs a very prestigious business and has a husband who understands?" Neal suggested. Helpfully, at that moment Peter was wheeled back into the cubicle, and Neal jumped up. "Peter, El thinks she should leave the gallery event to pick you up."
"What?" Peter asked, alarmed. "Give me that." He pulled the phone off Neal, ignoring the nurse's raised eyebrow. "Hon, what's Neal telling you? I'm fine."
The nurse was still pointedly waiting to help Peter back onto the gurney. "No, don't worry, I can get Neal to drive me home. No, he loves getting to mess with my car, believe me. You definitely have to stay. They need you."
The nurse tapped her foot on the floor as Peter finally hung up and returned the phone to Neal. He had been splinted to just below the knee — the scrub pants he was now wearing had been cut short on that leg.
"Does it hurt?" Neal asked, once he was settled.
Peter shrugged. "They gave me a vicodin, so not all that much right now. The doctor says it's a nice clean break so I just need a cast, not surgery. My ankle should heal up on its own."
"That's good news," Neal said, with relief. He hadn't really considered it before, but the outcome could easily have been much more drastic. He supposed he should be thanking their luck. "And you talked El into staying at her event?"
"Yeah," Peter said. "Just about. She's still kind of worried, I think."
"You can point out you'll be stuck behind a desk for the next couple of months," Neal said. "That'll reassure her."
Peter gave him an odd look, as if trying to work out whether Neal was serious or not.
They were interrupted by a different nurse coming to collect Peter to have a cast put on. Neal claimed the bed again and played flash games on his phone until he finally returned, with a prescription and a pair of crutches, and then they were finally free to leave. The whole process had been smooth, but Neal was surprised to glance at his watch and realise that they had nevertheless been there for a good couple of hours. Time got lost inside hospitals.
An orderly wheeled Peter out to the car (Neal tactfully glanced away when he addressed them both as agents), so his first assay with the crutches was on the slush-covered sidewalk outside the house. Neal hovered, not really knowing how best to help, but Peter seemed to manage adequately.
However, for all that he got up the front steps safely, Peter was looking distinctly pale by the time Neal opened the door and switched on the light. "No, Satch," he ordered, grabbing the dog's collar and hauling him back before Peter could be overbalanced by Satchmo's enthusiastic greeting.
"Good boy, Satchmo," Peter grunted, and collapsed heavily into the armchair. One of the crutches slipped to the floor the moment he let go of it, but he let it clatter down without making a move to catch it, closing his eyes instead.
Neal escaped to the kitchen to give Peter time to recover. He started to take a beer from the fridge out of habit, and then remembered Peter wouldn't be able to drink it and switched the kettle on instead. There was an opened bottle of wine on the sideboard and he poured himself some.
"I don't remember offering you wine," Peter said grumpily, when Neal brought him out a mug of tea.
Neal shrugged easily. "I like your Christmas tree," he said, deflecting with a grin. It was standing in one corner of the room; rather a mish-mash of different ornament styles and colours, but oddly charming for all that. "Did you both decorate it?"
"Yeah, we do it together every year." Peter's expression started melting, as it always did when he talked about El. "It's one of our traditions." He looked at Neal side-on, although Peter's grasp of subtlety was even weaker than usual under the effects of opiates. "I imagine June has a much better one."
"It's definitely a lot bigger. And it coordinates better." Neal took a nonchalant sip of wine. "I'm talking mainly about the tree in the entrance hall, but it's just as true for the others."
Peter laughed, and rolled his eyes. "All right, all right. I'm sorry we don't live up to your tastes." He waved a hand in a vaguely encompassing gesture.
Neal flopped down on the couch. "You don't need any beer," he said. "You're pretty stoned already."
"Huh," Peter said, and tried to summon up a glower. "Shouldn't you be getting on home?"
"Well, probably," Neal allowed. "But you might fall over or something. Or start singing because of the drugs and cause a noise disturbance."
"No, that's how you react."
"Sometimes it's so hard to remember." Neal swung his feet up onto the couch, purely to annoy Peter. "But anyway, I told Elizabeth I'd stay with you." He put on his most sincere expression. "You don't want to make me break my promise to your wife, do you?"
"Oh, fine," Peter said. He was going for grouchiness, but still couldn't quite manage it. "Stay if you want to, then."
"I'm only doing it for Elizabeth," Neal stage-whispered. But Peter's fond smile told him that he wasn't at all fooled.
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