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04 May 2014 @ 09:06 pm
[fic: white collar] Caretaking  
Title: Caretaking
Characters/Pairing: Diana, Neal, Peter; Gen
Rating: T
Word count: 2000
Content Notes: Vomiting
Other Notes: Yeah, I'm back to writing plotless h/c. This is for the "food poisoning" square on my hc_bingo card.

Summary: Having their cover blown was bad enough. Then Diana found she also had to look after Neal.

~

It wasn't the worst cell Diana had ever been locked in. At least, it hadn't been, until Neal started throwing up.

Her first thought, accompanied by a cold stab of fear, was that someone had poisoned him — maybe even before the guy who had been the FBI's snitch had cracked under pressure and betrayed them. There had been plenty of opportunities at the lavish dinner party Jenner had been throwing.

"Neal," Diana said, urgently, as she crouched down beside him. "Do you know what's wrong?" It had come on suddenly — they had barely been shoved into the blank concrete basement when his face had blanched and he had dropped to his knees by the covered bucket that was their cell's only furnishing.

Neal turned his head towards her. His face had turned the ugly off-white of old milk, and she could see him shivering — his jacket had been taken away along with her purse and heeled shoes. "Stomach cramps," he groaned. "Feels like food poisoning. Maybe one of the oysters…" He gulped, and then bent over to retch again, finishing with a low moan.

She tried not to breathe in any of the smell through her nose, her own stomach threatening to rebel. "Food poisoning? Are you sure?"

He shrugged miserably.

If it was food poisoning, there was a chance someone would care. She stood up and banged against the thick door. "Hey!" she yelled. "Caffrey's sick! We need help!"

It felt futile even as she was doing it. After several minutes of no one responding, it was clear that either no one was hearing her, or that she was just being ignored.

Neal sighed in relief as she fell quiet. He had dragged himself over so that he could lean against the nearest wall, the bucket next to him. It was impossible to ignore the stench of vomit now, and she fought the urge to keep her hand pressed over her nose and mouth.

"How are you feeling?" she asked.

He shrugged miserably. "Nauseous, head hurts, stomach hates me."

The trouble with those symptoms were that they were so generic. They didn't help at all to narrow down the question of whether this was malicious or just bad luck. There was also sweat thickly sheening his skin, and she very gingerly touched the back of her hand to his forehead. "You're running a fever, too."

Neal groaned, and tipped his head back against the wall. "I feel so bad."

"I wish we had some water," Diana said, more to herself than to him.

Neal groaned again. "Don't taunt me. I'd kill to rinse my mouth out." He spat into the bucket, looking disgusted. Diana tried to control her wince. "Sorry."

"What, for getting sick?"

"For you having to deal with it."

"Don't apologise," Diana said, although her heart wasn't really into the sentiment. She hated being around sick people, and wasn't sure now what to do. She had been irritated during her pregnancy at people who had confidently insisted that having a baby would instantly make her more maternal in every area of life — however, she was also annoyed now that they had so definitely been wrong. "Maybe you should lie down," she suggested. "Would you be more comfortable?"

"I'd have to sit up again to puke," Neal complained. He had no semblance of colour left in his face, and was shivering enough to make his teeth chatter. "Oh, my god. Maybe if I'm lucky I have been poisoned, and I'm about to die."

"That's really not helpful," Diana said.

"I don't care," Neal muttered. Then a moment later he leaned forward to retch again, although there was nothing left in his stomach.

Diana winced, and tried to ignore the sounds, swallowing thickly herself. Working on the conviction that doing something must be better than not helping at all, she awkwardly began to rub Neal's back in slow circles. His shirt was clammy and damp, but he made an approving noise and arched his back slightly against her hand, so she kept the motion going.

Eventually he sat up, and swayed. She caught his shoulder. "Neal?"

"I think… I do want to lie down," he mumbled.

"Here." She scooted back so that she could sit cross-legged against the wall, still holding his shoulder, and then guided him carefully down so that his head lay in her lap, supported by her skirt. "How's that?"

He squinted at her upside-down. "You're okay with this?"

She sighed a bit. "It's a little late for me to have thought of that, isn't it?" she retorted. Then she immediately felt guilty — he was obviously having difficulty tracking. "Yes. Quit worrying."

He groaned, and closed his eyes. Diana automatically pushed back the locks of hair which had fallen across his face. Then she pressed her hand against his forehead, frowning at the intensity of the heat she felt. She might tell Neal not to be worried, but she certainly was.

He sighed with something like relief at the touch of her palm. "Nice," he whispered.

She let her hand lie there.

There wasn't a way to keep track of time. Diana dozed fitfully sitting up, while Neal slept restlessly. He sat up twice to vomit again, bringing up only bile, but it was still liquid he couldn't afford to lose. He was still sweating heavily from the fever, and Diana didn't like to think about how fast he was dehydrating. He needed her help to get up the second time — he was dizzy and weak, and shaking.

"Make it stop," he moaned as she helped him rest his head in her lap once more.

"I wish I could," she murmured, stroking the side of his head. It had begun as an automatic gesture, but it seemed to help him relax.

He looked awful. Bruise-shadows had formed around his eyes while all remaining colour had fled from the rest of his skin, even his lips.

Diana's muscles were beginning to ache from sitting in the same position for too long. She shifted minutely, but stopped as soon as Neal made a quiet noise of protest. "You okay?" she asked, but he didn't reply. He seemed to be asleep again.

~

She dozed some more. Until she was abruptly jolted awake by the sound of a bolt scraping back.

"Neal!" she hissed, urgently, but he didn't stir.

There would have been time for her to unceremoniously dump him onto the floor and place herself in front of him, ready to attack whoever came through the door, but she immediately quashed that urge in favour of presenting a picture to inspire pity. And medical help for Neal, if at all possible.

She was definitely glad that she hadn't leapt to automatic attack when the door scraped open to reveal Peter, with Jones and a couple of guys in body armour backing him up. "About time!" she snapped.

Peter's expression went from surprised to amused to worried. "What happened?" he asked, holstering his gun and dropping to his knees beside her and Neal in one smooth motion. Behind him, Jones turned away to talk urgently into a radio.

"He's sick," Diana said, which was stating the obvious. She had acclimatised to the smell in the room, but Peter and the others weren't and it showed in their faces. "I don't know if it was done to him on purpose, or just a really crappy coincidence."

Peter put a hand against Neal's too-hot forehead. "You're not messing around, are you?" he said. "Come on, buddy, wake up."

Peter's voice must have been the incentive he needed. Neal stirred slightly, and then his eyes half-opened. "Hi," he mumbled, groggily.

"What, you'll talk to him but not me?" Diana said, trying to sound indignant rather than relieved.

Peter grinned briefly, but while Neal's glassy eyes moved to Diana while she was speaking, he didn't seem to be registering her words. She shared a worried look with Peter.

Neal stayed awake until the medics arrived, at least, even if he wasn't really tracking. He was limp and pliant when they lifted him away from Diana.

She was unreasonably reluctant to let him go. But Peter was in front of her, taking her arm. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she assured him, letting him help her to her feet. Then she immediately almost fell over — her joints had locked up from sitting still so long. She clung to Peter until she could stand properly.

"Can you to ride with Neal to the hospital?" Peter asked. "I'll meet you both there as soon as I can."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Are you subtly trying to get me checked out too?"

"Yes," he admitted. "I know you said you're fine, but I'll feel better if —"

"Okay," she said, cutting him off. She added, "You forget that I actually do what I'm told."

"Sometimes."

"Sometimes," she amended.

~

Neal was hooked up to an IV as soon as he was loaded into the ambulance. Diana, sitting across from him, was allowed to rehydrate herself more mundanely. She was thirsty enough that the sports drink she was given actually tasted good.

By the time they arrived at the hospital — they drove without sirens, definitely a good sign — she had persuaded the paramedic not monitoring Neal to agree that she was, indeed, basically fine. Especially once she had submitted to a second bottle of sports drink.

Neal slept through it. Despite the medics' conspicuous lack of worrying he still looked like hell, and was wheeled straight back to be seen by a doctor once they were deposited into the ER. Diana managed to beg a set of scrubs from a sympathetic nurse, and changed out of her severely bedraggled dress before sitting down to wait. At least she could submit an expenses claim for it.

Without at all meaning to, she fell asleep in the chair. She jerked awake at Peter's hand on her shoulder, hands going up to defend herself before she remembered where she was.

"Sorry," Peter said, with an apologetic grimace.

She shook her head, mostly to wake herself up further. "How's Neal?"

"We can go see him now," Peter said. "They want to keep him overnight, given the circumstances. A precaution only, I've been told," he hastened to add. "He's not in any danger. Just pretty miserable."

Diana relaxed, relieved, and then yawned widely.

"Or you could go home and get some sleep," Peter amended himself.

"No, no, I want to see him." She rubbed her eyes, and stood to follow him.

Neal did look miserable, and still far too pale and drained, but when Peter pushed open the door to his room he roused, blinking at them sleepily. "Hey."

"Hey." Peter crossed to stand next to him. Diana went around the other side of the bed, glancing at the monitor he was hooked up to. His temperature was only just under 103 — she probably didn't want to know what it had been. "How are you feeling?"

Neal groaned. "Awful."

Peter winced sympathetically, and patted his arm. "Yeah, I bet."

Neal's gaze travelled to Diana, and he grimaced. "Oh, god," he muttered. "Sorry."

"What?" she asked, confused.

"Sorry," he repeated, and she belatedly recognised his expression as one of extreme embarrassment. "For… you know. Puking everywhere."

She rolled her eyes. "Yes, I'm sure that was entirely your fault. You did it just to piss me off."

He squirmed slightly, resolutely not looking at Peter, who seemed to be biting back a grin. "It was still gross."

"Well, yeah," she agreed. "So we're never going to talk about it again. But you don't need to apologise, okay?"

He shrugged, and made a noise she decided she might as well class as agreement. "Thanks, though," he said, with a slightly shy smile. The effect of which was only helped by how frail and pathetic he currently looked, damn him.

"You're welcome," she said, hastily, it being her turn to feel acutely embarrassed. Peter was still studiously not-laughing, which didn't help. "Right. I'm going home to get a shower, and some sleep. If Theo doesn't keep me up."

"You don't need to be in the office tomorrow," Peter said.

"I probably will be, though," she said, wryly.

"Not before the afternoon, at least."

She accepted this with a grin. "Get some rest, Neal. Feel better."

He nodded, with a tired smile. "Thanks. Again."

"You don't need to keep saying it," she said.

"I don't care."

She rolled her eyes again. "I'm going. Right now." And she left the room hastily before Neal could see how much she, too, was smiling.

~

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/124257.html with comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
 
dennih23: Diana and Theodennih23 on May 5th, 2014 01:13 am (UTC)
This is wonderful - I love Diana and Neal - they care about each other, but really hate to admit it.

Poor Neal, getting sick. And I would not want to be Diana having to deal with it.

Love the end, when Neal keeps thanking her!
Frith: Diana 1frith_in_thorns on May 6th, 2014 12:00 am (UTC)
I love your icon - so cute! :D

And I'm glad you liked the fic! Diana and Neal is my favourite partnership to write about, they're so fun. Thank you very much!