Characters/Pairing: Neal, Peter; Gen
Genre/Rating: Hurt/comfort; T
Word count: 1500
Notes: Written for azertynin at whitecollarhc. The prompt was Neal suffering from hypoglycemia, particularly in the context of 1x13 "Front Man".
Summary: This is an AU tag for "Front Man": A worried Peter follows Neal back home after he disappears without his anklet. (No mentions of Alex or the music box in here.)
- o -
Peter was trying very hard to be reasonable and not completely frustrated.
He was failing, but he gave himself points for effort anyway. It had, after all, been an intensely trying day, not to mention the very long night which had preceded it. And therefore he could probably put some of his irritation down to the stress he had been under — but, damn it, Neal really shouldn't be pulling these kind of stunts.
Which was why he was headed to June's house instead of back to the office or, better still, back home to Elizabeth. Neal had earned himself enough good will that he would likely escape any consequences for slipping away without the anklet, but Peter was determined to get it back on him as soon as possible, for his own peace of mind if nothing else.
He managed to find a parking spot not too far from the front door for once and used his key to get in when there was no response to his ring on the doorbell, feeling a little guilty for doing so — but after all, this was why June had pressed a key on him in the first place.
The house was dark. She clearly wasn't home.
Sighing slightly, and not bothering to switch on the lights, Peter began to climb the stairs, using the handrail to guide him. He was halfway between the first and second floors when he almost tripped over a dark shape huddled against the wall. It said, "Hey," in an absent sort of tone.
Peter retreated quickly as far as the nearest light switch, and turned it on.
"Ow," said Neal, and raised an arm to shield his eyes.
Peter stared for a second, his irritation rapidly draining out of him and being replaced with worry. "Is there a particular reason you're sitting on the stairs?" he asked, hastening back up two steps at a time. He had been sure that Neal hadn't been hurt. What did I miss?
Neal blinked at him. "Oh, hi Peter."
Peter perched himself on the steps so that he was at the same level. "Hello, Neal," he said. "Why don't you tell me what's wrong." Without waiting for an answer he ran his hands gently over Neal's scalp, checking for any swelling or bleeding. He repeated the process with his torso and limbs, but at no point did Neal indicate any pain or appear to have any obvious injuries. However, his skin was cold to the touch and slightly clammy. Peter took that as a bad sign. "I mean it. Talk to me."
Neal had watched him blearily, as if he was expecting Peter to provide him with an answer. He shook himself slightly. "I just stopped to rest. I was tired."
"Okay, and a bit dizzy. But I'm fine, really."
Peter rolled his eyes. "Yes, finding that you couldn't even make it up the stairs fills me with confidence. Why don't you tell me what's actually going on?"
Neal shrugged his shoulders slightly. He put on his most charmingly self-deprecating smile, but it was a little shaky at the edges. "It's a thing. A medical thing. If I'm careless my blood sugar can get really low and then —" he lifted a hand and it flopped back limply into his lap — " this happens."
"Why didn't I know about this?" Peter demanded.
Neal raised an eyebrow and Peter didn't resist the urge to roll his eyes again. Of course Neal wouldn't give up a piece of personal information if he could keep it a secret instead. Especially if it was something which had the potential to suddenly become a drastic problem (and no, he didn't care in the slightest whether or not he was being over-dramatic) because that was just Neal Caffrey's style.
"I didn't think it was relevant," Neal said defensively, when it became clear that Peter was happy to just let the silence drag until he caved. "I wasn't expecting to be kidnapped, repeatedly tasered, and denied food for twenty-four hours, okay?"
"You could have said something at the airport."
"I was running on adrenaline. Honestly, it didn't even occur to me. It only started to hit me after we got Lindsay back, and then my thinking was messed up a bit."
Which, okay, was an explanation for why he had slipped away, although Peter suspected he'd also been reluctant to admit to any sort of weakness in front of him and Rice. He sighed heavily. It had, after all, been a very long day. "I imagine you're sick of the view from here by now," he said casually. "How about we get you upstairs?"
He didn't miss the gratitude on Neal's face at not having to ask for help. "Sounds good."
"Alright, let's give it a try."
Peter was prepared for Neal needing his support to get upright, but not for his legs to almost give way altogether once he was. Neal almost pitched forwards and Peter had to hold on to him tightly while he swayed, eyes closed and breathing hard, his face chalk-white. "You can do this," Peter said firmly, leaving no room for argument. "It's not far."
Neal nodded slightly and swallowed. He didn't open his eyes but he was able to walk at Peter's urging, his shoes kicking into each step clumsily as he climbed. Peter was glad for his own sake that there was only one flight of steps to tackle — supporting most of Neal's weight was hard going and he was seriously worried that Neal was about to pass out. He was relieved when they finally reached the apartment.
"Couch or bed?" Peter asked.
A groan was Neal's only response so Peter decided on the bed, pushing Neal gently down onto it and then swinging his legs up for him. Since Neal didn't seem like he intended to move Peter pulled his shoes off and, after a moment's consideration, also unknotted his tie and undid the top button of his shirt to help his breathing. Then he removed his jacket and tossed it over the back of one of the chairs (which Neal would probably be horrified about in the morning). Neal was completely limp throughout, occasionally cracking open his eyes and then pressing them tightly shut again.
"Okay," Peter said, when Neal was probably about as comfortable as he was going to get. "You need to tell me what I should be doing. I guess you should eat something?"
"Soda," Neal said, without opening his eyes again. "In the fridge. Then a cereal bar in a few minutes; there's a box of them in the tall cupboard."
Peter located the required items easily. Unwilling to take chances, he brought the whole bottle of lemonade and box of cereal bars to the bedside table, along with a glass tumbler which he filled. "Neal. Here, drink up."
"Thanks," Neal said. He leaned over to grasp the tumbler, but picking it up was another mater. His arm was shaking and Peter had to grab it off him quickly before it went flying. Neal made a sound of pure frustration.
"Easy there," Peter said, calmly. "It's okay."
"Just give me a second," Neal said tightly.
Peter raised his eyebrows. "Yeah, I think you're going to need more than a second. Scoot over, stop being stubborn, and let me help you."
Neal was up to shuffling sideways, at least. Peter slipped off his own shoes (at least his socks today were unlikely to invite comment) and sat on the bed beside him, stretching out his legs and leaning against the head-board. He put an arm behind Neal's shoulders and helped him sit up, holding the glass of lemonade to his mouth.
"This is totally humiliating," Neal muttered between sips.
"Then perhaps in future you'll see fit to share pertinent medical information before it turns into this sort of issue. Now shut up and finish your drink."
Neal for once did as he was told, and Peter let him lie down when he'd finished the glass. There was a blanket at the bottom of the bed and he pulled it up to cover Neal with. "Do I give you a cereal bar now?"
"Please." Neal ate two in quick succession, Peter supporting him again but thankfully not having to go so far as to feed him. Then he flopped back down again. "I really need to crash out now. Sorry."
"I'm going to stay over," Peter said simply.
Neal looked confused for a moment, and then his expression cleared. "Right, the anklet. Yeah."
"Shockingly," said Peter dryly, "I'm more concerned with your health right now. If you tried to make a run for it in this state I doubt you'd even make it to the door."
"I'm fine," Neal said. "Well, I will be," he qualified quickly at a stern look from Peter. "Honestly."
"You're more convincing when you can sit up on your own, you know. Just go to sleep."
He was almost surprised when Neal didn't argue further — but then, he really was totally wiped out. Peter made a mental note to update his medical file immediately upon his return to the office. He slipped his phone out of his pocket and began composing a text to El.
"Peter?" Neal murmured drowsily.
"What is it?"
"I miss your puppy socks."
Peter swatted him lightly on the shoulder. "Go to sleep," he ordered, allowing himself a fond smile since Neal couldn't see him. He thought of all the ways today could have gone horribly, dreadfully wrong — but it hadn't.
That was the important thing. It hadn't, and everything was okay.
Neal started to snore softly, small soft sounds. And Peter leaned back and, for the first time since Neal had disappeared, allowed himself to relax.
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