Characters/Pairing: Peter, Neal; Gen
Genre/Rating: Context-lite h/c; PG
Word count: 1000
Warnings: Panic attack
Notes: For a prompt by aqwt101 on whitecollarhc: Bad guy captures Neal and Peter and injects Neal with something causing panic attacks. Peter must keep him as calm as he can until help arrives.
Beta'd by helle_d.
Summary: Peter takes care of Neal, even when there's only so much he can do.
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There was just enough light from the doorway for Peter to get a quick glimpse of Neal's features as he was shoved back into their cell. Then the door was slammed shut, leaving them in darkness while Neal was still in the process of stumbling forwards. He hit the floor a second later.
"Neal?" Peter demanded, feeling for him with an outstretched arm until he knocked the back of his hand against what turned out to be Neal's shoulder. "Are you alright? What did they do to you?"
Neal's breathing was slightly too fast and loud. "I'm okay," he said. "Just — they stuck me with something."
"A knife?" Peter asked, alarmed. He tried to pat Neal down gently, searching for injuries.
Neal battered his hands away. "Stop it! No. A syringe — they didn't tell me what was in it." His voice was terse.
Peter swore. "How are you feeling?"
"I don't think I feel any different," Neal said. "Maybe they were just screwing with me. I think I was pissing them off."
"Really," Peter commented, dryly. He could hear the anxiety in Neal's voice, and tried to keep his own voice normal. "They didn't do anything else?"
Neal stood up abruptly. His footsteps moved agitatedly back and forth. "No. I think they're actively trying not to hurt us."
"Unless you count injecting you with an unknown substance."
"Unless you count that," Neal agreed. He had found the door; Peter heard him slam his hands against the metal. "Peter, we need to get out of here!"
"Hey," Peter said, trying to reassure. "We'll be alright."
"We need to get out," Neal insisted.
Peter stood, worriedly, concerned by Neal's tone. "Neal. Calm down." He wasn't quite sure where Neal was in relation to him anymore — he had started pacing again.
"I don't need to calm down, Neal snapped, which was blatantly untrue. He kicked at a wall.
Peter sighed. "Neal, please."
"I don't —" Neal began, and then broke off. His breathing was still speeding up, harsh and ragged. "Peter?" he asked, in a different, unsteady voice."
"Where are you?" Peter moved cautiously towards where he thought Neal was.
"Peter," Neal said, breathlessly, and was suddenly clutching at Peter's arm. Then he dropped. Peter couldn't react in time to catch him.
"Neal?" he demanded. He found Neal's shoulders, grasped them. "Talk to me. What's wrong?"
"Hurts," Neal panted.
"Where does it hurt?" Peter found Neal's hand. "Show me."
Neal pulled his hand — and Peter's — up against his chest, and Peter momentarily felt his own heart stop. "Okay. You're going to be okay."
Neal was gasping. "Can't breathe."
"Yes you can," Peter told him, firmly. "You can. You're doing fine."
"Neal, stop arguing!" Peter was having to fight to stay calm himself. He reached out until he found the nearest wall. "I'm going to try and move you to feel more comfortable, okay?"
He took Neal's non-answer as assent, and dragged his partner's non-resisting body a little way so that Peter could lean against the wall with Neal pulled up against him. He pushed Neal's head forward and put an arm around his back. Neal grabbed on to his hand and squeezed it tightly.
"Peter," he moaned.
"I'm here," Peter said. "You're going to be okay." He used his free hand to check Neal's pulse at his neck — it was fluttering wildly. His skin was clammy and his rapid, shallow breaths were becoming wheezy. "Neal, listen to me. I think you're having a panic attack."
Neal made a horrible, hurting sound of distress, and spasmed slightly in Peter's grasp.
"Neal! You're going to be okay. I've got you. Try and breathe through it, okay? Try and breathe out slowly."
He hated this. He hated the torturous sounds Neal was making, and how he himself couldn't do anything about to ease them. Hated the way Neal was shaking and shivering, clutching Peter's hand like it was the only solid thing in the world. Most of all he hated that he was praying that this was a panic attack, because the alternatives were even less pleasant, and possibly fatal.
Neal seemed to be only tangentially aware of him. Peter wished desperately for light, so that Neal could at least see him and know he wasn't alone.
"Did I ever tell you about how we caught Owen Lewis?" he asked. "He was running several health insurance scams at once — a real nasty piece of work. Good at covering his tracks, too." Neal didn't slow the rate of his hoarse breathing, but he wriggled slightly, pressing himself closer to Peter. Peter continued with the story of the case, which involved long surveillance shifts and some excellent digital data-mining by Jones, and stroked Neal's hair back from his sweat-slicked face, establishing a slow, steady rhythm. He could feel Neal struggling to match it.
"You're doing really well," he said, gently, when he'd wrapped up the case. "I'm proud of you. Just keep breathing through it."
"Please," Neal whispered, his voice harsh and broken.
So Peter kept talking, telling Neal another story, and then another one, hearing and feeling Neal's shudders eventually stop, his breathing gradually slow.
"How're you doing?" Peter asked, eventually.
"Better," Neal whispered. Then his shoulders shook sharply. It wasn't until it happened a couple more times that Peter realised Neal was crying silently, trying not to let him know.
As if Peter was going to think less of him for that. "Come here," he said, firmly, and pulled Neal against his chest. Neal tensed for a moment and then all of the tension seemed to drain out of his body at once, and he hugged Peter back.
Peter held him there. "It's okay," he said, quietly. "I've got you. You're safe."
"Thank you," Neal breathed. He rested his head in the crook of Peter's shoulder, and sighed as Peter rubbed a hand up and down his back.
"You're okay," Peter repeated, and felt Neal's breathing slowly slacken into an exhausted sleep.
When Jones broke down the door, he almost told him off for waking Neal.
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