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15 July 2012 @ 11:38 pm
[fic: white collar] Appearances Are Deceptive  
Title: Appearances Are Deceptive
Characters/Pairing: Neal, Peter; Gen
Genre/Rating: H/C; PG
Word count: 1700
Warnings: Snakes
Notes: I have been accused of studying biology purely so I can find more ways to almost-kill characters. This is definitely not true. However, coral snakes really are very lovely. And neurotoxic.
This was written for a prompt by winterstar95 on whitecollarhc. It also fills the 'bites' square on my hc_bingo card.
Encouraged and beta'd by helle_d.

Summary: "There's a snake," Neal said, his voice rather higher than he would have liked. "A snake bit me."

- - -

"Peter," Neal said, "There's a dead body in here. Dead bodies weren't mentioned in the briefing."

"Are you sure they're dead?" Peter, on the other end of the radio, wanted to know.

Neal rolled his eyes. "There's a bullet hole in his forehead. I'm pretty sure." He wasn't keen on getting any closer. If Peter wanted more details he could come up himself.

"Is it Taylor?" Jones asked.

"I think so," Neal said. He glanced back at the body lying in a mess of smashed glass. "Yes. It's definitely Graham Taylor. And no, Marsh most definitely didn't mention Taylor being dead."

"Do you think he knew?" It was Jones again.

Neal thought back. "Well, he did say very sincerely that I wouldn't be disturbed, so chances are, yes. What should I do?"

He could hear Peter idly drumming his fingers on one of the van's worksurfaces. "Carry on with the job Marsh hired you for — find that memory stick. We'll send in crime scene techs once you're out." His voice took on a shade of amusement. "Don't worry, they won't arrest you for murder if you leave fingerprints."

Neal huffed. "I feel very reassured."

"Anything you can tell us in the meantime?" Diana asked.

Neal hoped very much that Taylor hadn't had the memory stick in his pocket when he had met his violent demise. He could work with a dead body in the apartment with him, but touching it was crossing a line. "Looks like there was a firefight," he said, checking through the desk drawer. "Taylor's got a gun in his hand, and several of his vivariums are smashed." He stepped very carefully closer to them to investigate. "Giant African land snails. Nice."

"Valuable?" Peter asked, sounding amused.

Neal was sure to make his sigh of disappointment audible. "Sadly, no."

"I'll check your pockets for them later anyway," Peter said, and Neal grinned, considering briefly whether it would be worth getting slime on his leather jacket to see the look on Peter's face if he actually did so.


In any case, the memory stick was not in Taylor's desk. Neal moved on to checking inside the drinks cabinet, and then stepped through the open doorway to investigate the nightstand.

"That thing had better not be in Taylor's pocket," he muttered darkly.

Diana laughed. "Having trouble?" she enquired.

"Want to come and give me a hand?" Neal retorted. He surveyed the room. The chest-of-drawers had its bottom drawer partially extended, and he slipped his hand into it to pull it further out.

There was a sharp stab of pain on the back of his hand, and he yanked it out with a cry.

"Neal?" Peter demanded.

Neal shook his hand, wiping away the beads of blood which had appeared. "Ow!" He hooked his foot cautiously under the bottom edge of the drawer, and levered it out. "Oh, crap."

"What? What is it?"

"There's a snake," Neal said, his voice rather higher than he would have liked. "A snake bit me."

"You're joking," Jones said.

"It's a rather nice-looking snake," Neal continued, his words falling out quickly. The snake was segmented along its body with multiple bands of colour, red and bright yellow and navy, although the ferocity with which it hissed at him was at odds with its appearance. He took another look at his hand. "The bite's not swelling. That's a good sign, right?"

"Does it hurt?" Peter asked.

"Not really. Guess I got lucky."

Peter let out a deep breath. "Okay. I don't want to take chances, so get out of there right now, and take a taxi to the ER. We'll meet you there. If Marsh objects, you can ask why he didn't warn you about snakes."

"Better safe than sorry?" Neal asked, a little wryly. The spike of shocked adrenaline was wearing off, leaving him feeling slightly shaky.


"Get a photo of the snake," Diana suggested. "Unless you already know what type it is."

"What's this, snakebite reaction by committee? No, I don't know what snake it is. Why on earth would I?"

"Neal, calm down," Peter said, and Neal realised that he had snapped at them without meaning to.

"Sorry," he said, and used his phone to take a photograph. The snake hissed again at the flash and Neal leapt instinctively backwards, the phone slipping out of his hand. He swore, and retrieved it. "Okay," he said, "I'm more than done here." His heart was hammering. "I've decided I don't like snakes. At all."

"Are you having any symptoms?" Peter asked, anxiously.

"My hand doesn't really even hurt anymore," Neal assured him. He got out of the apartment easily enough, but kept fumbling the task of locking the door behind him, his hands far clumsier than they should be. He didn't like the thought of being more shaken up than he'd realised. He made a conscious effort to slow and steady his rapid breathing, but it wasn't easy.

Impossible, in fact. His breathing was instead getting faster, shallower. He clutched the banister, suddenly beginning to feel dizzy. Two landings down, Neal had to stop and support himself with a hand against the wall, leaning forwards to try and gasp more oxygen into his chest. Black spots danced in his eyes.

"Neal?" Peter demanded.

"Just a…moment," Neal panted, and almost fell. His chest burned. Panic coursed through him. Can't breathe.

"We're coming to you."

Neal nodded quickly in acknowledgement. He couldn't speak. The air was getting thick, like syrup, hard to draw in. Have to get out. His feet stumbled down the steps, which swam as he tried to make them out. Outside would be better. More air.

His vision was beginning to tunnel.

His knees buckled as he finally ran out of stairs and he hit the floor and rolled onto his back, his ears filled with a horrible, drawn-out wheezing sound which wouldn't stop. The world had narrowed to the simple act of trying to force his lungs to expand and contract, which was taking an excruciating amount of effort.

"Neal. Neal!"

It wasn't until Peter started tapping Neal's face that Neal realised Peter was next to him. His voice sounded very far away, fading in and out. Neal was so cold, and he couldn't move, and everything was darkening.

"He's hardly breathing."

"Neal! Can you hear me?"

"Shit, he's turning blue."

"The EMTs are nearly here."

"We can't wait," Peter said, and then he was giving Neal rescue breaths, the sensation of air being forced into his lungs past his barely-responding ribcage muscles completely bizarre.

"Stay with us," Diana ordered, the dim shape of her face hovering just behind Peter's.

The bite still didn't hurt. That was the only thought Neal could hold onto. The venom should have hurt, should have given him, them, some warning. But he was fading out, dying, and he couldn't feel anything at all.

- - -

It felt like there was a house sitting on his chest. Large enough to be June's mansion.

With a considerable effort, Neal opened his eyes, and experimentally drew in the deepest breath he could. Which wasn't very deep. He ached all over, and felt generally terrible, but his body seemed to be at least mostly functioning. It was a considerable improvement over his recent memories.

Peter appeared in front of him, leaning over the hospital bed to do so, looking tired and worried. He'd removed his tie, and his shirt was creased. "Neal," he said, the word a fervent breath of relief. He'd composed himself by the time Neal had blinked him into better focus. "How are you feeling?"

"Like hell," Neal rasped. His throat was raw.

Peter smiled a little wryly. "Yeah, you kinda look it." Neal glared, and Peter held his hands up in defence. "Hey, don't shoot the messenger."

Neal laughed, which turned into a cough, which was rough in his dry throat. Peter passed him a glass of water. "What time is it?" he asked, once he'd had a few mouthfuls. The curtains of the small room were closed, which meant that it was probably already night.

"About three in the morning, give or take." Peter sat himself back down in the chair next to the bed as Neal pushed himself up, his muscles protesting. "You've been out a while."

Well, no wonder Peter looked nearly as exhausted as Neal felt. His jacket was bunched up on the back of the chair, clearly having been in use as a pillow. "You were waiting for me to wake up?" Neal asked, a smile tugging at his lips. "I'm flattered."

"Neal, you stopped breathing," Peter said, very quietly. And Neal pulled himself further up because Peter suddenly looked haunted, although he immediately tried to hide it. "The doctors said you'd be okay once you'd got the antivenom, but…"

"I am okay," Neal said. He hurried forward, because stopped breathing was very much something he didn't want to think about. "I'd be insulted to be killed by a snake. No finesse at all."

"Ah." Peter rolled his eyes, but looked relieved to be on solid ground. (Peter had been poisoned too, after all, had had his lungs and heart stop. Neal had been the one in the chair then, and the nearness of death hadn't been any easier from that perspective.) "I forgot, Neal Caffrey will go out with style. At least it wasn't one of the snails that poisoned you."

"There is that," Neal agreed. He wanted to continue the back-and-forth, but he could already feel his eyelids drooping again. His body still had strong opinions about what it would and would not do, apparently. Right now, it was determined to get more sleep.

Peter noticed too, and put a firm hand on Neal's shoulder, pulling the covers back up over him. "You'll be happy to know that the snake which bit you was actually worth a lot of money. That coral species is very sought-after on the black market."

Neal grinned, and then yawned. That necessitated closing his eyes, and they were too heavy to re-open. "Good to know," he mumbled. "Makes me feel better."

"I do hope you're joking," Peter said, severely.

Neal didn't answer. It seemed safer.

- - -

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/66396.html with comment count unavailable comments.
oh these heroes come and go;: [wc] that's what i said;;micheleeeex on July 15th, 2012 11:12 pm (UTC)
Poor Neal! I loved this :)
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile hatfrith_in_thorns on July 15th, 2012 11:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
florastuart: teamworkflorastuart on July 15th, 2012 11:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love this! The banter about the critters (and Neal thinking about putting a snail in his pocket, hee! and wanting to know what the snake was worth!) and poor Neal trying not to freak out about the snake, and worried Peter staying with him until he wakes up, awwwwwwwww. *hugs them both*
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:29 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I swear that the banter totally writes itself. I'm really happy you enjoyed this! :)
Winter: prompicwinterstar95 on July 15th, 2012 11:17 pm (UTC)
Big big hugs. I love you for this. It is perfect. I will always remember it every time I utter the same words my mother always did. If it was a snake it would've bit you! Thank you again, loved it.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:30 am (UTC)
Yay, I'm really glad you liked it! It was a great prompt - very fun to write :) Thank you very much!
devra_01devra_01 on July 15th, 2012 11:21 pm (UTC)
*claps hands* How we love to whump Neal, let me count the ways. Sigh. Nothing I like better than some h/c as my dessert after dinner (better than ice cream)
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - wake upfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:31 am (UTC)
He suffers so prettily ;D Thank you very much!
kanarek13kanarek13 on July 15th, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
Awww, this is so worth staying up instead of finally hitting the bunk (I'm gonna be a zombie at work, but who cares :P :P :P) LOVE IT! A perfect balance of regular banter with a solid dose of whumpy angst :D I would have definitely loved to see Peter's reaction to snails in Neal's pocket - LOL! And of course getting bitten by a rare expensive snake would make Neal feel better :D

Love it how you mention the case when Peter got poisoned and the roles were reversed. The image of a worried, exhausted Peter keeping vigil by Neal's bedside is definitely a cherry on top of that snake-shaped cake :P :P :P

Yay! Thank you! Great story :D
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - tablefrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:39 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! :D I'm surprised it took me this long to write snakebite h/c, actually - it was definitely fun to do. Of course Neal wouldn't want to bitten by a common coral snake :P

I'm really happy you enjoyed reading this :)
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: White Collar - Neal h/cembroiderama on July 15th, 2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
Aw, awesome! I love the conversation over the radio at the beginning, and then the seriousness at the end was a nice counterpoint.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:41 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm glad you liked this :)
mimiheart: meepmimiheart on July 15th, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
We have coral snakes in the desert behind our house. (We also have rattlesnakes... we had a rattler in the garage a few weeks ago. Not. Fun.) Poor Neal. This was great!
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - walk wallsfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:42 am (UTC)
Coral snakes are beautiful (as are loads of others), but I'm rather glad there's only one poisonous species of snake native to England ;P I'm glad you enjoyed this, thank you!
(no subject) - mimiheart on July 16th, 2012 01:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
lime215lime215 on July 16th, 2012 12:05 am (UTC)
Oh, I just love this! I'm starting to think loving h/c fics this much is a bad thing for my mental health or something... :D
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - wake upfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:44 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! :) (And if loving h/c fic is bad, at least there's a large company of us! :P)
lauracollaredlauracollared on July 16th, 2012 12:43 am (UTC)
Ah, this is great. These boys <3
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - boysfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:45 am (UTC)
Thank you! I do love writing them :)
ladyrose42ladyrose42 on July 16th, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
Nice tidbit that Neal wouldn't be charged with the murder if he left any fingerprints.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
pooh_collector on July 16th, 2012 04:00 am (UTC)
Okay, I officially have a new phobia.

Thankfully, I've moved on from Black Mambas and only have plain old Rattlesnakes to worry about now.

In other news, this was fun. Poor Neal, how we do love to whump him.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat greenfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :D I'm very sure that I'd never want to meet one of the deadly snake species when unprepared, but I do love them very much apart from that :P I'm glad you enjoyed this!
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Peter Neal hugsholio on July 16th, 2012 05:16 am (UTC)
Awwwww, this is very sweet. I love this trope (character in trouble, can only communicate with worried friends over radio) and I especially adore the bit where Neal stops breathing. Nicely done!
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - tablefrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:06 pm (UTC)
It's a trope I very much enjoy writing :) Thank you very much!
nieseryjnanieseryjna on July 16th, 2012 07:59 am (UTC)
ouc that was painful, and really I already don't like snakes and you write something for me to not like them even more... that was great, poor Neal! but Peter and the team always are there to help, yayy!
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - walk wallsfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Snakes are lovely, though, and don't really bite unless you put your hand on them ;P (Sorry!) I'm happy you enjoyed this :)
calis_1stcalis_1st on July 16th, 2012 10:53 am (UTC)
Of COURSE you aren't studying biology for its near-death potential for your characters. NO ONE would EVER take up the study of a noble field of science (well, except maybe toxicology) merely to inflict pain upon anyone, imaginary or otherwise. The practical applications are just a side-benefit.

Oh, and, I loved your story. Poor Neal.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile hatfrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:12 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you understand this very evident fact :D And thank you very much! :)
(no subject) - leesa_perrie on July 16th, 2012 12:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
RabidChild's Ficrabidchild on July 16th, 2012 11:24 am (UTC)
This was, sims, adorable. And I love the little glimPse into Peter's worry for Neal as well. Fun bit of h/c for my train ride this morning.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - purplefrith_in_thorns on July 16th, 2012 12:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This was a fun one to write. And I always love Peter worrying about Neal :)