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31 January 2013 @ 12:34 am
[fic: white collar] Practicalities  
...I have only managed to post one of my stocking fics so far. The reason for this is that I decided I had better spread them out because posting about four sick!Neal fics in quick succession would make the people not friends with me for my fic think I'm even weirder than they already do. And then I never started posting them so had nothing to spread out from. Anyway, fic now!

Title: Practicalities
Characters/Pairing: Neal, Peter; Gen
Rating: PG
Word count: 2800
Warnings: None
Notes: Incredibly gratuitous sick!Neal written for sahiya's [community profile] fandom_stocking.(On the day we run out of fandom space for this trope I shall be very sad.)
Also the Fever square on hc_bingo because astonishingly I haven't posted anything for that square yet.

Summary: He should call Peter. It took a long time for that thought to occur to him, but once it did it was motivating enough to persuade him to emerge from the cocoon of blankets.

- - -

Neal smacked his hand against the alarm clock's "off" button, and then pressed his arm down over his eyes, trying to block out the light. It was time to get up, but he couldn't summon the motivation to move.

He hadn't been feeling well the day before, although he'd been moderately successful in ignoring the way his eyes stung and his throat and head ached. Now he felt a great deal worse. His whole body was heavy and hurting, even his skin feeling tight and painful.

The alarm clock began ringing again. Hadn't he just turned that off? But no, it was his phone that was ringing now. Neal reached for it, swiping the screen to accept the call and slumping back down to the pillow. "Hey."

"Neal?" It was Peter, sounding impatient. "I've been sitting out front for ten minutes. Are you ever planning on joining me?"

Neal frowned in confusion, although it made his headache worse. "You're early?"

"No, I'm right on time. You're late, hurry up."

Neal pushed himself up onto his elbow, and groaned as he registered the time on the clock. "Sorry. Must've gone back to sleep."

Peter, though, sounded more concerned than annoyed. "Are you okay? That's not like you."

"Think I'm sick," Neal admitted. He could already tell that he wouldn't be able to push himself through a day at work. It was enough of a struggle extracting himself from the covers.

"I'm coming up," Peter said.

"What, you don't believe me?"

Peter sighed heavily. "Don't be ridiculous. If you're sick, I want to know how bad it is."

"Oh," Neal said, abashed.

"Yes, oh. I'll see you in a minute."

Peter ended the call and Neal continued his slow progress in getting up. By the time Peter opened the door Neal was sitting at the table in his robe, propped up on his elbows.

Peter looked at him and raised his brows. "Yeah, you're not coming into work today. You look dreadful."

"Thanks," Neal groused.

"You're welcome." Peter put a cool hand on Neal's forehead, ignoring his attempt to shrug it off. "Do you have a thermometer around here somewhere?"

Neal shook his head. Peter sighed and poured out a glass of water, putting it on the table along with the bottle of Tylenol that usually lived in the Taurus's glove compartment. "I'm guessing you haven't got as far as taking any medication yet."

Neal shook his head again, and swallowed two of the pills with gulps of water. "Only just got up."

"Well, I hope that your immediate plans include going back to bed." Peter had gone off to rummage in the kitchen cabinets; he produced a mug of hot tea as if by magic. "Drink that."


Peter pulled out the chair next to Neal and sat down. "How're you feeling?" he asked. "As bad as you look?"

Neal groaned. "Pretty bad. Spending the day in bed sounds good."

Peter looked mildly relieved, like he'd been expecting Neal to put up a fight. "Okay. I'll come check on you on my way home. I don't like you being alone here all day, though."

"I'll be fine," Neal assured him. "It's not like I haven't coped on my own before."

Peter frowned at that, and seemed to be about to say something, but then didn't. Instead he stood up, and patted Neal's shoulder before going to rummage in the cupboards again.

"What're you doing?"

"Looking for something like this." Peter pulled down a large jug and filled it with water. He put it and a glass on the nightstand. "Got any soup? Crackers?"

"Uh, maybe?" Neal hazarded. Watching Peter move around so fast was making him dizzy.

Peter gave a put-upon sigh and managed to find the requisite items himself. The crackers joined the water on the nightstand, and a carton of frozen soup from the freezer was left to defrost next to the microwave. He put his hands on his hips, assessing his efforts.

"I think I'll manage to survive for a few hours," Neal said, dryly.

Peter still didn't look entirely convinced. "Call me if you need anything," he said.

"Will do."

"I mean it."

Neal huffed. "Peter, I got it," he insisted.

Peter rested a hand on his shoulder again. "Yeah, I know, I'm sorry." He glanced at his watch. "Damn, I really do need to run. It's important —"

"Peter. I'm good." Neal gave his best smile. "Really. Maybe you could bring me some take-out this evening?"

That apparently did it. Peter laughed, and left.

Neal slowly finished off his tea, making it last as long as possible. Then he made his way unsteadily to the bathroom, and finally back to bed. He collapsed down onto the mattress with a sigh of relief, pulling the warmth of the covers up around him.

He dozed for the most of the morning, waking up not long after lunchtime to find a text from Peter on his phone, asking him how he was doing. Ok, mostly sleeping, Neal texted back.

Don't forget to drink plenty of water, Peter replied, within a minute. Neal rolled his eyes, but he did refill and drain the tumbler by the bed.

He had to admit, it felt nice to have someone checking up on him. He sent back another text to reassure Peter that his instructions were being followed, and curled up on his side.

His phone buzzed again. Good. Now go back to sleep.

Neal chuckled, although it hurt his throat. Can't. Busy answering texts.

He half expected a reply to that, but Peter refused to rise to the bait and his phone remained silent.

He went back to sleep.

When he woke up again he was curled up in a tight ball under the covers and he was freezing, shivering fiercely. He shifted, and moaned aloud. Every muscle in his body ached, and his head felt like it was clamped in a vise.

He couldn't remember when he'd last felt this ill. He was clammy with sweat but freezing cold. No need for a thermometer to tell him that his fever was spiking. He felt so bad

He should call Peter. It took a long time for that thought to occur to him, but once it did it was motivating enough to persuade him to emerge from the cocoon of blankets. He raised himself shakily to one elbow and groped for the phone.

But his fingers had barely closed around it when he lost his balance and half-fell, slumping to one side. His arm knocked into the jug of water, sending it flying. It hit the floor in a crash of splintering glass, and Neal cried out at the shock of the noise.

And he'd dropped the phone. He pressed his palms into his forehead, waiting out the dizziness, until he was able to sit up and swing his legs over the side of the bed. There was broken glass and water all over the floor, but he couldn't see the phone anywhere.

He wrapped his arms around himself, still shivering violently, feeling dreadful. His pyjamas were clinging damply to his skin.

A shower, he thought. That would be good. Hot water would make him warm and clean at the same time.

Things spun around him and the floor lurched unsteadily when he got to his feet, and he had to use the bed for support until he had shuffled along enough to grab onto the wall. It was only then that he remembered about the glass on the floor, but he'd managed to avoid skewering himself on it by luck if nothing else.

Most of the journey through his apartment he made with eyes closed, stumbling against the walls and fighting to stay on his feet against surges of lightheadedness. When he finally reached the bathroom he closed the door and leaned against it until he felt a little less like his heart was about to hammer its way out of his chest. In the mirror he looked about as awful as he felt, his face white except for the dark shadows under his eyes and the fevered flush on his cheeks.

But the shower was heavenly. Neal stood under the falling water and dialled the heat up as hot as he could stand. He had to lean against the corner where the walls met, his legs almost too weak and shaky to support him, but he had finally stopped shivering and he never wanted to move.

- - -

Peter let himself into Neal's apartment quietly, in case Neal was sleeping. He had ducked out of the office early and picked up some Chinese on the way.

The room was unlit, the only dim light that which filtered through the curtains. Peter turned on one of the lights and immediately worried on seeing the empty bed, before he registered the sound of the shower and relaxed. Neal was apparently both awake and mobile, which was good. He switched on the rest of the lights and set the take-out bag on the table.

That was when he noticed the smashed jug. Neal had made no attempt to clear it up, but at least there was no accompanying blood trail. Peter sighed, found a dustpan and brush under the sink, and carefully swept up all the glass shards, using a kitchen towel to mop up the remaining water.

And if he'd started cleaning up, he might as well go on. He knew where Neal kept clean linen, and he quickly had the bed stripped and remade. Then he filled the kettle and sat down on a chair, ready to surprise Neal with tea and fresh bedding when he got out of the shower.

He kept on waiting. Long enough for the tea to be ready, and then to begin to cool. Peter checked his watch, feeling uneasy but not wanting to smother Neal too much. (He could hear El laughing incredulously in his head.)

He let another couple of minutes pass, and then tapped on the bathroom door. "Neal? It's Peter. I brought food, and it's getting cold."

There was no reply. Peter rapped again. "You okay?" he called, more loudly.

Still nothing, and now he was beginning to worry in earnest. "Neal, if you don't answer me I'm coming in to check on you."


He had been wondering how much June would mind if he had to smash open the lock, but to his great relief the door opened to a turn of the handle. The air inside the bathroom was thick with steam which billowed out into his face.

"Neal?" Peter called, sharply, now extremely alarmed. He tugged open the shower door.

Neal was on the floor of the shower stall, sitting slumped in the far corner. His head was tipped to one side against the wall, features slack. He was still wearing his pyjamas, which were plastered to his skin by the water.

Peter swore vehemently, and reached to shut the shower off. Cold water soaked his sleeve, and then his knees as he knelt on the floor, reaching for his partner. "Neal? Can you hear me?"

Neal groaned as Peter tapped his wet face. "Come on, Neal. Open your eyes."

Neal's face scrunched in protest, and he tried to turn towards the wall. "No… go 'way…"

"Caffrey!" Peter snapped, and Neal's eyes opened reflexively. They flicked around, hazy and bewildered, before settling on Peter. Drops of water were caught in his eyelashes

"What… I don't…"

"You've been passed out in the shower," Peter said. "All the hot water's gone. Do you know how long you've been in here?"

Neal shook his head slightly, although Peter didn't think he was fully tracking the conversation. His eyes were unfocused again.

"Come on," he said. "We need to get you out of here and into some dry things." And then quite possibly to the ER, but he didn't voice that thought aloud.

Neal didn't resist Peter's manhandling, but he either didn't understand what Peter was trying to do or didn't have enough energy to help. Or both. Peter hauled him out of the humid bathroom and stripped him efficiently of his sodden clothing, finding new pyjamas and helping Neal put them on. Then he helped Neal into the newly-made bed and covered him with as many blankets as he could find.

Throughout the process Neal didn't speak at all, and that was as unnerving as anything else. He seemed dazed, as well as exhausted. He didn't even protest when Peter slipped a thermometer (acquired from a drug store on the way) into his mouth.

Peter dialled an emergency care line while waiting for the reading. He was perfectly ready to bundle Neal into the car and drive him to the nearest hospital, but that turned out to not be immediately necessary. Despite Peter's dire predictions of brain-melting temperatures, Neal's fever was just over 103. The doctor he spoke to was of the opinion that the cold water had probably helped in bringing it down. Neal needed rest, fluids, and constant supervision for the next twenty four hours, but if his fever didn't start climbing again staying where he was would be the best thing for him.

Accordingly, Peter poured out a glass of juice (again from the supplies he had brought in with him) and slid himself onto the bed. "Neal," he said. "I want you to drink this, okay?"

"Don't want it," Neal mumbled.

Peter shook his shoulder. "I don't care. You need to sit up for me, and you need to drink this."

"Peter?" Neal asked in a voice that was mostly a moan, half-opening glassy eyes. He just stared for a moment, like he'd forgotten what he was going to say. "I feel really bad."

"I know, believe me." Peter put his arm around Neal's shoulders and pulled him half up against the headboard, pressing the rim of the glass to Neal's lips. "You'll feel better soon."

It required more coaxing, but Neal eventually drank all of it, and wriggled back down into the blankets as soon as he was allowed. Peter brushed strands of damp hair out of his face, feeling exhausted himself after the strain of the last hour. It felt like it had been much longer.

"Peter?" Neal asked, his eyes opening again. He was looking more alert, although still far too limp and pale for Peter's liking. "How long've you been here?"

"Not too long. Are you back with me now?" Peter asked. Neal's voice was weak, but coherent.

Neal ground the heel of one hand into his forehead. "I feel so weird. Like my brain's full of treacle."

Peter decided this was a good time to press the thermometer on Neal again, who pulled a face but couldn't be bothered to protest. The reading was optimistic — at the high end of 102, but finally going in the right direction.

"Huh," Neal said, when he saw it. "I've been having really trippy dreams."

Peter raised his eyebrows. "Any of them involve a shower?"

"Shit," Neal mumbled. "That was real?" Apparently he found confirmation in Peter's expression, because he closed his eyes and groaned.

"What on earth were you thinking?"

Neal put an arm over his face. "I just wanted to get warm. I don't know…"

Peter found himself rubbing Neal's shoulder worriedly. "I shouldn't have left you here alone. I don't even want to think about what your fever was before the cold water."

"Hope June doesn't mind the water bill," Neal said, moving his arm so that he could open his eyes again and smile weakly. Registering Peter's unimpressed mood, he added, "Yeah, that doesn't sound very bright of me."

"No," Peter said, sternly. "Because what you should have done was call me. Before you became that ill."

"Dropped my phone," Neal said. He waved a limp hand. "It got lost somewhere." His eyes were drooping again, his voice beginning to slur sleepily. He shifted so that he was lying more against Peter. "You can find it. You're good at that."

"What, because I can find you I can do the same for your phone?" Peter asked, barely keeping from laughing.

Neal smiled, and groaned as he moved.

"You should go back to sleep," Peter told him. "You're still pretty sick."

"Yeah," Neal admitted. "Been much better." But then his eyes opened again, and he reached up to catch Peter's wrist. "Could you stay?" he asked.

Peter laid his hand over Neal's, squeezing it firmly. "What on earth makes you think I was going to leave?" he asked, with fond exasperation. "Seriously, Caffrey. Talk sense."

- - -

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/86872.html with comment count unavailable comments.
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Peter Neal soft filtersholio on January 31st, 2013 02:21 am (UTC)
Awwwwwwwwwwww! ♥ *pets them a bunch* I love the last line; it's so Peter.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on January 31st, 2013 10:48 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D Sometimes quite often I feel the need to just write them being adorable and loving each other very much :)
Winter: NealPeterwinterstar95 on January 31st, 2013 02:52 am (UTC)
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on January 31st, 2013 10:48 am (UTC)
Thank you! :)
Les jeux sont faitsleonie_alastair on January 31st, 2013 03:16 am (UTC)
Awwww, poor achey Neal. Sweet story.

Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on January 31st, 2013 10:49 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
aqwt101aqwt101 on January 31st, 2013 04:53 am (UTC)
Awwwww ♥
Frith: White Collar - Neal - writingfrith_in_thorns on January 31st, 2013 10:49 am (UTC)
Thank you ♥
pooh_collector on January 31st, 2013 05:41 am (UTC)
Yeah sick Neal fic!

You know, you would have had absolutely no objections from me for posting all four at once. Me loves a good sick Neal fic, especially one that also has some wonderful worried and comforting Peter.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - boysfrith_in_thorns on January 31st, 2013 10:53 am (UTC)
This is totally the fic which has the most plot, I'm afraid :P

And thank you very much! I love my worried and comforting Peter :)
kanarek13kanarek13 on January 31st, 2013 06:32 am (UTC)
Awwww... Thank you for continuing the reposting spree \o/ That is another glorious addition to the whump list :D

Love it to bits, especially that wonderful, delightful moment of pure angst when Peter finds Neal unconscious in the shower.... eeeee \o/ They are both so good at this h/c dance :D

*pets them*

Awesome :D
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - boysfrith_in_thorns on January 31st, 2013 11:12 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you! Yeah, that image of angst was what I based this fic around :D I'm really glad you liked this!
pipiljpipilj on January 31st, 2013 06:57 am (UTC)
aww poor sick Neal. yay Peter for taking such good care of him
Frithfrith_in_thorns on January 31st, 2013 11:18 am (UTC)
Thank you very much!
digitalwavedigitalwave on January 31st, 2013 07:22 am (UTC)
This was wonderful, as always. I love how completely Neal trusts that Peter can fix things. Even when he's barely coherent. :)
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on January 31st, 2013 11:18 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! This is totally my favourite way of writing Neal and Peter :P
love_82 on January 31st, 2013 09:16 am (UTC)
Awww, they are so cute! <3 I loved this. Poor sick Neal. I loved Peter being all hovering in the beginning, getting Neal everything he would need. And I really liked their text message exchange and Neal snuggling closer to Peter at the end. I love snuggling so much. Everything should end with snuggling. :) And Neal telling Peter he can find his phone, hee.

I look forward to the rest of the stories. There can never be enough good sick!Neal fic.
Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on January 31st, 2013 11:29 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! ♥ I had a lot of fun writing this. Particularly Peter fussing over Neal, and then snuggling. Snuggling is the best :D

I will definitely post the rest of them before too long! Although, this one definitely has the most plot. By a long shot :P
(no subject) - love_82 on February 1st, 2013 06:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: White Collar - Peter & Nealembroiderama on January 31st, 2013 01:24 pm (UTC)

Oh, my heart--it hurts in a very pleasant way. I adore this.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on February 3rd, 2013 01:49 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! :)
leesa_perrie: Peter Neal Vanleesa_perrie on January 31st, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, this was lovely!! From Peter's initial hovering, to Neal's fevered shower, to Peter finding him, to Neal telling Peter to find his phone... loved it!!!

Neal chuckled, although it hurt his throat. Can't. Busy answering texts.

Made me laugh - just like Neal!! Loved the last paragraph too! :)
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on February 3rd, 2013 02:08 am (UTC)
Thank you so very much! I'm really happy you enjoyed this ♥
elrhiarhodan: Neal - Icebagelrhiarhodan on January 31st, 2013 02:03 pm (UTC)
Oh, so perfect an expression of H/C!!!! I never get tired of stories like this - you've got Peter and Neal perfectly. Just the right blend of pathos and compassion and friendship.

As someone who lives alone, and has recently gone through the trauma of sickness, I understand Neal perfectly.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - boysfrith_in_thorns on February 3rd, 2013 02:10 am (UTC)
*hugs you* Thank you so much ♥
calis_1stcalis_1st on January 31st, 2013 02:18 pm (UTC)
I'll just leave my "awwwwwwwwww" with everyone else's. This is so sweet. Don't feel you must wait to post the others.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on February 3rd, 2013 02:11 am (UTC)
Thank you! :) This is definitely a trope I never get tired of writing :P
donutsweeperdonutsweeper on January 31st, 2013 04:31 pm (UTC)
Oh this is ADORABLE!

On a minor, Ameri-pick note however, treacle is very uncommon here, I only know of it via UK fandom fic I've read. It would be much more likely Neal would say molasses. Hope you don't mind me pointing that out.
Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on February 3rd, 2013 02:12 am (UTC)
Oooh, I didn't actually know that, I assumed it was universal :P I shall bear that in mind in the future!

And thank you very much! :)
shadowfireflame: White Collarshadowfireflame on January 31st, 2013 06:08 pm (UTC)
I like how Peter knows right away that if Neal’s late, something’s wrong because Neal’s never late. And I bet Peter can find Neal’s phone just like he can find Neal.

This was really great. I’m constantly impressed with your writing and how well the characterizations come through. They really are adorable when Peter’s helping Neal! <3
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - boysfrith_in_thorns on February 10th, 2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm really glad you enjoyed this :)