|Let Your Pain Rain Down
Author: embroiderama PM
After Peter puts him in charge of keeping an eye on Neal, Clinton finds Neal in need of help. Neal with a migraine. Neal & Jones genRated: Fiction K+ - English - Hurt/Comfort/Friendship - Neal C. & C. Jones - Words: 2,183 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 57 - Follows: 11 - Published: 07-20-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8339768
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Keep an eye on Caffrey," Peter had said that morning before he left for the multi-departmental meeting that would keep him busy most of the rest of the day. Clinton hadn't thought that Neal-watching duty would be difficult, considering that the CI had been keeping himself out of trouble and was in any case busy working on a project for Peter. He'd been at his desk most of the morning, poring over manuscripts with a magnifying glass, but by a couple hours after lunch he seemed to be slowing down.
Clinton tried to stay focused on his own work, but it was odd how Neal would stand up from where he'd been bent over the table and just look around for a moment before going back to the manuscripts. After a few rounds of this, Neal walked out of the bullpen, heading toward the break room. There shouldn't have been anything out of the ordinary, but Clinton had the feeling that something was off, and when it came to Neal Caffrey something being off could mean a whole lot of trouble. He thought about following Neal but he just kept his eye on the time and within two minutes Neal was back with a coffee cup in hand.
That in itself was strange; Neal had never been shy about saying how awful the break room coffee was, how he'd rather go without or drink tea than ingest the FBI-issue swill. But the hot water dispenser in the break room was broken, and there hadn't been enough time for Neal to boil water for tea in the microwave, so that had to be coffee he was sipping with his eyes closed. When Neal put the coffee down after a minute and walked out of the bullpen again, Clinton knew something was up. Hell, he thought, maybe Caffrey's coffee just kicked in and he had to answer the call of nature.
Clinton went back to work on his own reports but kept his eye on the clock and when Caffrey hadn't come back in five minutes he closed his file and walked off in the same direction Neal had gone. Peter would make his life hell if Caffrey got into trouble on his watch, so he figured he was better off safe than sorry. He didn't see Neal in the hallway or in any of the offices he passed, so Clinton shrugged and turned back toward the men's room; he'd act like he just needed to hit the head, make sure Caffrey wasn't counterfeiting money in the john. And, if Clinton was going to be honest with himself, he liked the guy and wanted to make sure he wasn't sick or something.
When he entered the men's room, it was immediately apparent that whatever trouble Neal was in, it didn't have anything to do with the law. He was leaning against the sinks, almost sitting on the counter, his face ashy pale and his tie loosened from its customary perfect knot. His collar was unbuttoned and wet around the edges and he was messing with something that looked like a white plastic cigarette case. His hands were shaking so hard that the bent-open cover of the case was rattling against the side, and his forehead was drawn up in focus but his eyes were barely open.
"Neal? Are you okay?"
Neal opened his eyes wide then slammed them shut and lifted one hand to cover his eyes while the white case still shook in his other hand.
"Hey, hey." Clinton stepped close enough to wrap a steadying hand around Neal's arm, and he could hear the man's breathing, fast and shaky. "What's going on?" No answer was forthcoming from Neal, who looked like it was taking all he had to stay semi-upright, so Clinton pried the white case out of his unsteady hand. "Imitrex," he read out to himself. "This is for migraines, right? You have a migraine?" he asked, keeping his voice softer.
Neal nodded his head slightly and dropped his hand from his face. He opened one eye and groped for the case. "I need to-"
"You need to let me help. Come on, you can keep your eyes closed and walk me through it."
Neal sighed, then closed his one open eye and covered his face with both hands. "O-okay," he said, his voice rough and quiet, "I ripped open the seal on one of the cartridges. Open the cover on it then grab the longer part by the sides. D-don't press the button."
Clinton followed the directions, hoping that he wasn't doing it wrong. "Okay, what's next?"
"Screw the injector onto the cartridge then p-pull the whole thing straight out."
Clinton held his breath against breaking the little mechanism, but it seemed to screw on snugly and then pull out with just a little tug against friction. "Done. Where do you inject this thing?"
Neal sighed and dropped his hands from his face to his belt though he kept his eyes closed. "Thigh." He sighed again, embarrassment mixing with the pained look on his face. "Sorry."
"Caffrey, I've seen worse things than your skinny white legs." He spotted a square-packaged alcohol wipe on the counter next to Neal and opened it up while Neal opened his belt with shaking hands.
When his suit pants sagged down toward the bathroom floor, Neal poked his finger at a soft spot on his upper thigh. "Here."
"Okay, hold tight." Clinton swabbed the alcohol wipe over the patch of skin then set it aside and held the tip of the injector against Neal's skin. "Here?" At Neal's slight nod he pushed the button down.
"Hold it there," Neal muttered. "Just a little longer." He took a couple more breaths then nodded again. "Okay."
Clinton pulled the needle away and fiddled with the case until he figured out how to reverse the assembly procedure and get everything back in its place. Neal was holding tight to the edge of the countertop behind him, his breathing rougher than it had been before. "You doing okay, Neal?"
"Just makes me feel weird for a minute." Neal's eyes were still closed, but he started to bend down like he was looking for his pants.
"Hold still," Clinton said, bracing a hand against Neal's shoulder to hold him in place. "I don't want to have to explain to Peter why you brained yourself on the tile floor." He picked up Neal's pants by the waistband and pulled them up to thigh level where Neal could grab them without bending. "Here."
Neal did up his fly and belt with still-shaky hands then reached out for the white plastic case and tucked into a pocket inside his suit coat. "Thanks for your help," he said. "You can go back to whatever you were doing. I'll be okay in a few minutes."
"Remember what I said about not wanting to explain anything to Peter?" Neal looked better with a little color coming back into his face, but he still looked one wrong move away from keeling over and the lights in the men's room were obviously still bothering him. "Come on, Agent Santos is out on vacation, and her office is about ten feet down the hall. You can lay down in there until you're ready to go home. You think you can walk down there if I help you?"
"Um." Neal ran a hand over his middle then sighed and nodded. "Yeah, I think so."
Clinton put a hand on Neal's back then looked sideways at him. "You're not planning to puke on me are you?"
"Already took care of that." Neal grinned weakly. "Twice."
"More than I needed to know, buddy." Clinton patted Neal gently on the back and then guided him away from the sinks and through the door to the hallway. Neal was holding himself stiffly, not 100% steady on his feet, but they made it down the hall to Agent Santos's office without incident and Clinton felt Neal relax once they were inside the dimly lit office. Neal gingerly sat on Santos's leather couch, then leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, head in hands.
Clinton watched him for a moment then turned and left the office, closing the door behind him as quietly as possible. He went to the break room to grab a bottle of water for Neal and ran into Glen Bolling, the newest agent in the White Collar department.
"Hey, I was wondering where you went. I wanted to ask you about that forgery case, and you disappeared."
"Caffrey's not feeling too good so I'm keeping an eye on him, letting him chill out for a minute."
Bolling snorted. "Yeah right, you sure he's not just conning you to get out of work while Burke's out of sight?"
"He's sick," Clinton repeated, controlling the urge to get up in Bolling's face. "And if somebody wanted to come into this department and look at how much work he does and how much work you do, you might want to be concerned about what they'd find."
Clinton left Bolling sputtering angrily behind him as he walked back to Santos's office and went inside to find Neal just as he'd left him, his posture slumped and yet stiff at the same time. "I brought you some water," he said, keeping his voice low. He cracked the seal on the bottle and set it on the floor at Neal's feet. "You want company or should I give you some space."
Neal didn't react for a moment but then spoke, murmuring into his hands. "You can stay if you want."
Clinton took that as a request for company and sat down on the other side of Santos's couch, doing his best not to make the firm upholstery bounce. "Should you be feeling better by now?"
"Getting better. Just, the shot makes me feel weird for a little while."
Clinton didn't know what to say and he was getting the idea that talking didn't help so he just put his hand flat on Neal's back. Neal sighed and relaxed under his hand again so Clinton stayed still, listening to Neal's breathing even out and slow down. After a while, Neal let his hands drop from his face and reached down for the bottle of water. He sat up, dislodging Clinton's hand, and drank half the bottle before pausing to breathe again.
"Better?" Clinton asked, not able to get many clues from Neal's appearance in the dimness of the unlit office.
"Much. Thank you." Neal's voice sounded almost normal but still rough. "Give me a few more minutes and I'll be good to get back to work."
"I don't think so. If you feel up to moving around I'll drive you home. There's not that much of the day left anyway."
"That's really not necessary." Neal took another sip of the water and sat up straighter.
"Peter told me to watch out for you, and I'm not about to get in trouble with him for not doing my job. That what you want?"
Neal chuffed out a near-silent laugh. "No. Fine, if you want to go I'm ready."
"Good. Sit tight while I go get your stuff." Clinton didn't wait for a response, just let himself back out of the office and headed back to Neal's desk in the bullpen. Neal didn't have much that wasn't already on him, but Clinton gathered up his hat and sunglasses and went back to collect Neal.
He found Neal standing just outside Santos's office, his collar once again straight, tie perfectly tied, jacket buttoned up neatly as though nothing had happened. Clinton led Neal to the parking garage and the borrowed motor pool car, and other than Neal's trademark hat being pulled down a little lower than usual the only sign he wasn't feeling well was his silence in place of the usual banter. If he hadn't seen Neal shaking in the men's room half an hour earlier, hadn't helped him with the injector that was once again tucked away out of sight, Clinton would've suspected that Bolling was right, that Neal was conning them all.
He pulled the car into a parking spot and one again marveled at the incredible house Neal had found himself living in. "Should Peter expect you in the office tomorrow?"
"I'll be fine," Neal said as he opened the door and climbed out onto the sidewalk. He leaned back down then, one hand on the door frame. "Agent Jones," he said, his voice serious, "thank you."
"You would've done the same." Clinton shook his head, uncomfortable with Neal's gratitude. "And Neal? Call me Clinton."
Neal smiled widely then stood up and closed the car door. Clinton watched as he walked up the steps, steady enough but without his usual energy. His landlady met him at the door, gathered him into the house, and then the door closed behind them. Somehow, Caffrey always seemed to find people to take care of him but Clinton couldn't find it in himself to begrudge Neal that comfort. Not this time.