Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.

Notes: This show is a ridiculous amount of fun and slashyness. :D How could I resist? Written for the prompt party on livejournal. Prompt: Peter takes care of a sick Neal.



It's amazing, Peter thinks, how many personas Neal has. He dons them like they're a part of his wardrobe—except they aren't for show. Every single personality is just a part of the multifaceted, enigmatic whole.

There's the slick conman, all clever charm and brilliant eyes, dimpled grin and tipped back hat. Peter's seen it go to work, enchanting women and men and small children alike; he's just thankful all that charisma's on their side now.

There's the heartbroken lover Peter catches glimpses of sometimes, hiding in Neal's eyes. Maybe it isn't apparent to anyone else, but Peter's spent years of his life trying to understand this mad, brilliant man, trying to follow the inexplicable patterns of his thoughts. Neal wears a façade of cheerful carelessness, pretends the troubles of the world apply only to others—but it's a brittle shell masking a man who hurts as much as he laughs. In silent appreciation of Peter's insight and their shared history, Neal leaves the mask off with him, and him alone.

Then there are times like this, when Neal seems so—so young.

"I'm not sick," Neal says firmly, aiming his scowl in the general direction of anyone who might even think of snickering. He yanks his hat (Peter's fairly certain it's become his security blanket by now) down over his eyes and props his feet up on the desk, trying vainly to stifle a series of explosive sneezes and finishing with a pathetic sniffle.

Peter rolls his eyes. "You usually sound like that, then, do you?"

"It's allergies," comes the muffled answer, and Peter can't help the smile tugging at his lips. He's just glad Neal has his eyes shut under the hat.

"Uh huh. Allergies you've never shown any sign of before, not even in that cesspool of diseases you were in for four years?" Peter asks pointedly, and Neal lifts his head and opens one eye to glare at him balefully.

"You kept track of the allergies I might or might not have had? Peter, that's really sweet," Neal says, smirking up at him, but Peter can see just a touch of pleasure hidden in his eyes.

So Peter just shrugs, and tosses a file down in front of Neal, and ignores his oh-so-surreptitious reaching for a tissue (only Neal Caffrey could make blowing his nose surreptitious and nearly silent). He likes to think he's one of the people who know Neal best (some days he admits to himself that he knows he is), and he knows that pushing will get him nowhere.

So he keeps his mouth shut when Neal says thickly, "It's obviously a forgery," shooting Peter a look that dares him to comment on his muffled consonants, and he chokes down a snicker but says nothing when Neal's voice cracks in the middle of a diatribe over the FBI's sense of fashion (or lack thereof, Neal insists). Neal shuts his mouth, cheeks puffing out in an effort to contain the next sneeze, and Peter tries not to notice how Neal makes even cold season look good.

Neal shoots him little looks the rest of the afternoon, suspicious at first, then a bit—wounded, maybe, that Peter doesn't seem to care that he can't say his m's properly anymore, and that his nose is so red they could use it as a beacon to guide them home.

Peter leaves him with his head buried despondently in a folder to grab lunch. When he comes back, he shakes his head at Neal determinedly ignoring him (his silence is louder than his chatter), and throws a wrapped sandwich in front of him.

Neal grabs it and looks up, and sees the steaming cup of tea Peter also set down in front of him. His growing smile makes Peter feel like he's the one who drank the warming tea.

"Drink up, Rudolph," Peter says casually, and turns around before Neal can see his own answering grin.

Cold season isn't so bad.