Title: Never Knew What Hit Him….
Permission to archive on Makebelieve: Yes. All others please ask.
Fandom(s): White Collar
Genre: Gen/possible pre-slash if you squint, hurt/comfort.
Pairing: Neal Caffrey/Peter Burke
Warnings: medical squickiness
Rating: rating: G
Notes: Set several months into the series, but no real specific spoilers except for the pilot. Beta'd by the Ozmandius, Beta Reader Extraordinaire. She's my personal cheering section, kicks me in the butt when I need it and her skills make me appear to be so much more intelligent. Any remaining errors in this post are my own.
Word Count: ~4000
Summary: Peter was positive that Neal had overslept.
Disclaimer: White Collar and the characters mentioned herein are the creative properties of Jeff Eastin. Created and shared solely for the enjoyment of fellow White Collar fans. No copyright infringement intended. No monies made.
"Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well."
Peter Burke sighed and turned the ignition off. Caffrey damn well knew the time he was to be picked up. They were driving out to Jersey to follow up on some case files from one of the local PDs. Between the commute and digging through what was in all probability badly organized evidence and reports, it would take all day, so he had decided that they would get on the road by 6:30 am. His pet conman was supposed to be ready and waiting for him. He checked his watch; 6:35.
Five more minutes and he would be at the door and ready to read Neal the riot act as he dragged his skinny ass to the car. The kid probably thought it was too early to start the day. Although a tiny voice in the back of his head reminded him that Neal was not that long out of super max and they started their days very early. AND that so far Neal had never been late to the office even when left to his own devices to get there.
It was 6:40 when he rang the bell and knocked at the door to be met by June's housekeeper, Patricia. "Agent Burke." She let him in. "Mr. Caffrey has not been down yet this morning. Breakfast has just been set in the small dining room."
"That's all right. Mr. Caffrey will have to make do with breakfast on the run." He nodded to her as he climbed the stairs to Neal's suite and didn't that just rankle. Parolee, ex-con living in the lap of luxury. *RAP!* *RAP!* *RAP!* "Caffrey, you better be up and ready 'cause we're already behind schedule!" He waited, straining to hear anything through the exquisitely carved, solid mahogany door. There was no response and he couldn't hear any indication of movement. *RAP!* *RAP!* *RAP!* *RAP!* *RAP!* *RAP!* He tried the door and found it locked. "Caffrey! Are you in there?! Are you even up?!"
Finally, he heard a muffled voice and definite sounds of movement. "Caffrey! You overslept, didn't you?!" More movement, then footsteps approached the door. The lock was released and the knob turned. Impatient, Peter pushed the door open. "What're you-"
He'd half expected Neal to be in the company of a pretty young thing or to simply look like he'd just woken up. What he didn't expect was the room to be in deep shadows nor the careful way that the conman moved towards the en suite. The bed was unmade but empty and unless there was someone hiding in the bath, Caffrey appeared to be alone. "You did oversleep, didn't you?" He saw the younger man flinch as the light came on in the bathroom.
"I set my alarm." Neal's voice floated out to him. "I must have turned it off during the night. Sorry." There was something odd about the tone of Caffrey's voice, but he couldn't place it. "Give me fifteen minutes and I'll be ready to go." He heard water running.
"You've got ten," Peter rejoined, "and then I'm dragging you downstairs, fully dressed or not."
"Okay. Okay, I'll hurry." The toilet flushed and he heard water in the shower.
Five minutes later, Neal exited the en suite with a towel around his waist and Peter gave him the courtesy of his back as the younger man dressed. With less than a minute to spare, he heard, "I'm ready."
"'Bout time." He didn't give the conman a second glance as they went downstairs to the car. "When we set a schedule, I expect you to follow through."
"I said I was sorry." Neal had put on his dark glasses even before leaving his rooms, but in the light of day all that did was emphasize how pale the younger man was. "It won't happen again."
Peter didn't say anything for a long while as he sorted his way through the traffic. But finally he glanced at his companion and noticed he was sitting rigidly in his seat with his head slightly bowed. He noticed a compulsively hard swallow. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." Peter shook his head. For such a successful world-class conman there were times when Caffrey couldn't lie to save his soul. He watched as the younger man swallowed hard again.
"Are you going to be sick? Do I need to pull over?" Traffic was heavy, but there was no way that he wanted Caffrey tossing his cookies in the car.
"I'll be fine. It's just a headache." Neal's head came up for a moment and then tilted down again. "Just keep your eyes on the road. I don't care if this is a Taurus with automatic sensors."
He didn't take up the gauntlet on that but kept an eye on his passenger as well as the traffic as he continued the drive through the stop-start commuter flow.
Less than a quarter of an hour later he heard, "Peter...." There was something in the tone that told him that he needed to find someplace to stop fast! Minutes later, he managed to get them to the shoulder of the tollway and apparently not a moment too soon as Neal practically launched himself from the car. Setting the flashers going, he waited for a break in traffic and came round the car to find Neal on his knees dry heaving.
"In the three years I worked your case there wasn't even a footnote about you drinking heavily enough to have this sort of morning after." Peter remembered thinking, it would've been easier if the kid drank himself silly once in awhile cause maybe he'd let something slip more often.
"This isn't me with a hangover, Peter." Neal sank back on his heels, breathing slowly in through his mouth and out through his nose. "This is me with an unexpected migraine."
"Unexpected?" He noted the younger man was still deathly pale and was lightly sweating. "I didn't realize that migraines sent out announcements."
"I've had them since I was a teen and yes, most of the time I'm ready for them." Neal had closed his eyes and had made no move to get up. "I get little visual indicators when one is about to happen and if I pre-medicate myself they don't get this bad."
"You self-medicate?" He didn't like the sound of that.
"Don't worry." There was a trace of humor in the conman's voice. "Nothing illegal. Just caffeine and a combo of aspirin and acetaminophen usually are more than enough to take the edge off. Problem is…." Neal trailed off and was abruptly hunched over dry heaving once again. Peter kept a steadying hand on the smaller man's shoulder until he was once again resting on his heels.
"Hang on a moment." He retrieved the tiny first aid kit from the glove compartment and a bottle of water from his briefcase. "Maybe something in here can help…." He found packets of Bayer Aspirin and Tylenol and offered them to Neal with the water.
Caffrey rinsed his mouth twice before tentatively swallowing a couple of small sips, but refused the packets. "Can't take that now. I'll just throw them up."
"Is there anything you can take?" Fortunately, at the moment the traffic wasn't too horrid since there was no crumpled fenders and no blood so there wasn't much to see.
"Caffeine can help... soda like cola or one of those energy drinks like RedBull." Neal had taken his dark sunglasses off so Peter could see that he kept his eyes closed against the light and how pale he remained with dark circles under his eyes. "Back when things were good for Kate and me, I found a doctor that specialized in migraines and cluster headaches. There are all sorts of new drugs and treatments on the market. Imitrex injections worked pretty good for me, but I haven't had a script for that in years. For some reason neither the tablets nor the nasal spray worked for me. No way are self-injectors allowed in super max."
Peter frowned at that. "Why haven't you seen a doctor since you were released?"
"Cause I've been handling it on my own for years, Peter." Neal squinted up at him. "Why don't we get going? I don't have anything left to throw up 'side my socks. And putting on a show for the commuters isn't my idea of fun." He indicated the traffic that slowed as it passed them.
"I'll take you to the nearest ED. They should have something they can use to treat you." He steadied the younger man on his feet as he returned to the car.
"Nah, don't want a hospital." Neal settled slowly in the car and Peter reached around him and fastened the seatbelt before closing the door. "If you can spare me for the day, just take me back to June's and I'll pop some Excedrin, sip some Diet Coke and sleep it off."
"Are you certain?" He knew Caffrey hated hospitals and he wasn't much of a fan himself, but he would do what was necessary.
"Yeah, I am." Neal turned his head towards him and Peter could just make out his eyes behind the dark glasses. "Trust me. Sitting in a crowded, stuffy ED waiting room for hours isn't going to make this baby go away. But let me lay down for awhile back at June's and it'll be okay." The younger man tilted his head back and sighed. "You gonna go to Jersey on your own?"
"I'll call and reschedule. We'd spot the discrepancies faster working together than separately." Negotiating the heavy traffic, he managed to get them to an exit as he worked at getting them back to the city.
"Sorry, 'bout that. I know you wanted to get started on digging deeper on this one."
They'd been working on a stack of cold White Collar cases for the last several months, some Peter had worked originally, some he done follow up on a few months down the line, most were fresh to him. They certainly hadn't solved every one they tackled but working together they'd kick-started three cases that got farmed out to local offices in San Fran, Tacoma and Atlanta and managed to put together enough evidence to convince a judge to sign-off on surveillance warrants on two other cases. It would take time, but Peter had no doubt there'd be arrests in those cases eventually. Not a bad batting average.
"'Sokay. I've got plenty of other work I can do on our own open files in the meantime." Mindful of his companion's physical state, he tried to drive as smoothly as possible. "If you don't mind my asking, how'd this headache sneak up on you if you get warnings for 'em?"
"Woke up with it. Musta had the indicators when I was asleep." Neal rubbed his forehead in a seemingly futile effort to release the band of pain. "When my alarm clock went off, I almost didn't make it to the bathroom in time."
Caffrey was silent for the rest of trip and Peter kept an eye on him. His breathing had slowed and deepened. He wasn't sure if the ex-con had fallen asleep until he parked in front of June's mansion and turned the engine off. "Wha-" Neal's head came up quickly. "Ow." A long fingered hand came up to cover his eyes under his glasses. "Remind me not to do that again."
He quickly came round the car and opened the door as his passenger fumbled with his seatbelt. Shaking his head, he reached over and pressed the release. "Come on." Taking the smaller man's elbow he helped him up. "Let's get you inside." He took the key from Caffrey's hand and was just putting it in the lock when the door opened.
"Oh, Agent Burke.... Neal, dear, is something wrong?" June had her coat on, obviously getting ready to leave. She frowned at Neal's pale face and lack of immediate response. "Are you ill?"
"I'm fine," Neal protested as Peter herded him to the stairs. "Just a bad headache. Peter's being nice and letting me rest up to get rid of it." His attention was diverted by the effort it took to climb the stairs.
Peter looked back at June and mouthed 'migraine' and she frowned again. "Do you need to see a doctor? I can call mine."
"I'll be fine. Really." Neal turned his head to reassure her and nearly lost his balance. Only Peter's arm around his shoulders kept him upright.
"You just keep telling yourself that, kid." Peter looked down at June and she mimed dialing a phone. He nodded his agreement; somehow he didn't think a couple of over the counter tablets and a can of Coke wasn't going to take care of it.
By the time he got Caffrey in his room and undressed him down to his boxer-briefs and under the covers, June was knocking at the open doorway. "Neal, dear, is there anything I can get you?"
There was a muffled reply from the head of the bed, the younger man's head was nearly buried in the pillows. "I'll check the medicine cabinet. Earlier he mentioned that he had some Excedrin that would help." Peter twitched the drapes closed, in the brief time they'd been on the road a member of June's staff had been in and made the bed and opened the drapes, as he headed for the en suite. The room was now only lit by a desk lamp across the room and the light from the hallway.
"Grab a washcloth and run it under the hot water...." June whispered the suggestion as she sat on the edge of the bed near her houseguest. "My Byron used to get migraines so severe.... We tried everything it seemed - caffeine, heat, cold, over-the-counter, prescriptions, herbal remedies...." She quirked an elegant eyebrow in Peter's direction. "Even a few not-so-legal treatments, but most didn't do much. A few were moderately successful if we could administer them in time.... It was only in the last five or six years of his life that the doctors came up with some treatments that actually helped him." She took the warm cloth from Peter and laid it lightly on Neal's face covering his eyes.
"The bottle of Excedrin was empty, just one of those desiccant packets rattling around inside it." He kept his voice pitched low as he set the small waste basket from the bath next to the bed, just in case.
"Just as well," June pulled the covers up higher as she stood, "Dr. Haimes should be here shortly." She motioned Peter away from Neal. "He treated Byron and he's also treated Cindy's migraines. She had them all through high school. They've finally gotten the protocol down for them now and they rarely interfere with her life these days."
"He mentioned that Imitrex injections worked for him in the past." He glanced over at his wayward charge. "But he's not been under a doctor's care for them since before he was sentenced." Peter had spent years learning about Neal Caffrey - learning about his likes and dislikes, habits, quirks and he did not recall any mention of his favorite conman suffering from headaches - regular or otherwise. The man loved to be the center of attention, to be fawned over, but unless it was truly minor like a hangnail or a head cold, which he played up for all they were worth, Caffrey rarely acknowledged being human like everyone else. "Dammit. That was an economy-sized bottle of Excedrin in his cabinet. These migraines have been bothering him a lot since we've been working together."
"I'll go downstairs and wait for the doctor, shall I?" She patted the FBI agent's arm as she left.
Peter wasn't quite certain what to do with himself. For the moment, Neal was quiet and he didn't want to disturb him, if it meant the migraine was lessening. Caffrey had mentioned caffeinated soda usually helped. He checked out the small refrigerator by the tiny kitchenette. There were a half dozen bottles of water, a mostly empty half-gallon jug of orange juice, a bag of baby carrots and celery sticks and way in the back Peter found two bottles of Diet Coke. Grabbing a bottle of water and one of the sodas, he brought them over to the nightstand.
Hushed voices in the hall heralded the arrival of June and a gentleman who had be Dr. Haimes. He didn't even want to think what it must cost to use a doctor that made house calls. But Caffrey looked washed out under the cloth that covered his eyes and Peter couldn't deny that he needed to be treated.
"Ah, Dr. Haimes...." June ever the genteel hostess waved the doctor in ahead of her. "This is Agent Burke. He's Neal's boss."
"Doctor." Peter moved to shake hands with the man, smirking just a bit at the description. Boss certainly sounded better than keeper.
"Agent Burke." The man acknowledged him with a nod and moved to the bedside. "And this would be my patient." He took Neal's wrist, counting his pulse.
"Yeah, he said he woke with a migraine. He's vomited at least three times that I know of. He's had some water, but I don't think he's taken anything else. Said he'd only throw it up." Peter gave him a quick rundown on what he knew.
"All right then." The man nodded as he settled on the edge of the bed and removed the cloth from his patient's face. "Mr. Caffrey, are you awake?"
Neal murmured in response, but didn't open his eyes.
"Well, I'm Dr. Haimes, a good friend of June, and she's asked me to come and check on you." The man pulled a penlight from his jacket pocket. "Now, I'm going to check your eyes. I know you're light sensitive with the migraine, but I need do this." With a brief pat on the shoulder, he leaned in and lifted an eyelid. Neal moaned and flinched as the light showed widely blown pupils. "Okay, one pupil is just slightly more dilated than the other. Is the pain centered more on one side than the other?"
"Yes.... Left side...." Neal rasped, but did not open his eyes. "Little bit more."
"When did the migraine start?"
"Couple hours ago, I think. Woke up with it...."
"Okay, then." The doctor opened the bag he carried with him. "June said you'd been treated for migraines before?"
"Yeah." Neal licked his lips and swallowed.
"Did Imitrex work for you?" A slight nod. "Injection, pill or nasal spray?" Haimes warmed the bell of his stethoscope before placing it on the younger man's chest. Peter almost felt like a voyeur watching Caffrey as he submitted to treatment.
"Injection. Other ways didn't really do much."
"Hmmm...." The doctor also checked Neal's blood pressure, quickly pumping up the cuff. "All right then." Replacing the stethoscope and blood pressure cuff in his bag, the doctor rummaged deeper and pulled out an injector pen. Peter recognized the set-up after dealing with a perp that was a diabetic. "I'm going to give you an injection of Imitrex. Hopefully this will do the trick." Neal squinted up at the man for a moment before closing his eyes again. He placed the injector pen on Caffrey's upper arm and pressed the button. The younger man didn't even flinch.
"What did you mean by 'hopefully'?" Peter prompted as he watched the doctor pack up his bag.
"Well, as usual these things work best if used as close to onset as possible." The man set a small package on the nightstand. "However, if there isn't significant relief in two hours then a second dose can be administered." Turning towards June, "You remember how to do use the injector?"
"Yes, I do." Her eyes were dark with concern. "I'll keep an eye on him."
"Good." The man reached for her hand. "I'll call in a few hours to check on things." He nodded to Peter as he headed for the hall. "Any concerns, call my office immediately. Otherwise, he should make an appointment with my office or another specialist in the next day or so. With the many advances in treatment and all that is now available, there's no reason he should suffer through occurrences such as this. Especially as he's apparently had good results in the past."
"You'll send me the bill? I -" Peter heard their voices trail off as he turned to look at Caffrey.
"You're a stubborn ass, you know that, kid." Caffrey was covered medically under the release terms of his parolee and consultant position with the FBI. There was no reason he shouldn't have gotten proper treatment for the migraines, especially as debilitating as they obviously were. On reflection, Peter was pretty certain he knew of several instances where Neal had been affected by a migraine but managed to play it down. He shook his head.
"'m not." He looked down and saw that the man in question had not moved, hadn't even opened his eyes. "Used to taking care of myself."
"Did the injection help?"
"Yeah, some... actually." He saw one grey-blue eye squinted at him. "Doesn't feel like my head's gonna explode or fall off anymore." The eye closed.
"Good. Well, you rest. We'll just count this as a sick day." He patted his partner on the shoulder. "I'll head into the office. June's here if you need anything. Call me if you need something."
"'kay...." Neal's voice was sleep slurred.
Peter ran into June at the top of the stairs. "I need to get to the office. You'll be okay here with him?"
"Of course," June assured him. "The rest of the staff is here. Don't worry. Neal's in good hands."
"Right." Peter paused before heading down. "About setting up that appointment?"
"Don't you worry." June smiled. "It's already made. Day after tomorrow, 8:15 a.m. with Dr. Haimes." There was steel in her voice. "He really is one of the best in the field. We'll get Neal all sorted out."
"Sounds good then." He nodded. With anyone else, Caffrey might be able to talk his way out of it, but June had his number. And the younger man would never do anything to hurt or defy her if at all possible. "I'll check back later." Peter grinned to himself. Neal Caffrey, suave and sophisticated ex-conman, wouldn't know what hit him.