"Neal, wake up." Peter shook the young man's arm lightly, and was surprised when he gave a shout and sat up, his eyes unnaturally wide. Had he been dreaming? A nightmare perhaps? He wouldn't doubt it. Ever since Neal had found out about Kate a few weeks ago, he'd been much more quiet than usual. Before, with the box, he had just seemed like he was planning something. Now that he knew that she was just using him, he seemed downtrodden.
He snapped himself back to reality, and to the task at hand, which was to get the sick consultant out of the car and into the house.
"Peter?" he mumbled, sitting up in his seat. It didn't go unnoticed how his arm subtly curled around his stomach. He still wasn't feeling well.
"It's time to get up, kiddo," Peter said, reaching into the car and wrapping an arm around Neal's shoulder and helping to hoist him out. As soon as Neal hit his feet, his knees buckled, but luckily, Peter managed to catch him. "And here we go," he said, pulling Neal's arm around his shoulder. Neal was…way lighter than he should be, Peter thought.
It took some doing, but Peter managed to get the door open while keeping Neal upright, and steered him into the house, sitting him down on the couch. Neal sunk down immediately, his head hitting the arm of the sofa and his eyes slipping shut. "Hey, hey, no sleeping yet," Peter said, shaking him. Neal's bright blue eyes peeled open slowly, and he blinked at him. "You hang out here for a few seconds. I'm gonna go get you some dry clothes to change into." And hopefully by then, El will be back, he added to himself.
Just to be sure, while he was perusing the drawer of clothes Elizabeth had bought specifically for Neal, he called her. She was just leaving the diner, and he asked if she could come home early, that Neal was there and wasn't feeling so hot. She, of course, agreed, and he hung up, returning to the living room with the clothes.
Only Neal wasn't in the living room. He would have wondered where he was, but all of the sudden, he heard violent retching coming from the bathroom.
"Neal?" he asked as he pushed the door open. Sure enough, the blue-eyed twenty-two year old was doubled over the toilet, throwing up. Peter sat the clothes on the vanity and knelt down beside him. It was weird; normally he had no idea what to do in situations like this, but with Neal it was like some instinct took over, and he could just tell.
Like the way he could tell Neal was about to face plant into the toilet. "Whoa," he gasped, grabbing hold of Neal's shoulders just in time to catch him as his arms gave out from under him. Neal hadn't eaten that much though, so he didn't vomit long, but his dry heaves continued until Peter finally placed a wet rag over his mouth, holding it closed. Neal's eyes went wide and he thrashed.
"Shh, take it easy kiddo. Breathe through your nose," he told him. Neal thrashed again, but finally, he stopped and listened to Peter, and soon enough the convulsions stopped. "You okay now?" Peter asked, removing his hand.
"I think s—" he didn't get to finish his sentence, and he fell into another round of retching, his eyes squeezing shut as tears ran from them. Peter just rubbed his back, reaching with one hand to the sink to get some water for him. He wondered briefly how the consultant had gotten so sick in so little time. He was shaking so hard that if Peter didn't know any better, he would've thought the kid was going into shock or something. As it was, it just looked like a stomach bug. But it was one helluva stomach bug.
Neal had only just started to get his stomach back under control when Peter heard the door open.
"Is anybody home?" came the call from the foyer. Neal, despite his pitiful state, seemed to perk up a bit at the sound. Well, perked up being he immediately tried to stand, probably to go greet her. It ended with him doubled over the porcelain throne again, doing his best impersonation of the girl from The Exorcist.
The sound of shoes being kicked off into a wall, and padding feet made its way all the way to the bathroom, where Elizabeth appeared in record. She had no sooner looked at him than her lately-not-so-dormant mommy mode kicked in, and she was at Neal's other side, barking orders to an utterly flabbergasted Peter.
With Peter off running errands, it was just Neal and Elizabeth in the bathroom. The aforementioned thief seemed to be struggling to get himself under control, but it obviously wasn't working, and he ended up just choking out apologies as he lost what seemed like every meal he'd eaten in the last week.
"Shh hun, just take deep breaths, okay?" she hushed, rubbing his back in soothing circles. Neal nodded, but still, he spent the better part of five minutes being on and off sick. It seemed though, that finally he had nothing else left to throw up, and he fell back against the wall of the bathroom. His sweat-damped hair stuck to his forehead and neck, and his face was more pale than Elizabeth had ever seen it.
Elizabeth reached over and flushed the toilet, and grabbed the paper cup of water Peter had gotten ready from the vanity of the sink. Neal took it from her with a shaky hand, and made to chug it, but Elizabeth intervened. "Small sips, Neal," she told him, and he nodded. He wasn't exactly pining for a repeat performance after all, and he figured she knew what she was talking about if for no other reason than she was Elizabeth. She knew everything.
When he finished rinsing his mouth out and getting what he could of the nasty taste out of his mouth, he leaned his head back against the comparatively cool wall behind him. "Sorry," he muttered, closing his eyes.
Elizabeth frowned, and reached up to brush his bangs from his face. "It's not your fault you're sick," she told him. "And," she added, pressing the back of her hand more firmly against his forehead, "apparently have a fever."
I wish that was the worst of my troubles, Neal thought bitterly, doing his best not to jerk his head away from her cool hand. Not that he could've put it anywhere, and the world was spinning enough without adding rapid movement to the mix. Once again, he wasn't in for a repeat performance, and to him, sitting there with his eyes closed and not moving at all seemed like the best way to reach that particular end. Or to not reach it. Whichever made more sense. To be honest, Neal wasn't sure he could've figured that out right about then. He wasn't even sure he was capable of coherent sentences. Luckily for him, Elizabeth didn't ask him any questions. She was more about bossing him around right about then. "Open your mouth," she commanded, and he did so. He felt the cool metal slide under his tongue, and recoiled briefly before he realized that it was a thermometer.
"Elifabef, I'm fine," Neal protested mildly. He kind of just wanted to go curl up in a ball somewhere and pretend he didn't exist for a little bit. If you didn't exist you couldn't hurt, after all, and right about then, that hit pretty high on his wish list.
A beep sounded, and Elizabeth plucked the thermometer from his mouth. "Fine? Neal, you have a fever of a hundred and one," she said, her eyebrows knotted in concern. "Okay, I'm going to go see if I can held Peter find you something for your fever and your stomach. You get changed," she said, but then stopped. "Do you think you'll be okay to do that?" she asked.
Neal couldn't believe he looked bad enough for her to think he couldn't even dress himself. Sure, he felt about like that, but usually, he was a lot better at hiding it.
"Yeah, I'll make it," he assured her with a smile that he knew probably wasn't as winning as they usually were. It would have to do, and it did. Elizabeth left him in peace to change by himself, and he set about peeling himself off the floor and changing out of the clothes that had grown uncomfortably damp.
He made it up to the mirror, bracing himself against the vanity as he splashed some water on his face. When he looked up in the mirror, he cringed. He did look pretty awful. His eyes looked like someone had punched him out, they were so dark, and he looked distinctly greenish. "Definitely not attractive," he muttered to himself as he started to undress. He took greater care once he got down to his undershirt. He had a feeling that some of the wounds he had reopened, and that meant they had probably bled a little, which meant they had probably gotten stuck to his shirt.
He was right, so he go the pleasure of systematically ripping his skin away from his once pristinely white undershirt. He realized about then that he would need some place to hide it, lest Peter or Elizabeth find it. That would really freak them out, and Neal really didn't feel like dealing with all that right about then.
Luckily for him, it seemed Peter had gotten a new razor that week. One of the nice fancy electronic ones that had all those nice chargers, and more importantly, really big boxes.
He quickly opened it and tucked his shirt down inside the box, closing the lid of it and replacing the plastic adhesive circle that held the tab in place. There was little to no chance they would find it, and he didn't think there were any other options. There was always the back of the toilet, but Peter was a cop. He probably checked the back of the toilet daily on paranoia alone.
With the evidence satisfactorily hidden, he looked himself over. Some of the bandages had come off with the shirt, but a lot of them, mostly the big gauze pads he'd taped quite liberally over his various cuts and abrasions. The rest was just bruises, most of which were already starting to return to normal flesh tone.
Despite what Peter might think to the contrary, this was not the first time he'd had wounds like this. Usually though, he'd had the option of retreating to his penthouse suite and licking his wounds for a few weeks before showing his face to the world again. Not the case here, but he figured he'd make due with what he had.
He pulled on the shirt over his head, careful of all his aches, and moving slowly so as not to incite the wrath of his churning stomach or his pounding head, both of which seemed to be conspiring against him. The pants came next, which took a bit longer, since he was having trouble working up the coordination to manage to stay standing on one leg. He managed though, somehow, and was rewarded with a much more comfortable get up.
Just in time too, because there was a knock at the door the very moment he finished with the drawstring on the flannel sleep pants.
"Are you finished Neal?" It was Elizabeth.
"Yeah," he called out, wincing at how raspy his voice was. It sounded like he'd been gargling razor blades or something.
The door opened, and Elizabeth came in. She opened her hand to him, and in her palm were a couple of pills. He frowned. He'd never really like medicine. It was too easy to switch up and drug. He trusted Elizabeth though, so he took the pills from her hand and popped them in his mouth. She had a cup of water waiting for him when he finished swallowing them, and handed it to him. He took that too, and tried not to think of how many different things could have been in those capsules that were not conducive to his health.
"Thanks," he muttered.
"No problem. Now come on, you need to get some sleep," she told him, and put an arm around his shoulders. She steered him out of the bathroom and to the living room where a much more impressive version of a bed had been made since last time he'd slept there which seemed like about an hour ago. Time was kind of screwy in his head right about then though, so he could honestly say he couldn't care less. He slid under the covers, feeling a little awkward for how he was being watched the whole time. He figured she was just trying to make sure he didn't die on her or something though, so he tolerated it.
"Alright, well there's a trash can right here, and I'll be upstairs doing laundry if you need me, okay?" she asked.
It occurred to him though, that Peter was nowhere to be seed. "Peter?" he asked, fatigue already tying his tongue and fogging his brain.
"I sent him out to the store for some Sprite, crackers, and anti-nausea meds. We're fresh out of all three," she said, smiling. "He'll be back in a bit though. Just go to sleep, okay?"
But Neal was already asleep.