Rating: PG for a little language, Gen
Characters: Neal, Peter
Summary: Neal may be the one hurt, but to Peter, that doesn't make him any less of a pain. This story has been beta'd.
Disclaimer: Don't own White Collar
Sympathy in C Minor
"Admit it. You were worried."
Peter flipped through the medical forms, getting a clear picture of what he was up against. Paper work was paper work but medical forms annoyed him, being far more personal and, at the extreme moment, not his history he was filling out. "I was worried. I was worried that the whole operation was blown because you decided to set the alarms off." It would have been easier just to let Neal handle the paperwork himself – it was his medical history, after all – but at this point Peter didn't trust Neal to stay honest even where his own health was concerned. He'd probably check every box for every health issue just for kicks.
"Hey, it wasn't my fault you guys didn't believe me when I said Francois was smarter than he looked. I hadn't tripped the alarm, he would've walked right out of there with the necklace."
"Yep. And that Monet didn't strike your fancy at all. You were just taking it out of the kindness of your heart."
"It was a Manet," Neal said, indignant, "it was a fake, and, come on, this is me we're talking about. Since when have I ever tripped an alarm on accident?"
"There's a first time for everything," Peter said, not even trying to hide a smile because the role reversal was such a rarity, and Peter was a man who knew how to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
"Any allergies?" he asked. There hadn't been one second in which Peter had entertained the thought of Neal caving to temptation. Number one, the man was smart. Number two, the man was really smart. But, damn, if it wasn't fun giving him hell.
"No," Neal said hotly. "And this isn't a first anything. I knew what I was doing."
"Up until Francois tackled you."
Neal smiled sourly. "Yes, up until he tackled me. How was I supposed to know he'd tackle me?"
"Which goes to show he wasn't that smart after all."
"He was," Neal said, shifting to get more comfortable. Unachieved, he winced, clutching his jacket as though the action had the power to soothe his bruised, cracked, broken, whatever-it-happened-to-be rib or ribs. "But he also has a temper. I hadn't tripped the alarm and took one for the team, he would have gotten away."
"You didn't take one for the team."
"I think the X-rays will beg to differ."
"Has anyone ever told you that you regress into a five year old when you're hurt?" Peter didn't give Neal a chance to respond. The final Is dotted and Ts crossed, he deposited the forms at the nurses' station. When he returned, it was to a narrow-eyed Neal looking more suspicious than pained and brooding.
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Neal asked.
Peter retook his seat, folding his hands across his stomach, the picture of nonchalance and innocence all rolled into one. "I don't take pleasure in other people's pain."
"Then why don't you flash your badge and bump us up the line? Get this over with already?"
Peter glanced around the barely populated waiting room, at the mother with the flushed-faced little boy, some guy cradling his arm, and a woman in a gray dress suit skittering around, harassing the nurses.
"Just... be patient, will you?" he said. "You're not the only one suffering, here." He was tempted to tack on how it was half past twelve, that he was supposed to be meeting Elizabeth for lunch, that Neal was the one who'd refused the ambulance ride that might have ensured swifter attention. But Peter wasn't in the mood to argue. Not with Neal.
Besides, he couldn't really blame the guy. Between enduring a waiting room or being strapped down in a neck brace to a bed just to play it safe, you couldn't say either one was the lesser of two evils.
"Hey, patience is my middle name," Neal said, grinning. Which turned into a grimace "Just not today."
Peter pressed his lips into a thin line, watching Neal adjust and readjust himself, wincing and hissing, never able to find that right configuration to make life at least a little bit easier. Neal looked like he was trying to hold himself together, to exude that sparkling confidence that was a never ending source of annoyance for Peter and, of course, failing. It was with great reluctance that Peter started to feel bad for him. Francois had been short but stocky, and solid, and that tackle had sent them both tumbling down the stairs. There'd been a heart-stopping moment when Peter thought that Neal might have broken his neck. The relief had been quite draining when Neal managed, with great pain, to sit up on his own.
But, really, at the moment there wasn't much else Peter could do for Neal that he wasn't all ready doing.
He said, in part to take Neal's mind off the discomfort, and in part out of curiosity, "San Diego."
"What?" Neal snapped.
"San Diego. We were told that if we wanted Neal Caffrey then we needed to stake out all the clinics and hospitals in San Diego. That you'd been winged. I had a feeling it was a goose chase but we checked it out anyway."
"And was it a goose chase?" Neal asked with a boyish innocence that, for a moment, gave Peter great satisfaction in knowing that Caffrey was currently uncomfortable.
"You tell me?" Peter said. "Were you ever in San Diego?"
"I've been there," Neal replied. "Exactly when I can't say for sure. Where are you going with this, anyway?"
Peter shrugged. "Just speculating. Your current medical form is probably the only form is existence with the name Neal Caffrey on it, barring those filled out before you decided to lead a life of crime. Hell, you probably have medical records under different aliases all over the world."
Neal smiled sweetly. "If I even got hurt. And by that I mean got hurt more than before I landed in your good graces."
Peter snorted. "Please."
"Almost suffocated, drugged, punched a couple of times, tasered. Now this." Neal feigned surprise. "Wow. Who knew a life of crime could be so much safer."
Peter shook his head. He didn't believe it. San Diego wasn't the first intel they'd had of a wounded Neal. There had been other places, too far away to get to in time. One also had to take into consideration the Francois of the world, the hot heads and thugs with guns and vendettas, twitchy security guards, close calls and not to mention whatever nature might have thrown at Neal. The guy might be brilliant, but he was still human.
It made Peter wonder if Neal really was the kind of guy to resort to a hospital with only an alias between him and a jail cell, or if he was the kind of guy who had winged it on his own with only a first aid kit and Kate or Mozzie (he actually thought about asking Mozzie and almost laughed). He was leaning toward the aliases, but either way it was kind of a pathetic way to live. You healed better when you weren't monumentally stressed, and being wounded, weak and therefore unable to run, Neal would have been monumentally stressed.
Peter never had a chance to look into the matter (not that he expected Neal would've been forth coming about it). A nurse called for Caffrey and they (because at this point, anklet or not, Peter refused to let Neal out of his sight) were led into a room where Neal sat on the upraised gurney and Peter a chair.
After the nurse ran through the usual check of heart rate and blood pressure, then left to get the doctor, Peter asked, "Seriously, this is the most you've been injured?"
Which was the wrong thing to ask, because it made Neal smile. "Aw, you do care."
"Stow it, Caffrey. Just answer the question. It's not like I can indite you for it."
"Sure, there've been bad days," Neal said.
"Few and far between."
The doctor arrived, male much to Peter's amusement. In pain and needing the doctor's help to remove his shirt tossed all of Neal's professionalism out the window. The only time Peter had seen Neal this uncomfortable was when he'd received the guilty verdict at his trial.
The bruise on Neal's side wasn't as fun. It was dark, massive, from armpit to waist, and Peter couldn't stop his wince of sympathy. Neal was right about his middle name being patience, figuratively speaking. You could unsettle Neal, but it took a lot to really piss him off, and right now the doctor was on the verge of pissing him off with all the poking and pressing. When he finished, Neal really was brooding. It was kind of funny.
X-rays were needed, forcing Peter with much discomfort to remove the anklet. After the X-rays, Neal gratefully slid back into his shirt and Peter gratefully strapped the anklet back on. But it was score one for Caffrey when it was confirmed that a rib – two ribs – had indeed been cracked.
"Cracked, not broken," Peter pressed.
"Still took one for the team," Neal said, all smiles as he buttoned up his shirt. He wasn't able to tuck it in, which he tried very hard not to look unhappy about.
"And admit it," Neal said as they headed out to the car, Neal with a little brown bag of pain pills, Peter looking forward to Neal being too drugged up on those pain pills to cause him grief. "You were worried. If you weren't, you would have assigned someone else to take me to the doctor."
Peter sighed, rolling his eyes. "Fine, I was a little worried. Something happens to you, I'm the one whose ass gets chewed up and spit out."
"You were worried about me."
"Keep dreaming, Caffrey."
"Worr-ied," Neal sing-songed.
"Drop it or you're back in the hospital with a gunshot wound."
Neal held his hands up in mock surrender. "Fine. Agree to disagree."
They arrived at the car and got in, Peter swiftly, Neal gingerly.
"And, you know, I've got to admit," Neal said. "It is kind of nice being able to use my real name for a change."