Neal and the Copperhead

Neal gets bitten by a snake on his way into work. The day goes downhill from there.

White Collar. Not my characters, wish they were. Thank you, Jeff Eastin and crew .

"Neal, you're late," Peter said into his cell phone.

"Peter, I have a good excuse."

"Oh, really? Let's hear it."

"I got bit by a snake."

Peter choked out a mouthful of coffee onto the Louisiana Bank mortgage fraud case file.

"Peter, did you just shoot coffee out of your nose?" Neal asked.

"Why would you think that?" replied Peter, quietly blowing his nose into his handkerchief. "Seriously, Neal, if you don't want to tell me why you're not here, just say so. You're allowed to be late once in a while."

"Really, Peter, snake bite, on my left ankle, and it's starting to swell, and it's really starting to hurt. I need you to - "

Peter believed him, because this was too bizarre of a tale, even for Neal. "Where are you?"

"I'm not too far," and he gave Peter an address about a mile from FBI Headquarters, "but I'm waiting for animal control to get out here. I don't know where the snake got to but I'm pretty sure it shouldn't be out like this."

"Wait for me. And stop pacing, " Peter said, just before hanging up. In lower Manhattan, only Neal could get bitten by a snake while walking on a sidewalk.

Peter arrived about ten minutes later, parking between an animal control van and a municipal car. Neal was sitting in the passenger seat of the car that had a health department placard in the windshield, door wide open. His left foot was dangling below the curb. Even from ten feet away it looked painfully swollen. He and an older man wearing a button down shirt and tie were chatting while the older man folded up the sketch Neal had made of the snake. Peter approached them, anklet key in hand, but stopped short. "Do you know what kind of snake it was? Maybe we should leave it on until we get to the hospital."

Neal rolled his eyes. "Please, Peter, take it off. It was just a copperhead."

"Copperhead - aren't they poisonous?"

"Yeah, but not one of the worst. I'm pretty sure I'm losing circulation in my foot, and that would be bad."

The older man, in fact, agreed. "Ron Fleming, I'm a veterinarian with the New York City health department's animal unit. I thought I'd join the techs on this one, since reptiles are my specialty," he said, addressing both of them. "Most people survive copperhead bites even without anti-venom, but they can be pretty germy, so he should have it treated as a regular animal bite. We'll give you a call later to let you know what we come up with, and see how you're doing."

"Most people survive?" asked Peter, his voice a little higher pitched than he would have liked.

"Without needing anti-venom," Dr. Fleming repeated, as they walked toward Peter's car. "Mostly the very young and the immunocompromised need treatment. I'm going to order a couple of vials from the zoo, just in case, so have the hospital call me if they need it." He gave Neal his card. "Keep your foot down," he said as Neal looked as if he was going to put it on the Taurus's dashboard. "And don't rub it."

"Bet you don't get too many snake bites around here, do you?" asked Peter.

"More than you'd think," Dr. Fleming replied. "Of course, they're usually someone's pet. Can't remember the last copperhead bite, though."

Peter drove Neal to Downtown Hospital, parking in the last emergency room spot. Neal started to get out of the car, but Peter made him stop.

"Nope, wait here, I'm going to grab you a wheelchair."


"Yes, Neal, the idea is to try and keep you from moving that venom around anymore than necessary."

Neal exhaled hard.

"You really stepped into the vipers' nest on this one," Peter said.

"You've been waiting to use that since we got here, haven't you?"

"No, since I spit coffee all over the files on my desk," he replied, grinning.

They spent six and a half hours in the emergency room. Five minutes for triage, fifteen minutes to confer with Dr. Fleming (clean the wound, what to look for in case anti-venom was needed, and yes, he had already requested that it be ready for pick-up, just in case). Another ten minutes to get a tetanus booster and antibiotics from the hospital pharmacy. About thirty seconds to administer Benadryl when Neal turned an exquisite shade of pink from the antibiotics. And the next six hours dealing with the aftermath of the Benadryl - the singing, the falling off the examination table and resultant sprained wrist, the x-raying and wrapping of the wrist, the nausea leading to vomiting, more singing, then a fair amount of moaning. By the time Neal was discharged from the ER Peter was cranky from caffeine deprivation and missing lunch, and Neal had a headache that threatened to shove his eyeballs onto his cheeks.

"Please just take me to June's so I can die in my sleep," he asked through clenched teeth, as Peter opened the Taurus's passenger door.

"We'll stop and pick up a change of clothes, buddy, but you're staying at Chez Burke tonight."

Neal didn't even care enough to argue, so Peter knew he had to feel - well, like he got bit by a snake, discovered an entirely new allergy, and had a fairly severe wrist sprain. Mercifully his ankle stopped hurting hours ago.

Peter finally checked his voicemail when they got into his house. There was one from Diana. The health department had called to let him know they'd found an illegal reptile breeding operation going on in the basement of the building that Neal happened to walk past, just as one of their copperheads escaped. Why anyone would even bother breeding copperheads was something no one could figure out, but they did have a number of other constrictors and venomous snakes, a few of which were even contained in aquariums. If nothing else the operation helped keep the local rodent population down.

"Neal, do you want to investigate an illegal snake breeding operation?" Peter asked, as Neal carefully edged onto Peter and Elizabeth's living room sofa.

Neal's head hurt too much to lift it but he was able to briefly raise his eyes.

"Bite me."

Thanks for reading!

Tags: character: neal caffrey, character: peter burke, genre: gen, rating: pg