The Ants Brigade
A/N: I found this in my documents, so uploaded it. It's unfinished, but I won't continue it because I have another White Collar fic to focus on and loads of exam revision...
Warning: Very over-used plot!
Disclaimer: I own nothing here. I kind of got the title from the 'Light Brigade'
The heat made his skin inch and crawl with invisible ants, their tiny, prickly little legs scurrying up and down the surface of his arms and legs and Neal shuddered. They were biting him, eating him and there was nothing he could do. The restraints that bound him, that trapped him, were too strong and he struggled vainly against the thick blanket of warmth.
Warmth was the last thing he wanted. He was too damn hot already.
He felt himself cry out rather than heard it, the buzzing in his ears and the whirring of his mind with its long forgotten voices was too loud and they drowned out everything else. All except the ants chomping away, he could hear the clicking of their teeth as they ground against each other in a synchronised hum of chewing, over and over again.
Click, clack, chomp.
Click, clack, chomp.
Click, clack, chomp.
Neal tried again to swipe them away even though he couldn't see them or anything because his eyelashes were clumped together and the strain of peeling back his eyelids and confronting the little army of insects that had decided to make Neal their meal was too much.
It was all too much.
Neal's throat hurt, it burned raw and red yet the whimper that left his cracked lips managed to pierce through the hot fog that surrounded him. It was sharp and blaring and it echoed backwards through his fever induced haze until the ants were gone and all that remained was his pained, pathetic sobbing.
That, and a voice.
A quiet voice, so very soft and gentle and deep and Neal knew it.
He felt stupid for not being able to fit a name to that voice, a face, any face beside the ants clawing at his skin and he tried to pinpoint where the words were coming from.
He tried to understand them, but he couldn't.
He was just too hot for that.
Then there was something cool against his forehead, beautifully cold and four separate lines of ice rubbed at his temple, above, between his eyebrows trying to soothe away the frown that lay there. He leaned into the touch, fingers unclenching for a moment as the cold ran through his hair, pushing away the limp, dark strands of hair away.
It was better for a moment, not quite so hot and then Neal felt the ants again, on his neck this time and he tried to reach up, squash the bastard things but the heat was enveloping again.
The heat was so much worse than before and the coolness that had been so wonderful for a moment was gone and Neal was alone.
Well, besides the brigade of insects gnawing at his pale flesh.
Somewhere between then and something else, Neal fell asleep.
When he awoke for a second time, he found he could open his eyes.
The light was bright and he flinched, burying his face in the soft pillow beneath his head in a bid to escape but it managed to pierce through the darkness and he moaned. God, he was hurting.
"Neal? Buddy, you with me?"
There was that voice again and then there were hands on his face, his cheeks, pulling him away from the pillow and back into the light.
"Open your eyes, Neal."
Neal shook his head against the invisible thing but did what it said regardless. He had to know what was going on, where the ants had gone?
"That's it, buddy."
Of course it was Peter, how could he not have known that?
Neal clenched his teeth and swallowed thickly. Why couldn't he remember that?
"Ants…where are the….ants?" He wasn't sure if that was his voice because it sounded pathetically mute with a raspy scratch.
"Ants? Jeez, your fever is high." Peter spoke again and Neal watched through distorted vision as the older man moved away from the bed (which Neal soon realised was his own) and moved quietly around the apartment. "You should have told me you were sick, Neal."
He wasn't sick, was he? Caffrey couldn't remember. He knew he felt horrible, truly awful, like he'd been run over by a steam roller and then scraped off the floor with a shovel. But that didn't mean he was ill. Just….not quite top form.
Neal Caffrey didn't get sick.
"The staff tell me June's away so Elle says you're coming back to our place…don't mind….under my feet…..shoes…..dragging you to the car…."
Peter's voice trailed off and then came flooding back in a steady beat along with the rapid pace of Neal's heart within his ribcage. His chest hurt. His left ankle hurt. Damn, even his ears seemed to hurt. Or maybe it was his head.
Neal groaned and threw one leaden arm over his eyes, trying to block out the blazing light. He felt the bed dip and there was Peters hand again, patting his belly in something that he assumed was meant to be comforting. It was.
"Sit up, Neal and put this shirt on. It's cold outside." Peter ordered softly and Neal snorted in amusement.
"Cold? What's that?" Neal let himself by manoeuvred into the shirt like a child's Barbie doll with broken joints and he winced at the sudden and unwelcome layer of heat.
He was already wearing trousers (for which he was incredibly grateful. He wasn't sure he'd have been able to put on another pair if he tried) so Peter let him sit on the edge of the bed while he packed a bag and turned off the lights.
"Don't worry about work, I rang Hughes. He told you to shut up, rest and watch terrible daytime TV." Peter was talking to himself because Neal was too busy trying to remain level and he was failing.
And then suddenly the floor was rushing up way too fast and he was too shocked, too hot to put out his own arms.
But Peter was there. He was always there and the older man caught his partner in a strong grip and held him tightly, safely.
"Whoa, you okay, Neal?"
In response, Neal nodded against Peter's warm shoulder and clutched at his shirt, willing the dizziness to subside for a moment so he could stand and regain some of his dignity.
"I think we should get you to the doctor." Peter sounded worried, heart warmingly worried. "You're really not doing too good are you?"
"I'm fine." Neal breathed through his nose and tried to push himself to his feet. "I don't need a doctor."
"I'll let Elizabeth be the judge of that."
Soon enough, Peters arm was wrapped around his friend's waist as a steadying anchor and they began to lengthy, strenuous journey to the Taurus.
It seemed like a long way for Neal, whose legs felt like two extra limbs without nerve endings, but he had Peter.
And suddenly, it didn't seem so far anymore.