"Peter, he has a fever," El said worriedly, pressing a hand to Neal's forehead.

"Hey Elizabeth" Neal smiled wanly, only to grimace as he moved his head too quickly.

"Neal what were you thinking?" she asked, sounding exasperated.

Neal's only answer was to pale and stagger to the bathroom, where Peter found him retching over the toilet.

"I'm s-s-sorry" Neal hiccupped miserably as he flushed the toilet.

"It's okay…shhh" Peter soothed, pulling Neal into a hug. He held Neal with one hand, and wet a washcloth with the other. Gently pulling back from Neal, Peter wiped Neal's mouth and hastily rubbed the washcloth over the ex-con's tear-streaked cheeks.

" I feel s-s-sick…make it stop. Please, Peter" mumbled Neal, slumping against Peter.

"I know…just try to relax" Peter comforted, stroking Neal's dark hair back from his sweaty forehead. He looked up to see El standing in the doorway, her eyes dark with sympathy.

"Peter, you should probably get him in bed before he falls asleep" she suggested softly.

"C'mon Neal" Peter said, gently pulling Neal upright. Neal stumbled weakly, his head drooping as Peter dragged him down the hall to the guestroom. He deposited Neal's limp body on the bed as El came in with extra blankets. She gently tucked the blankets around him and smoothed his dark locks away from his damp forehead.

"Think we should call a doctor, hon?" El asked.

"No…I'm sure he'll be fine," Peter said. El simply raised her eyebrows, it sounded more like Peter was trying to convince himself that Neal would be okay.

"I-I-I'll stay with him. Try and get some fever medication into him" Peter offered.

"Are you sure, hon?"

"Yeah, go to bed. I'm sorry about Christmas."

El took one last look at Peter who had situated himself in a chair next to Neal. She smiled, and yawned. Even on Christmas Peter was still working.


Neal woke up a few hours later. His head was pounding and he felt nauseous.

"Neal?" Peter's voice was worried. He saw Neal's face go slightly green and quickly grabbed a trashcan and held it under Neal's face as he vomited.

"Hey, I need you to swallow these" Peter couldn't help feeling sorry for Neal. The ex-con was a mess; his eyelids were drooping, his hair was sticking up absurdly, and he was sweating and shaking.

Neal painfully swallowed the fever medication along with a few sips of water and Peter helped him lie back down, pulling the covers up to his chin. Peter watched as Neal's eyes slid closed and walked out of the bedroom to empty the trashcan.

When he came back, Neal was sitting as upright as he could be, blue eyes frantically searching for Peter.

"Neal, shhh…" Peter soothed trying to coax him to lie back down. Neal clutched his shirt, pulling Peter close.

"P'ter, I'm scared…" Neal whimpered into Peter's shirt. Peter couldn't do anything except rub Neal's back; he didn't realize Neal could be this vulnerable. Neal was normally so cocky and sleek, now all he looked was scared and vulnerable.

After a few minutes, which seemed like a few hours, Neal's grip on Peter's shirt relaxed and his shaky breaths evened out.

"Merry Christmas, buddy" Peter gently eased Neal back against the pillows.

He stood up stiffly, stretching his cramped legs. Smiling at Neal's relaxed face, now free of a feverish flush, Peter turned off the lights. He paused for a moment in the doorway, just in time to hear Neal murmur something.

"Merry Christmas, P'ter."

Author's Note—There may be an epilogue…if there's enough interest! :) Please leave a comment!