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Neal moaned and tugged at the soft cervical collar wrapped around his neck. He didn't like the confining feeling that came with the immobilizer but he also didn't have any interest in moving his neck anytime soon either.

"Whoa, hey." Peter's large, warm hands wrapped around his and pulled them away slowly. "You okay?"

"Hurts," Neal murmured, breathing in deeply through his nose and letting it out in measured amounts from his mouth. It was a pain controlling technique he'd learn from Mozzie years ago when he'd fallen from a retaining wall and broken his arm escaping museum guards.

Peter rubbed a hand up and down Neal's thigh in a soothing gesture. "Try to relax. We're almost home."

"Three more minutes, Neal," Elizabeth said from the front seat. He could tell that she was maneuvering as gingerly as possible through the midday traffic, but she hit a pothole and he whimpered.

"Remind me," Neal had to pause for another deep breath, "to never ride with Diana again."

"You can't blame this on her. Anyone could have been driving when you guys were rearended." Peter kindly didn't mention the fact that Neal had been leaning over between the seats to change the radio station, which had resulted in the severe whiplash he was currently suffering through.

Neal snorted but didn't respond. He held his breath as Elizabeth guided the car into a parking spot on their street. The jerky start and stop of parallel parking was causing his stomach to go topsy-turvy.

He kept his eyes closed as Peter and Elizabeth both got out of the car, and he had himself under some control when Peter opened the door on his side and put his hand on Neal's shoulder.

"Come on. Let's get you inside."

It took a while to get Neal out of the car and moving toward the house, and they were all relieved when Peter helped him ease down to sit on the couch. Elizabeth was waiting with a glass of water and a muscle relaxer, which Neal took gratefully.

Peter stood next to the couch and looked from Neal to the stairs and back again. "You can stretch out here on the couch, if you want, or Elizabeth has the guest room made up."

Neal wasn't looking forward to climbing the stairs but being out of sight of prying, if caring, eyes sounded good. He wanted to sleep the pain away, and he was starting to feel drowsy enough to make that happen. "Upstairs," he said while trying to lever himself off the sofa.

Peter gave him a hand and shadowed him over to the stairs. He'd only made it up a couple of them when dizziness hit, and he was forced to grab hold of the railing with both hands.


He swallowed hard. "Just need a minute."

"What can I do?"

"Stand still."

Peter abruptly stopped his anxious fidgeting, and Neal focused on riding out the waves of vertigo and pain. After a couple of minutes, he ascended another two stairs but had to stop again.

"Let me help," Peter said, gently pressing a hand to the small of Neal's back. "Neal, please."

He hesitated, but it was clear, even to himself, that he wasn't going to make it to the second floor on his own. "Okay."

Peter moved smoothly but slowly as he pushed Neal closer to the banister so that he could stand beside him. Then, he slipped his arms under Neal's back and his knees so that he could lift him into his arms.

Neal moaned at the change in position, and Peter groaned at bearing the younger man's weight, but it took much less time to get to the guest bedroom. Almost before Neal had registered where they were, Peter was placing him on the bed and guiding his head onto a soft pillow.

His eyelids were too heavy to open again, but he distantly felt Peter taking off his shoes and pulling a blanket over him. "Thanks, Peter," he mumbled.

Peter's fingers ghosted through his hair. "Get some rest."


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