Neal coughed harshly into his fist and frowned at the phlegm that covered his palm afterward. "Ugh. I hate being sick," he said as he wiped his hand on a tissue and added it to the growing pile next to him.
Peter, who was adjusting his tie in the mirror over the mantle, turned and looked at him. "Trust me, no one else likes when you're sick either."
Neal chose to ignore that and instead comment on the tie. "Are you really wearing that striped tie with that striped shirt?"
Peter looked down at his tie and hastily pulled it off. He held up a burgundy tie that he'd also brought downstairs with him that was almost the same shade as the stripes on his shirt.
While Peter worked at tying a Double Windsor, he asked, "Are you sure you don't want us to stay home with you?"
Neal immediately shook his head. "You don't want to know what it took for me to get this reservation. You and El should go and enjoy it."
Elizabeth came into the room then and leaned down to brush a kiss across Neal's forehead. "What can we bring back for you?"
Neal paled. "Nothing. Just try the foie gras and let me know how it is, please."
"Okay." El adjusted his blankets and went to refresh his water glass.
"Call us if you need anything," Peter said as he put on his cuff links. We'll be back by 9:30, and Satchmo should be okay to stay in until then."
Neal looked down at Satch, who was curled up on the floor next to the couch. "Don't worry about us."
Peter just shook his head and kissed Neal's forehead himself. "Take some Tylenol for that fever."
Neal rolled his eyes but agreed with a nod. He stayed on the couch while El brought his glass back and then watched as the two of them headed out to meet the car service Neal had set up for the three of them to have this fancy dinner date together. He'd thought it would be fun when he'd gotten the reservation three weeks ago, but he definitely hadn't foreseen catching the nasty flu that was running through the White Collar offices.
He dozed for much of the next hour before his nausea got the better of him, and he made his way upstairs to curl up on the bathroom floor by the toilet. It was fairly easy to create a little nest out of Elizabeth's bathrobe and some of the clean towels from the shelves by the shower. Her robe smelled of vanilla and some kind of flower he was too tired to identify, but he felt a little better being enveloped in her scent.
He must have fallen asleep again because the next thing he knew, Peter was shaking his shoulder and asking him something that Neal couldn't understand. It took a few minutes for his brain to kick in, and by then, Peter was pulling him up to his feet.
"What's going on?" Neal slurred.
"You're a mess. Why didn't you call us?" Peter was glaring at him, and Neal closed his eyes to both hide from the look and try to still the nauseating sway of the world around him.
Someone else – Elizabeth by the smell of her perfume – pulled his other arm over her shoulder and helped him navigate the hallway. "Neal?" she asked in a very concerned tone. "Are you with us?"
"I'm so tired," he said. "Need to lay down."
"Just a second," Peter replied gruffly.
A moment later, Neal was lowered onto the Burke's king-sized bed and allowed to curl up on his side. When his equilibrium felt steady, he opened his eyes to find Elizabeth, still in her dress, sitting beside him holding a glass of water. Peter was pacing the floor behind her, loosening his tie. He'd already lost his suit jacket somewhere along the way.
"Shhh, sweetie." Elizabeth helped him sit up enough to take two Tylenol with the water.
He lay back against his pillow and watched Peter for a moment. "I was sleeping, and then I was sick, and then I was sleeping again. I didn't really feel any worse."
"Well, it took you long enough to wake up when we found you on the bathroom floor," Peter commented as he took a seat on the bed and put his hand on Neal's hip. "I was about to call an ambulance."
"I'm sorry," Neal repeated.
"Stop apologizing," Elizabeth said while she brushed Neal's hair away from his forehead. "We'll get your fever back down, and you'll feel better soon. Do you need anything?"
"Just you two. Will you lay down with me?"
"Of course, sweetie. Let us just get changed, okay?"
Neal nodded a little and closed his eyes. He listened to the rustling of their clothes as they took off their dinner outfits and got into their pajamas. He was still awake when he felt the bed dip both in front of and behind him.
"How was dinner?" he murmured.
"It wasn't the same without you." Elizabeth pressed her forehead to his and started brushing her fingers through his hair again. He was already so comfortable, but when Peter curled up behind him and lay his arm over Neal's hip to rest his hand on Neal's abs, he felt like he was in the most comfortable place in the world.
"Get some sleep," Peter said into his ear. "We'll be here when you wake up."
Thanks for reading!