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Temporary Infirmity

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Neal Caffrey gritted his teeth and counted to ten under his breath as Peter Burke fussed with his pillows, his blankets, and his bedside reading materials. “Enough, Peter! Go away. I'm fine.”

“Neal-”

“No. I have everything I need: books, magazines, water, the remote for the TV that you insisted on hauling in here from your room.” He pointed to each thing in turn using the bare minimum of movement. “Go back to the office.”

Peter sighed and tried again. “The doctor said-”

“I don't care what the doctor said.” Neal was dangerously close to losing his cool. “I. Am. Fine.”

“What if you need-”

The FBI agent barely managed to dodge the pillow that sailed toward his face. He was more concerned with the cry of pain the action elicited from his consultant anyway, and he reached out to help ease Neal back on his pillows only to have his hands batted away.

“I'm,” Neal sucked in a breath and slowly blew it back out, “okay.”

“Yeah, sure,” Peter agreed in the same manner one would with a two-year-old who insisted on feeding themselves. “You're about ten shades paler than normal and you can't sit up straight. You're great.”

Neal glared, though he couldn't refute those statements. Ever since this afternoon, he'd felt like one of those shoes you saw on the side of the highway that had been run over by fifty cars and was in dirty little pieces everywhere. Peter had led the takedown of a Wall Street tycoon who refused to be arrested quietly or easily. He'd taken shots at the team, and Peter had pushed Neal out of the way of a bullet only to cause the CI to go ass-over-teakettle down a flight of stairs. Neal had landed at the bottom mostly intact except for back spasms that would not stop.

Peter checked his watch and reached for one of the orange prescription pill bottles on the nightstand. “It's probably time for another muscle relaxer.”

“Not yet,” Neal replied, shaking his head. He hated taking medication, especially something that would cause him to lose as much self-control as muscle relaxers or analgesics. He'd taken them at the ER before he'd been discharged but that was because he knew that traffic was going to be bad at five o'clock on a Friday, and he hadn't looked forward to sitting up in the Taurus that long without some relief.

“Are you always this bad of a patient?” Peter's exasperation was only rivaled by his contrition. He felt responsible for pushing Neal down the stairs, despite the fact that his consultant had been in immediate danger of a bullet doing way more damage.

“I make it a point to never get sick. Or injured if I can help it.” He closed his eyes, not yet ready to deal with Peter's misplaced guilt. He hoped for sleep, but after a minute, he squirmed and glowered at the door.

“What's wrong?” Peter had a pretty good idea what the problem was before Neal threw the blankets off and started to carefully maneuver himself to the edge of the bed.

“I hate this,” Neal muttered instead of answering. It took him three tries and one instance of almost toppling the nightstand before he was on his feet and shuffling towards the bathroom.

Peter had wanted to help but Neal's serious 'stay the hell away from me' look was almost as good as Diana's. Instead, he hovered just out of reach in case he was needed.

Neal had been in the bathroom for five seconds when he called through the closed door, “Peter.”

He tried the knob, but it wouldn't turn. “Why is this door locked?” he called back.

“Because you don't know the meaning of the word boundaries. Now, go away. I can't do this when you're standing out there listening.”

“Fine, but don't lock any of the doors again.” Peter retreated into his room to take a look at the case files Jones had dropped off in case he had a chance to read them.

A few minutes later, the bathroom door opened and he could hear Neal limping back to the spare bedroom. That door squeaked as it was moved, but there was no thump to indicate that it had been fully closed. Peter decided that it was probably best to let Neal be for a while.

~~!!~~

Elizabeth's event that night had run long, and by the time she made it home, after midnight, all she wanted was a long hot bath and a foot rub from her husband while she caught up on her backlogged DVR recordings of Revenge.

She'd taken off her heels downstairs, but they dropped to the rug with a muffled clatter when she saw the empty space on their chest of drawers. “Where's the TV?”

Peter looked up from his case file and smiled. “Hey hon. How was the museum fundraiser?”

She crossed the room to the closet to start shucking her dress and blazer. “It was fine. What happened to the TV?”

“I didn't want you to worry so I didn't call you, but there was an accident today.”

She gasped and hurried to his side in nothing but her red lace bra and panties. “Are you okay?”

He grasped her hands and leaned forward until he caught her eyes. “It wasn't me. Neal's in the guest room.”

Her eyes grew wide, and she glanced over her shoulder as if she could see through the walls. “Is he okay? What happened?”

Peter sighed and released her hands to lean back against the headboard. “We cornered the suspect, and he started shooting.” She made a distressed noise, but he couldn't stop. He had to get this off his chest. “Neal was right in the line of fire, so I... I pushed him. I was just trying to get him out of the way, but we were too close to the stairs, and he took a header. He's okay, but he injured his back, so he's not moving so well.”

“And you brought him home.” It wasn't a question, and she gave him a soft smile as she caressed his cheek. “There's no need to blame yourself. I doubt Neal blames you at all.”

Peter had just opened his mouth to respond when they heard a thump and a loud curse from the guest room. They both rushed in there to find Neal laying on the floor, tangled in his sheets and laughing while Satchmo licked his face.

“Satch, come here!” Elizabeth commanded, snapping her fingers at the yellow lab.

“Hey, Elizabeth,” Neal slurred, grinning when he realized that his view of her was upside down. “Where are your clothes?”

She looked down and gave an “Eeep!” as she darted out of the room to get dressed. She had completely forgotten her attire in her concern for their house guest.

“You okay?” Peter asked, holding out a hand to help Neal up.

“Your wife is beautiful.” Neal started to hum a song that only he could hear.

“We're never speaking of this again,” the agent warned as he pulled Neal up off the floor and all but dumped him on the bed.

Neal grunted once in pain, but otherwise seemed unaffected by the manhandling. ”I saw an angel, of that I'm sure, She smiled at me on the-,” he hummed through the parts he didn't know until, “You're beautiful. It's truuuuue.”

Peter frowned. “How many of those pills did you take?”

Neal was confused by the question. He tried to reach for the pill bottles but almost toppled off the bed again.

“Whoa!” Peter righted him and then shook his head. “Just sit still for a minute.”

It took about three seconds for Neal to start fidgeting, but he stayed put as Peter checked the number of pills in the bottles. He apparently found the number acceptable because he turned his attention to the tangle of bedsheets.

“What were you trying to do anyway? It's the middle of the night. You should be sleeping.” Peter lectured while he straightened the blankets and gathered the misplaced pillows off the floor. When he ran out of things to move around on the bed, he paced.

“Couldn't sleep.” Neal started humming again, but the tune was aimless this time and no lyrics came out.

“So, what? You were going to take the dog for a walk? Why can't you just rest and recuperate like a normal person?”

“Peter-”

“I mean, seriously, Neal, the doctor said that you needed to be on bedrest for at least two days or you could wind up doing more damage to your back.”

“Peter, please stop moving. My head's spinning already. You're going to make me sick.” Neal had paled and started to slump over toward his stack of pillows.

The agent sighed and helped lift Neal's feet up onto the bed. “I bet you're regretting those extra couple pills now, aren't you?”

“Didn't mean to,” Neal replied. “I woke up, and it hurt.”

“It's okay,” Peter replied, pulling the covers up. “But I'm going to take the pills for the rest of the night, okay? If you need something, you can call my cell. It'll wake me.” He pocketed the orange bottles and made sure that Neal's phone was within reach.

“Hey,” Neal grabbed Peter's sleeve before he could move away again. “You saved my life. This,” he gestured clumsily to his body, “is temporary. Dead's not.”

Peter nodded once and squeezed Neal's shoulder in gratitude.

Elizabeth smiled at them as she asked from the doorway, “How's the patient?” She was wearing a long-sleeve top with a pair of plaid pajama pants. She blushed briefly when she stepped into the room, but sobered when she saw how miserable her friend looked now.

“Tired,” Neal muttered. He was fading fast after his brief euphoria high. He really hated medication, almost as much as he hated the pain and the spasms.

“You missed the song and dance number,” Peter joked. Neal snorted but otherwise remained silent, and Peter gently dropped a hand on the top of his head for a moment. “Sleep it off, buddy. We'll see you in the morning.”

~Finis

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