Neal woke with a nasty headache and a mouth that felt like it was full of cotton. Forgetting where he was, he rolled over and promptly fell off the side of the bed.
“Neal?” Elizabeth's head popped over the edge of the mattress, looking down at him with concern. “Are you okay, sweetie?”
“Fine,” he muttered, pushing himself to his feet. He blinked, swayed, and then fainted before El or Peter could even reach for him.
“Yeah, he's just fine,” Peter said, as they both scrambled out from under the covers to see what was wrong.
Elizabeth gasped when she pressed the back of her hand to his forehead. “He's burning up. Peter, get the thermometer.”
Peter stepped into the bathroom and grabbed the tympanic thermometer that El kept in the medicine cabinet, some Tylenol, and a glass of water. When he returned to the bedroom, he set the glass and the pills on the nightstand. “Let's get him back on the bed first.”
It took a few minutes – Neal was slim but muscular – for them both to lift him and get him settled back under the covers. Elizabeth took his temperature while Peter sat next to his hip and tried to wake him.
“Neal, c'mon. You're scaring Elizabeth. Wake up now.”
Elizabeth snorted at that – she was hardly the only one that was worried – and checked the display. “103.3. Should we take him to the hospital?”
He had never seen Neal sick before, but the younger man never did anything half-assed, so Peter wasn't surprised that he'd spiked a fever and passed out in a span of less than six hours. Neal had seemed whole and healthy when they went to bed around 11.
Neal suddenly moaned and rolled his head to the side. “Wha' happen'd?” he murmured, barely opening his eyes.
“You swooned,” Peter replied without thought.
Neal's eyes narrowed even further, but it seemed to be more in confusion than in disbelief. “Huh?”
“How long have you been feeling sick?” Elizabeth asked, crawling across the other side of the bed to sit on his other side. She smoothed his hair away from his face as he turned to look at her.
He closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. When he opened them, his eyes were clearer and he seemed more conscious of what was going on. “How long was I out?” he asked quietly, in deference to his pounding head.
“Just a few minutes,” Peter replied.
“Then, a few minutes,” Neal said. “Woke up like this.”
“Hmmm...” Elizabeth bit her lip as she considered what to do. “Here's the plan,” she said, looking over at Peter. “We'll run a lukewarm bath for Neal. If we can get his fever down a degree or more, then we won't need to sit in the ER this morning.”
“No hospitals,” Neal said, reaching out to grasp her hand. “I'll be okay.”
“Let us be the judges of that.”
It took a few minutes for Elizabeth to run the bath at a temperature that she thought would be best. While she was doing that, Peter coaxed some Tylenol and water into Neal. Then, they both helped him into the tub.
An hour later, Neal's temperature was down to 102.3 and he was dozing in bed between the Burkes, who had promised to keep watch until he was feeling better. It had been a very long time since Neal had anyone to take care of him when he was sick, and he was ridiculously glad to have Peter and Elizabeth with him now.
Thank you for reading!