‘Neal! Don´t hide that thermometer from me! Give it back!’
‘I don´t know what you are talking about.’ Neal gives his most innocent looking face, but it isn´t working with the fever raging through him. Neal winces hearing Neal´s raspy voice and makes a mental note to make some of that herbal tea Mozzie dropped off.
With a noise of triumph, Peter snatches the thermometer from Neal´s hand under the blankets. He activates it and runs it over Neal´s forehead. He whistles when he reads the result, ‘102.8, not good Neal, we need to get that fever down.
He pulls the blankets over Neal, telling him to stay put. Neal hums his agreement so Peter walks into the bathroom to get a wet washcloth. He already gave Neal some Tylenol, so he has to wait another hour before he can give him more. He can hear Neal hack up a lung or something in the other room. Standing in the bathroom he checks the cabinet and finds what he is looking for… cough syrup.
Going back to Neal, he reads the instructions. Neal is red in the face from coughing so Peter pours him a spoonful of the stuff, ‘here, drink up.’
Neal makes a face, ‘it’s too sweet,’ he complains.
‘Yeah well, it will help with your cough.’
‘I don´t wanna.’
Peter smiles at Neal´s pout, ‘well too bad, it is good for you, so…’
Before Neal can oppose, he shoves the spoon in Neal´s mouth, who is too surprised and just swallows.
Peter’s eyes show amusement when he puts the spoon down, but Neal´s eyes are already drooping, so Peter pulls the covers back over Neal.
‘Go to sleep.’
* * *
Peter starts awake when something crashes on the floor. He looks over to Neal´s bed and sees Neal struggling. He is tightly entangled in his sheets.
‘No, Please, I, no…’
‘Neal, it is just a dream.’ Peter wants to untangle Neal, but he resists with all of his strength and it surprises Peter.
‘Neal, what is going on? It’s me.’
‘Yeah Neal, it´s me.’
‘Watch out. Watch its tentacles.’
‘Tentacles? Come on, Neal, you’re home. You’re safe.’
Peter takes the washcloth and dips it in the bowl of water he filled earlier. He slowly swipes it over Neal´s face.
‘Come on, Neal, you’re fine, you are in bed.’
‘Is it gone?’
‘What, the octopus? Yes, it is, we’re safe.’
Neal´s eyes start to droop again, now that the adrenaline is fading.’
‘No, no, stay with me, I can´t lift you back in the bed. Come on, let’s get you back comfy.’
When Neal is finally back in his bed, Peter sits next to him and puts his hand on his arm. He can feel Neal fall asleep again.
* * *
Peter is hot and someone is pressed against him. Elizabeth normally sleeps on her side of the bed, so he asks what is wrong but he doesn´t get a response. He tries to figure out what is going on, when he realizes that whoever is pressed against him is bony and muscular. His eyes snap open when he realizes he isn´t in his bed.
Neal is plastered against him, hot and sticky. Peter puts his hand against Neal´s forehead and frowns, he is hotter than he was before.
‘Neal? Neal, wake up. I want to check your temperature.’
It takes some coaxing before Neal opens his eyes. They are glassy and unfocused.
‘Neal, come on, sit up.’
Peter extends his arm, reaching for the thermometer.
‘Don´t want to move,’ Neal slurs.
‘I know bud, but I need to check your temperature.’
The thermometer beeps, ‘103.6, not good Neal. Come on, let´s get you cooled down.’
Peter extracts himself and starts to run a bath with luke warm water. He returns to extract Neal from the bed which turns out to be quite a struggle, but in the end Neal is sitting on the closed lid of the toilet. He is fidgety and suddenly his gaze is drawn to the tub.
This time Neal´s voice has an urgency to it, so he turns. Neal is staring at the bathtub.
‘Yeah, that’s for you. In you go.’
‘What? I can´t go in there.’
Peter stares at Neal, waiting for an explanation and when there isn´t any coming, he tries to get Neal to move. Neal starts to struggle, ‘no, it is in there.’
‘What is in there?’
Peter looks into the tub that is filled with water. Peter misinterpreting takes the bath bubbles, knowing that Neal prefers them to bath salts. The moment he puts his hand in the water to make bubbles, Neal cries out.
‘Seriously Neal? You scared me.’
‘Don´t you see it?’
‘What do you see?’
‘I think it is poisonous.’
Peter´s worry is increasing and he wonders if he should take Neal to the hospital.
‘Neal, there is nothing there, but let´s get rid of the water.’
‘Be careful, these blue ringed octopuses are deadly.’
Neal watches him like a hawk, well a very feverous hawk anyway. Once the water is gone, Neal leans over the tub to check if the tub is really empty. Peter is just in time to steady him before he topples over from the toilet.
‘Wow, you’re strong.’
Peter snorts, turning on the shower while steadying Neal.
‘OK, buddy, let’s get you into the shower, we want to get that fever down.’
Neal lets himself be put under the shower but once the water splashes onto him, he tries to leave.
‘Neal, calm down, you need to stay under that water.’
‘Cold! It’s too cold!’
‘It’s not, that is the fever. I know you feel cold, but that is a good thing, because you are cooking up your brain.’
‘Can’t cook your brain.’ Neal says seriously.
‘Oh kid, OK, come out.’
He holds a large bath towel and helps drying Neal, before handing him clean underwear and clean PJ´s.
‘Come Neal, let’s get you back in bed.’
‘I can walk by myself. Thank you.’
‘You wanna walk by yourself? OK, let’s see that.’ Peter snorts.
Neal pulls out of Peter’s support and wavers. Once he feels more stable he tries to walk, only to stumble into the door post.
‘OK genius, let me help you before you end up hurting yourself.’
He quickly maneuvers Neal into bed after giving him some Tylenol and water.
‘Of course I stay. I will be here. I called El telling her not to wait up for me. Go to sleep.’
Neal snuggles against Peter and it doesn´t take long before Neal’s breathing evens out. Once Neal is fast asleep, Peter closes his eyes.
* * *
Peter’s eyes snap open the second time that night. It takes him a moment to realize what woke him this time. It’s Neal. He is tossing and turning. He is all sweaty and pale. Heat is radiating from him and Peter quickly gets out of bed and fills the tub again. He wakes Neal and half carries Neal to the bathroom. He lowers Neal into it and the effect is almost immediate. Neal starts fighting him tooth and nail, but Peter keeps him in the tub.
When Neal has worn himself out Peter checks his temperature again, ‘100.8’. Still not good, but not brain frying hot. While Neal dries himself off with Peter’s help, he suddenly stops, ‘Peter? What are you doing in my bathroom?’
Peter smiles, yeah Neal, you’re back with me?’
‘Was I gone?’
‘No bud, but you are sick and are running a high fever. You had me worried there, kid.’
‘Hey, there is nothing to be sorry for. Here, get dressed while I change your sheets. Are you OK for a minute?’
Neal nods and slowly reaches for the change of clothes Peter put on the closed toilet.
Peter returns just when Neal is trying to get his head through one of the arm openings in his T-shirt. Peter pulls the T-shirt the right way over his head.
‘Let’s get you back in bed, bud. Are you hungry?’
‘Well Elizabeth dropped of some chicken soup, so I want you to try some. Afterwards I can give you some Tylenol.’
Neal nods. He knows he needs to drink and eat something. Peter hands him a bottle of water and Neal takes a couple of sips. Next comes a bowl of steaming chicken soup. It is spicy enough for Neal to taste it through his congestion. He is more hungry than he thought and he finishes the bowl. But eating took a lot out of him and he can feel his eyes slowly closing.
A hand with two pills appears in front of him and he takes them, downing them with the bottle of water that is handed to him. Peter straightens him out in bed and tucks him in.
‘I dreamt something about tentacles.’ Neal mutters sleepy.
‘I know, Neal, that is the last time you watch Finding Dory with Theo while you are sick and running a fever.’