Characters: Peter, Neal (Gen, H/C)
Summary: It's the little things that matter.
Author's Notes: A run_the_con entry for the prompt, "Sweet Dreams."
"Honestly, Peter, I can take it from here. I'm not sick."
"No, you just have a concussion. You're lucky they let you leave the hospital."
Neal lurched, grabbing blindly for the railing.
"Exactly," Peter said. He put an arm around Neal's back as he helped him up the stairs. "Indulge me."
They climbed unsteadily to the top. Neal fumbled with the apartment key, sagging against the door frame as he tried to line the key up with the hole.
"Give me that," Peter said. He unlocked the door and guided Neal around the corner. "Do you need to use the bathroom?"
Neal's head swam. "Need to lie down," he said hoarsely.
"It's okay, I've got you." Peter half-dragged Neal through the obstacle course of furniture blocking the path from the door to the bedroom alcove. He eased Neal down onto to the bed, and took off Neal's jacket and shoes. "I wish El was here," he said.
Neal groaned on Elizabeth's behalf. "Don't call her." He stretched out on the bed toward the sweet oasis of pillows.
"I know, I know." El's conference in Chicago was important, and Peter wasn't completely incompetent at this sort of thing, no matter how much he felt like it. "Where did you say Mozzie was?"
"An art show in Philly with June. Her granddaughter."
"Huh. And you didn't want to go?"
"We're in the middle of a case, Peter! Ow!" Neal's own voice rocketed through his head like a spike. He closed his eyes and added more quietly, "I'd hoped to make it this weekend."
Peter thought about their late-night stakeouts—four of them this week. Tonight's had ended when a drunk driver crashed into the surveillance van, resulting in Neal's concussion. Peter had only suffered a bruised elbow. "Oh. I see." He shifted his feet uncomfortably, and looked around the apartment. Water. He went to the sink and filled a glass, bringing it to Neal's bedside. "For when you take your pills."
Neal started to nod and stopped when it hurt. "Thanks."
"How about you get some rest? I'll have to wake you up every couple of hours, but you can sleep in between."
Neal smiled tiredly, but couldn't help feeling a little mischievous."Will you read me a story?"
"No, I'm not going to read you a story!" Peter said. "Come on. Would Mozzie read you a story? Wait, scratch that—he'd probably regale you with the contents of his favorite conspiracy blog."
"No, he wouldn't. Well, mostly not," Neal admitted. "Seriously, just for a little while?"
Peter sighed. "Fine." He probably owed Neal anyway, considering how the evening had turned out. "Any preferences?"
Neal smiled. "Whatever you want."
Peter hunted through the bookshelves behind the sofa, looking over the choices. Most of the books probably weren't even Neal's, any more than the suits Neal wore. Nietzsche, Henry James, Chekhov… Neal probably wasn't in the mood for any of those, and Peter certainly wasn't in the mood to read them. Camus, Kafka, Wharton… Aha. This book probably didn't belong here, flanked by so many literary heavyweights, but maybe it was left over from the granddaughter's childhood. Fitting enough for this occasion—if Neal wanted to be read to, he definitely couldn't complain about this choice. Peter pulled the book out and made himself comfortable in the chair closest to the bed.
"Chapter One," he began. "There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself—not just sometimes, but always."
Neal smiled drowsily, lulled by the sound of Peter's voice.
"When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he'd bothered…"
By the end of the second page, Neal's breathing was slow and soft. Peter trailed off quietly, waiting to see if Neal noticed, but there was no change. Neal was out.
Peter leaned over the edge of the chair and looked Neal over carefully. Pale—more than usual—and obviously tired, but a couple of days off would take care of that. He would make sure of it.
Sweet dreams, he thought, wishing his own guilt over the situation could be carried away so easily. He let out a heavy breath, and sat back down again. Then he opened the book and silently read on, the back of his mind listening for trouble or discomfort as he waited for the next few hours to pass.
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