18 June 2014 @ 12:22 am
WC - Christmas Eve Comforts (Neal Hughes)  
Title: Christmas Eve Comforts
Author: angelita26
Rating: PG
Characters: Gen – Neal, Reese and the rest of the Hughes family
Spoilers: None.
Word Count: ~1000
Summary: Neal's ill on Christmas Eve, so the Hugheses take Christmas to him.

Notes: Timeline: 7/8 months after the events of Redraw the Line. This was written for [ profile] pooh_collector's prompt in my Timestamp Meme, in which she asked for "Neal's first Christmas with the Hughes's".

Neal blamed Blake for the flu that had taken out more than half the office before it finally hit him. Now, it was Christmas Eve, and he was supposed to be spending the evening with the Hugheses, but the last thing he wanted to do was get Emma sick. So, while he hated to do it, he called Cathy to let her know he wouldn't be able to make it to dinner.

"Oh, Neal. Are you sick?" she asked, sounding concerned over the line. "You sound a bit congested."

"Yeah, I came down with whatever is making the rounds at work. I'm sorry, Cathy."

"It's okay," she assured him. "Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and call me if you need anything."

"I will. Thank you."

He hit the end button on his cell, tossed it on the night stand, rolled over, and promptly went to sleep.

A couple of hours later, he woke feeling even worse. His throat was scratchy, he was cold despite the layers of blankets, and his whole body ached. He wrapped the comforter around himself and stumbled into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. He had a ginger-mint that Elizabeth had recommended, and that sounded like it would be great with a little honey and lemon.

It didn't take long for the water to boil. He was sitting at the table, sipping on the warm drink, when there was a knock at his door. "Who's-" he started coughing when the second word caught in his throat.

He'd left the door unlocked and it opened to reveal the Hughes family trying to push past each other to get to his side.

"Ugh," Neal groaned and buried his head in his hands. "You have to go. Please go."

"What's wrong, honey?" Cathy asked, sitting beside him and putting her hand on his shoulder.

He could feel the others hovering on his other side, so he pulled the comforter up over his head and huddled inside of it.


"Don't want to get anyone sick," he mumbled as loud as his sore throat would allow.

"We all had our flu shots, and Emma's wearing her mask. She knew you'd be worried," Cathy said, trying to pry the blanket down. "Now, let me see you."

Neal slowly peeked out and looked at them warily. "Look, this is really nice of you all, but I'm probably going to sleep a lot, and I didn't want to ruin the holiday."

"Nonsense. This is our first Christmas as a whole family in a very long time." Reese reached out to get a hand on his forehead to test his temperature.

Neal ducked away but just made himself dizzy and almost fell off his chair. He wound up leaning against Cathy, who put one arm around him and pressed her other hand to his forehead while he couldn't get away.

She tsked softly. "Here's what we're going to do. If you feel up to it, Neal, you're going to take a shower. We're going to start on dinner and do a little decorating."

He opened his mouth to protest, but she was already helping him to his feet and turning him toward the hallway that led to his bathroom.

"No arguments. Go, take a nice, long, lukewarm shower. Don't worry about a thing."

Michael came around the table to shadow Neal down the hall. "She gets like this when any of us are sick. It's best to just grin and bear it."

Neal leaned against the bathroom doorway and sighed. "I really just want to lay down and sleep. Can you get her to go home?"

"Not a chance, little brother. Not a chance." Michael slapped him gently on the back and pointed to the shower. "Are you good here?"

"I'm fine," Neal replied as he closed the door.

The shower made him feel less like a reanimated zombie, so he downed some cold and flu medicine and dressed in a pair of charcoal slacks and a cashmere sweater. He took a deep breath, put a smile on his face and stepped out into… Santa's workshop?

In half an hour, they'd transformed his apartment with a small Christmas tree in the corner that Emma and Reese were decorating with balls and lights, large sparkling snowflakes were hanging from anything that was immobile, and there were strings of lights around his door frames and some of the windows. Michael was hanging even more lights around the mirror near his bed.

The table had been set with bowls and mugs at each place. Neal stepped forward and brushed his fingers along the red and green table runner that he recognized but hadn't seen in more than twenty years.

"You guys didn't have to do all this," he said softly.

"It's a special day," Cathy said, leaving the stove to pull him into a hug. He'd gotten better at accepting hugs from her as the months went on, and now he leaned into it a little before she stepped away to check on the soup.

"What are you making?"

"We went for something easy on the stomach and easily portable, so this is vegetable beef soup. I'm heating up some rolls in the oven, too."

"Sounds good," he said as he took a seat at the table and leaned his head against his hand. He was already feeling a bit tired, and the night had only just begun.

Soon, the rest of the family joined him at the table, and they joked and laughed about past Christmases and things the twins had done as toddlers while they ate. Neal sat back and took it all in, quiet but attentive to anything they wanted to share.

However, by the time that Cathy pulled out a pumpkin pie, Neal was all but asleep in his chair. He blinked blearily at Reese, who pulled Neal to his feet and guided him over to his bed. Neal stumbled but managed to make it mostly under his own steam.

Reese got him situated and pulled the covers up over Neal's chest. He hesitated for a moment before patting Neal's arm. "Get some rest, son."

"Night Dad," Neal murmured and immediately dropped into sleep.


Thanks for reading!

Also posted: AO3 and [ profile] whitecollarhc
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[identity profile] on June 18th, 2014 05:06 am (UTC)
Awww! Neal called Reese Dad!!!!!!!!!!!

And sick!Neal and woobies from Cathy. And, "little brother" and sick!Neal. And, Santa's workshop and sick!Neal trying to hide in his blanket!!!!!

This was perfect! I'm looking forward to more stories of the evolution of Neal's relationship with his new-found family.

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[identity profile] on June 26th, 2014 01:51 am (UTC)
I know! I was surprised when he said it too!! Then, I had to keep it because it was too damn cute ;)

It was such a great prompt - I'm so happy that you liked it! :D
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kanarek13[personal profile] kanarek13 on June 18th, 2014 07:30 am (UTC)
D'awwwwwwwwwwwwww, it really made me feel like Christmas :D All shiny with sick!Neal and Cathy in her mother hen mood and the whole family celebrating with Neal... and Reese tucking Neal in \o/ And Neal calling him dad \o/

Yay \o/ Lovely and perfect and exactly what I needed :D

Thank you :D
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[identity profile] on June 26th, 2014 02:17 am (UTC)
:D It was kind of odd to write Christmas in June - I was singing Christmas carols all night when I was trying to come up with a name for it - lol

I had no idea it was going there and then bam! Neal called him "Dad" :D Glad you liked it!

Thank you!!
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[identity profile] on June 18th, 2014 11:37 am (UTC)
Awwwwwwww.....that was sweet. I loved Reese feeling his forehead for a fever and Neal calling him Dad.
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[identity profile] on June 26th, 2014 02:18 am (UTC)
Thank you!! I love that part at the end with Reese and Neal too - one of my faves so far in this 'verse. <3
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elrhiarhodan[personal profile] elrhiarhodan on June 18th, 2014 12:07 pm (UTC)
"Night Dad," Neal murmured and immediately dropped into sleep.

Awwwww, how perfect!

Can't wait for more in this verse - how Neal reluctant and eager - becomes part of this family.
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[identity profile] on June 26th, 2014 02:26 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I'm really excited to explore more with the family as they try to make Neal comfortable with them and he tries to be part of the family. *hugs them all*
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embroiderama: White Collar - Hughes[personal profile] embroiderama on June 18th, 2014 12:12 pm (UTC)
Aw wow, I adore this! It's sweet but so sad too that they're trying to give him a bit of the childhood Christmases that he missed.
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[identity profile] on June 26th, 2014 02:54 am (UTC)
I know - sometimes I feel so bad for all of them - Neal for missing everything and the Hugheses for trying to make up for lost time. *hugs every single one of them* Thank you!
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[identity profile] on June 18th, 2014 02:27 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, Ang! This needed a "Don't read in public" notice up top! It was Neal remembering the table runner that did me in .... wah!
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[identity profile] on June 26th, 2014 02:56 am (UTC)
Awwwwwwwww! *HUGS* I'm sorry for not warning you properly - I like to throw those little hints in that Neal does remember a bit about the Hugheses.
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[identity profile] on June 19th, 2014 02:36 am (UTC)
I can't get enough of this verse! This update left me sighing happily.
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[identity profile] on June 26th, 2014 02:57 am (UTC)
Awwww - I'm happy that you enjoyed it! Thank you!!
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[identity profile] on June 19th, 2014 10:14 am (UTC)
Well, I just went through the whole story today and I have to say I LOVE this new verse you've created.
I'm a big Reese this really works for me.
You are so talented to be able to create all those universe in this fandom!
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[identity profile] on June 26th, 2014 03:00 am (UTC)
Yay! It's been a fun verse to write, and I have a lot more ideas for it. I love Reese too - he's been cool to write. I was expecting to have trouble with him, but his voice has been great, steady and present.

Thank you so much! I like to explore different dynamics and relationships with our favorite characters - they make it so easy. :D
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sapphire2309[personal profile] sapphire2309 on June 25th, 2014 05:00 pm (UTC)
Neal huddling under/hiding in the blanket is just too cute to even think about properly. adorbs!! and i love that the hughes (the hugheses?) made his studio into santa's workshop :D
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[identity profile] on June 26th, 2014 03:02 am (UTC)
Hee! I do love Neal hiding under the blanket. (Hugheses - I've looked it up like 20 times in the course of writing these fics and posting them :D) If they were going to bring Christmas to Neal, I really wanted them to bring Christmas, so they came prepared to decorate. :) Thank you!!
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