Fandom: White Collar
Characters: Neal, Peter Elizabeth
Warning/genre: hurt/comfort, eating disorders, recovery
Author's Notes: This fic fills the ‘eating disorder’ square on my H/C Bingo card. It is part of the ‘Half of us’ verse.
Word Count: ~2086
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine…
Summary: Neal does his best to work on his recovery.
The fic can also be found on AO3.
Once Peter discovers Neal sleeps better with one of the them, he talks to Elizabeth. They agree to put Neal´s bed in their bedroom, next to them, so he is never alone at night.
They both have a couch in their office and when Neal is too exhausted to participate in the daily routine, he can rest, but they don´t leave him alone at home anymore.
They contacted a nutritional counselor, who worked out a dietary plan for Neal to make sure he gets enough vitamins and minerals as well as substance.
The counselor explains that a free person would be admitted as an inpatient at a local specialized medical center, but they won´t accept slaves, so as owners they will have to do it by themselves, but she promises all the help she can give. She promises to work out a diet plan.
Neal is already dozing in his chair, he is so weak, he can’t stay awake for very long. Peter also noticed that Neal ´s body hair is growing. Peter gently puts a blanket over Neal while Elizabeth escorts her out.
‘What are we going to do El?’
‘Let´s see about getting Neal to eat regularly. His body is so unbalanced because of the malnourishment, his head is a mess. Once we get his body back on track, we can get him to see a therapist.’
‘I don´t know El.’
‘We need to take care of him.’
‘That we do.’
* * *
The counselor brings the plan herself, giving Elizabeth tips on what items to buy or to avoid. Elizabeth immediately takes a trip to the grocery to buy the recommended items. She then calls Neal and asks him to plan out at least five lunches and five dinners he would like to eat. When Neal is reluctant, she tells him that he can always switch but this way she can get the ingredients.
It hurts her to see Neal struggling with such an easy task. She puts a cup of Moroccan tea with lots of honey in front of him. He holds his hands around the cup, leaching it’s warmth before slowly sipping it. She also puts a bowl with grapes in front of him. They chat about one of her upcoming events.
‘I’m not feeling to well, do you mind if I lay down a bit while chatting.’
‘No of course not.’
Neal slowly makes his way to his bed near the window. Something in Elizabeth stirs when she sees the way Neal moves, just like an old man. He carefully manoeuvers himself so he is facing El, who quickly does her best to give him a genuine smile.
‘Rest, we are going to get you some new clothes.’
‘I don´t need anything.’
‘Sweetie, it is getting colder and you need new warmer clothes.’
It is a testimony how Neal feels when he just resigns and nods.
* * *
By the time they arrive at the mall, Neal is pale and looks exhausted, so Elizabeth decides to use a wheelchair and once again, it worries her he doesn´t put up a fight. What she knows of people with an eating disorder, they want to move to lose even more weight, but Neal lets himself be wheeled around the mall.
They stop at a clothes shop and Elizabeth picks some soft ad warm comfortable trousers and sweaters. She also spots some warm slippers and buys those as well.
‘Elizabeth, please, I don´t need all this stuff.’
‘Nonsense Neal, you do and while we are at it, let´s buy some new polo shirts for Peter. Elizabeth starts looking and holds some up, Neal shaking his head and pointing at the others. Elizabeth approves. They pay and Neal asks if they can stop for coffee. Elizabeth agrees that they deserve some overprized coffee. She pushes him to a cozy looking coffee place. She is a bit anxious to hear what Neal is going to order, but hides it. When the waitress comes, he asks for a hot cocoa. When the girl asks if he wants whipped cream, he hesitates but Elizabeth nods approvingly, and orders the same.
They talk about what Neal wants to do next and he asks if they can stop at a bookstore. Elizabeth is happy, this way she has an excuse to buy some books for herself. They finish the drinks and Elizabeth gestures she wants to pay. The waitress comes over and Elizabeth pays. The girl smiles at Neal and tells him how lucky he is with a sister taking care of him. Neal gives her a small smile.
Once out Elizabeth smiles, ‘can you believe that girl thought we were siblings. Come to think of it, we could be. Oh, this would make a great cover.’
She hugs Neal from behind the wheelchair.
Once in the bookstore, she can see Neal enjoying the smell of books.
‘Is there anything you are interesting or looking for?’
Neal shakes his head, but looks longingly at all the books.
‘Why don´t I leave you at the art books while I check out the fiction section?’
‘That would be nice.’
Elizabeth picks up the book she wants and looks over the rack at Neal who slowly flips through an art book. He gently puts it aside and opens another one. She decides to give him time and checks out some other books.
Elizabeth walks back and asks Neal if he wants any of the books, but he shakes his head. She puts down the books she is carrying, making it look like they are heavy. When she picks them back up, she also picks up the two books Neal was looking at. She goes to the register to pay before coming back with the books in a bag.
‘Can we go home?’
‘Sure Neal. Mind if I ask, but did your previous owner allow you to read?’
Elizabeth can immediately see the change in Neal and feel guilty for bringing it up.
‘If you don´t want to talk about it, you don´t have to, I am just curious. I have never owned a slave before.’
‘No, Master Adler didn´t allow his slaves to read or do anything for themselves, we were always on duty.’
Elizabeth doesn´t know how to respond to that. She pushes the wheelchair back to the car and can see Neal is worn.
‘Rest, it will take a bit to drive back home at this hour.’
Once home, Elizabeth takes two cups with blueberry smoothie and hand Neal one.
‘Your afternoon snack.’
Neal nods , accepting the cup. Elizabeth unpacks the books and gives the two book she bought for Neal. Neal looks up in surprise.
‘You shouldn´t have, they were very expensive.’
‘You are worth it honey and these are really nice books. I certainly will want to read them once you are done with them.’
‘Of course, you can take them whenever you want.’
‘Thank you, but remember, they are yours, OK?’
* * *
Neal is looking at Michelangelo´s David in his book. Elizabeth is sitting next to him, feeding him grapes.
‘You know, you sometimes remind me of this statue. You have the same classic beauty.’
She can feel Neal stiffen next to her.
‘What´s wrong Neal?’
Elizabeth files away the information to talk about with Peter.
‘Do you like to read?’
Only then does she realize that she doesn´t know whether Neal can read. She leaves him notes, assuming he could read.
‘Yes, Elizabeth I like to read.’
‘Anything in particular?’
‘Novels, crime stories, why?’
‘Well, I bought you a present but I was not sure you would like it.’
Elizabeth gets up and gets the box she had stashed away. Neal is not sure what to say, but he accepts the box and opens it. Inside is an e-reader.
‘You can download books onto it. For now I put different genres on it, but there is wifi on it and it is already connected to our wifi, so you can download whatever you want. Neal looks a little lost and Lizabeth assures him they want him to have this. Neal nods and thanks her.
‘I think it is time for my afternoon fruit snack.’
‘Yeah, I will get it.’
When Elizabeth returns Neal is reading.
‘You found something you like?’
‘I don´t know, it has been a long time since I was allowed to read.’
Elizabeth had never thought there would be owners who would not allow their slaves to relax with a book.
Later that afternoon, Elizabeth starts preparing dinner and Neal offers to chop up the vegetables for the salad. They chat and when everything is prepared, Neal goes to his bed to take a nap and Elizabeth takes Satchmo out for a walk.
Peter calls to tell her he will be working late, so she prepares dinner, making sure Neal can eat in time.
* * *
The next morning Neal volunteers to take Satchmo on his morning walk.
‘Yesterday when I told Neal he was pretty, he tensed up. Do you think something happened?’
‘Well, we found Neal´s bill of sale, and he looked totally different. He was really good looking but not classified as a sex slave. We understood from witnesses that Neal was Vincent Adler´s most prized slave.’
‘What do you think happened?’
‘I think Neal starved himself to make himself unattractive.’
‘Do you really think he would go that far?’
‘I think we have no idea what happened at Vincent Adler´s home. When we found Neal…’
Peter stops talking when the front door opens. Neal slowly steps into the living room, completely winded. Satchmo waits, careful not to pull the leash, as he understands that Neal will not be able to maintain his balance.
‘Yes, it is nice outside and Satchmo is a good dog.’
‘Want a cup of coffee?’
Neal sits down and makes an effort to eat half of the donut, Elizabeth puts in front of him. It is nice to see Neal making an effort to eat.
* * *
‘Neal?’ Can we have a word?’
Neal looks up from his book. Since he understood the Burkes don´t mind him reading, he has been doing just that non-stop.
‘I am glad to see that you are making an effort to eat healthy and that makes me very happy.’
Neal looks down and Peter can see a blush creeping in his face.
‘Look Neal, I am not going to pretend to know what you went through but it must have been bad judging from the way you threated yourself. We have gotten to know you as a loving, creative, fun person and we don´t want to lose you. We want you as a part of our family.’
Peter can hear the emotion in his own voice, but he can´t help it.
‘I never told you this and I don´t know if you have any recollection of the day we arrested Vincent Adler.’
Neal shakes his head.
‘Well, when we entered the premises, we were told there were slaves present, so we asked assistance of the slave retrieval team. I was asked to come down to the slave quarters to be a witness.’
Peter stops when the memories threaten to overwhelm him.
‘You don´t have any recollection, have you?’
Neal shakes his head.
‘The woman of the slave retrieval team wanted me to be witness of your condition.’
Peter can still vividly remember the way Neal looked. He shakes his head to clear his mind.
‘You were skin and bones, I couldn´t believe a human being could look like that and still be alive. Anyway, to cut this short. They wanted to euthanize you because you were in such a bad shape. I couldn´t let them do that to you. Nobody deserves that. I believe everybody should get a second chance. This is that chance and I am glad to see that you are finally taking it.’
Neal looks up from his hands in his lap.
‘I remember your voice and touch, it represented safety, shelter, rescue,’ Neal whispers.
‘Neal, you must trust us, that we want you healthy, not so we can use you, but so you can become part of our household, our family.’
Neal cracks when he whispers a thank you and allows Peter to hug him. Maybe this time they will be able to beat this after all.