Characters/Pairing: Neal, Peter, Diana; Gen
Word count: 1800
Notes: This is a fic for winterstar95, because she should have all the fic right now. *HUGS* (Also I know this was her prompt, but I can't for the life of me find it!)
Summary: Neal's current situation was one he wouldn't usually class as terrible. He was part-submerged in freezing river water, yes, but there was a ladder. He was on the ladder, even, clinging to it with a hand that was steadily going numb.
Neal's current situation was one he wouldn't usually class as terrible. He was part-submerged in freezing river water, yes, but there was a ladder. He was on the ladder, even, clinging to it with a hand that was steadily going numb.
The problem was that his other hand was dangling limply from a broken arm. With the current tugging at his legs, he didn't dare let go even for a second to try and get a higher grip that could pull him up. It was far more likely that he would end up back in the river, and it was a miracle that he'd managed to get even this far out of it.
He couldn't tell whether his earpiece had been lost, or if it had simply short-circuited in the water — either way, there were no helpful voices telling him that rescue was en route. He couldn't see anything useful, either; just the underside and supports of the dock in front of him, and some mud-slimed concrete banks to either side. And the grey, rain-swollen river all around, waiting to swallow him.
"Help!" he shouted, for what felt like the hundredth time, but the dock he had caught hold of seemed to be deserted. And he didn't think his voice had travelled all that far. He didn't have enough breath to shout as loudly as he needed to.
It was bitterly cold, and the wind cut right through his sodden clothes. His legs, in the water, actually felt marginally warmer than the rest of him. What little of them he could still feel at all. The fingers clutching the rusty metal were just a dull lump of pain, and it was beginning to hurt when he inhaled.
Really, he was in quite a lot of trouble.
When he heard the first shout — "Neal!" — he thought he was imagining it.
"Neal! Where are you?"
"Peter?" Neal called, with all the strength he could muster. He tipped his head back. "Peter!" The effort of shouting came close to exhausting him.
"Neal?" A few moments later, Peter appeared leaning over the side of the dock, silhouetted against the grey sky. "Jesus. Are you okay?"
"Need help," Neal said. He tried to smile, but his face was too numb. His teeth had long since stopped chattering.
"Can you get up the ladder?" Peter was kneeling at the top now, looking as if he wanted to lean down and hoist Neal up by himself.
Neal shook his head. "Arm's broken."
"Jesus," Peter said, again. "Right, we're going to get you out of there. Hold on, okay?"
Neal nodded grimly, but Peter had already disappeared. He had no idea how they were planning to get him up. Not that his imagination was working very well — his world had narrowed mostly to cold and pain.
Peter's upper body leaned over the edge of the dock. Diana was now next to him. "We're getting a rescue team out here as fast as possible," he said. "Can you make it?"
"What if I — can't?" Neal asked, just because he had never managed to stop being contrary.
"Then I'll jump into the water and hold you up," Peter said. Diana looked at him sharply, but didn't argue.
"No," Neal said, newly determined. Peter wasn't going to go through this on his account.
Jones joined the party. "Fifteen minutes," he said, grimly.
"That's not fast enough," Peter snapped.
"They know it's an emergency. That's the quickest they can get a hoist and a harness out to us."
Peter shook his head. Neal couldn't see his expression too clearly, between the distance, the odd angle and the contrast against the lighter sky, but Peter's glare was still unmistakable. "He's not going to be able to hang on that long," he hissed.
Neal briefly closed his eyes. As much as he would like that not to be true, he knew it was. He could barely feel his fingers, and it wouldn't be much longer until their grip gave out.
"I'm the lightest," Diana was saying, above him.
There was a brief mutter of voices, and then Diana snapped, "Caffrey!"
Neal opened his eyes with a start. Then he realised that Diana was hanging head-first most of the way down the ladder, and tying a scarf tightly around his wrist. "What —" he began to ask, but she interrupted.
"We need to get you up this ladder," she said. She twisted the long ends of the scarf tightly around and around her forearm, and then took hold of his wrist. "I'll stop you falling. We'll get your hand higher and then you can move your legs up, okay? Just one rung at a time."
Neal stared at her. This couldn't possibly work.
"You can do this," she said. "Trust me, yeah?"
Neal nodded. Hesitantly, he released his fingers, letting Diana (and Peter and Jones, who must be anchoring her) take his weight. Diana pulled, guiding his hand up onto the rung above, until he could clutch hold of it.
"Great," she said, breathing out heavily in relief. Strands of hair were escaping from its knot and falling down around her face. "Now bring your feet up, one at a time. Okay?"
The first movement was the hardest; his legs had forgotten that they belonged to him at all and were refusing commands. But once he had, agonisingly slowly and fighting the river's pull, got one leg to move higher, the other followed.
Diana didn't let him stop. "Now the next one. Hand first."
He was more confident letting her support him this time. She talked him through his movements, not rushing him even though he felt like he was taking forever.
Let go of rung. Lean on Diana. Move hand to next rung. Move left foot up. Move right foot. Start again. Diana was being pulled upwards at intervals, so that she stayed above him.
Her breathing was getting strained. Hanging upside down and supporting him at the same time couldn't be easy. Neal felt he should be apologising.
Then Diana pulled up his hand onto wooden planking and slithered backwards in the same motion. "Got him," she said, and grabbed the shoulder of Neal's leather jacket with the hand not already tethered to him.
Then Peter was taking hold of him too, and between them they pulled him up and over the edge. Neal lay on the dock without making any attempt to move, barely noticing someone untying the scarf.
"Neal," Peter said. "Neal, talk to me."
Now that he no longer had to maintain tension in his muscles, Neal found himself unable to move at all, and with no particular motivation to do so. He was so cold that he was almost completely numb.
He groaned at the tapping against his face. Leave me alone. But he was rolled over, and then lifted into the air with arms under his shoulders and knees.
"I'll ride in the back with him," Peter said, which made very little sense until he was deposited across the seat of a Bureau car. He was managing to keep his eyes half-open, and so he could register that his head was resting in Peter's lap and blankets and coats were being piled over him.
"Neal, are you with me?" Peter's face was upside down, and worried.
He managed some sort of noise. His entire body seemed to have gone on strike. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Peter's hand rubbing against his shoulder, but he couldn't feel it.
One of them must have called ahead to the hospital — Neal was slid straight from the car to a gurney, and then people started hooking him up to things, including something that made the world go fuzzy and soft-edged. Which was good, because around about then everything started to hurt.
He managed to stay awake while his arm was x-rayed and then set into a cast, although any actual interaction was beyond him. He kept being piled with more blankets, and he gathered that he was getting warmth fed into him intravenously, but he just felt so cold.
Finally, he ended up in a bed with yet more blankets on top of him, and the lights dimmed. Peter and Diana were there.
"Hey," Peter said, gently. "Are you feeling up to speaking yet?"
"Mmm," Neal mumbled. "Maybe."
Peter beamed, as if that word was an impressive achievement. "There you are," he said. "You had us worried."
"How are you feeling?" Diana asked.
"Tired," Neal said. He was glad the bed was slightly inclined; there was no way he would have been able to sit up. He wasn't sure he even had the energy to turn his head. "Cold."
They both smiled sympathetically. "I'm not sure they can put more blankets on without crushing you," Peter said. He glanced at one of the monitors. "Your temperature's going up, though."
Neal supposed he would have to take their word for it. He had dim recollections of one of the doctors who had been fussing over him telling him it would take time for him to start feeling properly warm, even when he was. Anyway, he had more pressing things he wanted to know the answer to. "How'd you… find me?" he asked, having to speak agonisingly slowly to shape the words properly.
"It wasn't hard," Peter said. "The river busted the radio, but the GPS in it still worked. We got to you as fast as we could, but we had to go upstream to a bridge first."
"We're just glad you're okay," Diana said. She patted his arm slightly awkwardly, her sleeve riding up a little.
Neal frowned at the bruising around her wrist.
She saw where he was looking, and shrugged. "Hey," she said, firmly. "Don't you dare do something stupid like apologise for that."
Neal brought up a wry smile. "Wasn't."
"Good," she said. "I'll take a couple of bruises over you being swept out to sea any day."
"Really?" Peter asked. "Any day?"
"Well, maybe not a day on which he's being really annoying," Diana conceded. "You'd have to take your own chances then, Caffrey."
Neal would usually have come up with a smart retort, but he was having to work too hard just to keep his eyes open. He just smiled instead.
"I think we should probably let you sleep," Peter said. He ruffled Neal's hair fondly, taking shameless advantage of Neal's sluggish reflexes. "I'll be back in the morning, okay?"
"Yeah," Neal said, which turned into a wide yawn that made Diana laugh. "And thanks. Really."
"Anytime," Diana said, and also ruffled his hair. He scowled at her, which just made her chuckle. Peter at least had the decency to hide his own laugh behind his hand. "Sleep tight."
"'Night," Neal mumbled, and let his eyes fall closed before they had left the room.
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