Characters/Pairing: Neal & Peter, Gen
Word count: 2000
Summary: At least, Neal thought desperately, he wasn't bleeding all over his own clothes.
Written for this prompt at collarcorner: Neal escaping while injured.
- o -
At least, Neal thought desperately, he wasn't bleeding all over his own clothes.
He pressed himself back against the rough brickwork, keeping a hand clamped over his upper left arm. There really was a lot of blood. It was becoming rather urgent to stop it. At this point he wouldn't even have minded sacrificing a tie as a tourniquet or something, but currently he was being Phil Stevens, a straightforward thief who wouldn't be caught dead in a suit. Well, soon he might be caught dead in a cheap jersey and jeans. Or caught alive. Alive is definitely better.
Although he would much prefer to not be caught at all. Neal held his breath and peeled off the ripped jersey. A fresh wave of blood trickled down his skin from the deep gash into his bicep. The shirt underneath had been pale blue; now much of the left arm and shoulder was stained purple, deepening redly. Swallowing, he wound the jersey around it, holding it down as tightly as he could. It made for a dreadful bandage but it might at least stop him leaving too much of a trail.
He quite deliberately didn't look at the wound again. He remembered vividly the wickedly sharp curve of the broken glass which had sliced him as he wriggled through the narrow gap, and just how much of it had been streaked with red as he'd turned back afterwards to look. Unfortunately his imagination was a step ahead of him and already supplying nauseatingly detailed pictures of just how deep into his flesh it had gone. He had to swallow again, and take several deep breaths.
Footsteps. Neal tensed and pressed back even further into the small niche where two warehouses met. He was in shadow, but whoever was out there only needed to round the corner and he would be right there…
The footsteps carried on past him and away. They were measured; not those of someone on a search. His escape probably hadn't been noticed yet. After all, he'd been locked in an empty room and you'd have to be crazy to even think about using an incredibly thin and rusty pipe to support yourself while finding enough finger-and toe-holds in the crumbling mortar to get up the wall, and then squeeze out of a tiny broken window with remaining splinters of the pane spiking dangerously out from the frame. Not to mention the drop on the other side.
Completely crazy. But it was funny how much of a motivator knowing you were soon to be shot could be.
He couldn't stay where he was. Very soon there would be an actual search underway for him, and his hiding place was barely worthy of the name. And, in the meantime, he was losing blood. Quite rapidly.
Moving slowly, Neal peered around the corner. The warehouse wall stretched away, bare and stark with not even a doorway for shelter. Across, there was a wide stretch of stony dirt before the next building — but that one had the beautiful feature of a door rusted ajar.
"Now or never," he whispered to himself, and ran for it.
His balance was slightly off with the need to keep his right arm clutched against his left. The jolting motion caused jagged pain with each noisy step and he was dangerously, ridiculously exposed under the low grey sky. Still, he made it and shoved himself through the gap, into the dim interior.
Sprinting had taken more out of him than he had expected. He bent down, gasping for breath, as he waited for his eyes to adjust, and used his good shoulder to lean against the wall. Shafts of light reached down through broken sections of the roof. This building was long abandoned.
His makeshift bandage was shifting. Neal straightened up, still breathing hard, and pulled it tighter. And swore. Crimson beaded the ground he had just covered, a beautifully clear sign for anyone looking.
"I could really do with some help about now," he muttered, although he no longer had his earpiece.
Sadly, help failed to magically appear. Worse, he caught the sound of raised voices in the distance. His escape must have been discovered.
Fast walking was safer than jogging; it shook him about less, which meant that he would probably bleed less. Less, he thought, slightly hysterically. That's a pathetic thing to have to hope for.
The concrete floor was covered in a thick layer of dust and there were the remains of old storage shelves to weave around. He stuck close to the wall, where his presence would be less immediately obvious if someone looked inside. When someone looked inside, he quickly corrected himself.
He had a stroke of luck when he reached the end of the building. There was a normal-sized door, and it wasn't locked. The rusty hinges squealed as he pushed it open and his heart stuttered in his throat, but there was no one on the other side.
Just more of the abandoned district.
"Hey!" he heard a voice call, garbled by distance. "There's blood here!"
"I've got a flashlight."
Nothing for it. Neal glanced around and made an instant decision; his best bet was to cross the space which again opened in front of him. The two buildings across had heavy chains and padlocks on the doors, but there was a narrow gap between two of them. He could see sky through it.
He had left a handprint in red as he had pushed the door closed. Blood was still welling from his wound, seeping through all the layers wound on top of it. A bead dripped from his shirt cuff as he looked.
"Can you see him?"
Again, he lurched into a run. It was even less graceful than last time. Another reason to be glad no one was watching. Stones shifted beneath his feet and he braced for someone to hear him.
He threw himself into the gap and instantly wanted to scream with frustration. It was even narrower than it had looked — he would have to squeeze himself through. Not a fun prospect in his current state.
But what choice did he have?
Neal froze, and closed his eyes. He could see the river beyond.
"You, Stevens! Turn around!"
No choice. He twisted back, coming eye-to-eye with the barrel of a pistol. The man holding it was young, but there was no hesitation in his face. "Come out of there!" he demanded.
Neal breathed in, slowly. "No," he said.
"I said, no. I come out, I'm going to get shot. Why would I do that?" His thoughts were racing. He was standing in a deep shadow. Although the sky was overcast it was very bright. His pursuer wouldn't be able to see him clearly.
The man took a step forward. "You think you have a chance in there?"
"I might," Neal said glibly. He didn't have time to come up with a plan; he could only keep talking and trust that the right thing came out of his mouth. "I've got a knife. You come near me and I'll use it." He adjusted the grip on the jersey slightly, trying to make his hand look as if he was holding a weapon rather than trying to prevent himself bleeding out.
"So maybe I'll just shoot you in there," the man said.
"I wouldn't do that," Neal said. "There's a gas tank right behind me. You miss and hit that, or the bullet goes through me, and both of us will get blown sky-high."
"Want to bet?" He held his breath. This was the moment that would make or break a con, when adrenaline was surging through him and his bluff had just been called, and everything, everything depended on not showing it.
The man paused. It would only take him a few seconds to get over his hesitancy and do what he should have done in the first place — call for backup.
Neal didn't wait for that. He moved, forcing himself into the narrow gap, biting down on his lower lip as his injured arm scraped against the bricks. He couldn't afford to take it easy, couldn't afford any seconds at all. He heard the yell behind him and then the sharp retort of a gunshot, echoes ricocheting from the buildings, but he was already flinging himself down and to the side and the bullet missed.
And then he was out and he was running, bent low to cradle his arm which was now pulsing agonisingly, a prickling anticipation at the back of his neck of the next shot which was bound to come soon. He tripped and fell and pushed himself back up, and —
And there, on the road in front of him, was an honest-to-God FBI SWAT team, all of them frozen in place at the sight of him. Neal stood still and gaped at them for a second, and then gave them what he hoped was a jaunty nod and grin, although his sheer relief might have spoiled the effect a little.
He twisted around quickly at a sound behind him. The man chasing him had apparently still not been smart enough to call for his friends. He dashed out of the passage and his expression as he realised that there were suddenly rather a lot of federal guns pointing at him was nothing short of hilarious.
Neal gave him a little wave before turning away, towards Peter, who beckoned him impatiently, holstering his weapon.
"You know, it would have been great if you'd shown up half an hour ago," Neal grumbled. Two agents jogged past him to the gunman, but he was only really interested in Peter's team, who were at the centre of the group.
Diana said, "Shit, Caffrey," but Peter was already radioing for an ambulance.
"Are they still there?" he demanded.
"Yeah," Neal said. "Well, they might be a bit spread out right now. I did just make a daring escape from under their noses."
Peter nodded, all business. "Jones?"
"I can take over," Jones said confidently.
"I know you can. Find the gang, all of them, and bring them in. Be careful."
"Understood," Jones said. "Caffrey's enough of a cautionary tale. Let's go," he ordered, and the SWAT team moved out. Diana gave Neal a quick pat on his good shoulder as she passed.
It was suddenly just him and Peter, and the agent who had taken custody of the gunman and was locking him into a car.
"Huh," said Neal, and swayed.
Peter guided him down to the kerb and crouched beside him. "What did you do to yourself now?" he asked, his voice a curious blend of exasperation and anxiety.
Neal gave a shaky laugh. "Is the Bureau going to send me the dry-cleaning bill?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm worried about."
Peter didn't manage to put very much heart into the sarcasm, which Neal found oddly touching. He laughed again, and wondered idly whether it was the adrenaline crash or the blood loss which was contributing the most to his lightheadedness.
And he was suddenly feeling extremely tired. He tipped his head sideways onto Peter's shoulder. Peter tensed awkwardly for a second before sighing and patting Neal's back gently. He let his hand stay there. "You did good," he said. "Didn't need us at all."
The ambulance turned up so quickly that Neal suspected he had zoned out for a while. It took him by surprise when he was lifted onto a gurney, and he had to have his fingers pried out of their tight clamp onto his arm ("Neal, for goodness' sakes, they're trying to help you!"). An IV slid into the back of his hand and the world became pain-free, if slightly out of focus. He tried to get a look at the wound but suddenly Peter's hand was tilting his head away, and towards him.
"Nothing interesting to see there," Peter said firmly, and curled his fingers reassuringly around Neal's elbow.
Neal would have protested if it hadn't seemed like so much effort.
"You're going to be fine, okay?"
"Okay," Neal echoed, although he suspected it came out as a mumble. Still, Peter seemed to understand, because he squeezed his arm gently.
"You did good," he said, again.
And Neal felt inclined to agree.