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13 March 2012 @ 12:22 am
[fic: white collar] Inevitably  
Since I signed up to a couple of new challenges, I thought I should finish some of the WIPs I have in longhand and throw them into the wild. To, you know, fend for themselves and learn to hunt and stuff. Maybe they'll even grow more plot and come back to me! (Maybe I shouldn't post things after midnight.)

Title: Inevitably
Characters/Pairing: Peter, Neal; Gen
Genre/Rating: Hurt/comfort; PG-13
Word count: 3000
Warnings: None
Notes: I now know which prompt this was! It was this one by azertynin on collarcorner

Summary: With Peter's driving, it was probably a given that this would happen sooner or later.

- o -

Neal's white fingers clench the side of the door. "Peter, this is suicidal," he says, the forced calm of his voice at odds with his fear-widened eyes. "No, wait, homicidal, because I'm going to die too."

Peter twists the steering wheel. The old Ford — and doesn't he just wish he had his Taurus, this car feels like it should have been melted for scrap years ago — spins around another of the unending bends. Neal makes a noise which sounds like a strangled gulp. "You have a better plan?" Peter asks tightly.

"We're going to die."

Trees flick past on either side, blurs of green and grey and brown. Peter's eyes keep jumping to the rear-view mirror. Maybe they'll give up… Then the black SUV tears around the bend after them and the hope that wasn't really any sort of hope at all is gone. "Neal, shut up," he demands.

Neal lets out a half-hysterical laugh. "Why? It's not like I can make your driving any worse."

And Neal actually is frightened. In fact he looks positively terrified, although he would certainly never admit to that.

"They'll stop chasing us soon," Peter says. "There'll be more traffic soon. Someone will call the police."

"Or the EMTs." Neal is apparently determined to resist any sort of optimism. He stares fixedly at the rain-slicked road ahead of them, flinching every time the car swerves. And it's doing that a lot.

"I'm doing the best I can here," Peter snaps, cutting himself off with a grunt as one of the wheel skids and he has to wrestle the vehicle back under his control. He's never had to drive this fast before, on a dreadful surface with a car which handles with all the grace of a refrigerator.

Neal makes another strangled sound. His face is absolutely white and Peter wonders why he's never got around to asking him if there's a reason he tends to be such a bad passenger even at the best of times. Not like now would be a good time, of course. "Any signal yet?" he asks instead.

Neal flips open the cell he'd picked from one of Harper's men — a wise move in hindsight, given the ferocity of the reaction when Harper figured out they were feds (and Peter still wants to know exactly how that happened). "No." He's been describing their situation in a series of texts to Diana, but they're still sitting unsent in the outbox for now. "Peter, we are going to die."

"Stop saying that!" Peter is forced to increase their speed yet again as the pursuing SUV edges closer. He wonders if they're actually trying to catch them, or if they're just waiting until he goes off the road and the problem takes care of itself. As Neal keeps predicting. Loudly.

"What else am I supposed to do?"

Peter leans on the wheel and knifes around another sharp turn. "There can't possibly be much more forest," he says, but so far it's seemed to be pretty unending. "At least it's not raining anymore."

"This car doesn't even have airbags." Apparently a terrified Neal comes with a refusal or inability to be derailed.

"Look on the bright side," Peter suggests, and instantly regrets it, because Neal looks as if he wants to either yell at the top of his voice or throw up.

He does neither, but it clearly takes a significant effort. "What bright side?" he hisses through clenched teeth. "That we're not dead yet?"

That had, in fact, been close to what Peter had been going to say. He casts about for some other semi-appropriate platitude.

"Look out!" Neal yells, too late for Peter to avoid plunging the car through what would more accurately be described as a lake than a puddle. The jolt bounces them both in their seats and the tyres kick up an entire wave of water which splatters against the passenger-side windows. Peter glances into the mirror and is gratified to see the SUV momentarily brake sharply to avoid copying him, swerving to the other side of the road instead.

Neal doesn't look encouraged. He looks more as if he's trying to press himself right into the barely-padded seat.

Raindrops start to land on the windscreen and Peter swears loudly. He should have known it was a bad idea to tempt fate. He turns the wipers on, and thinks for a heart-stopping moment that they aren't going to work and he's going to be blind, but after a few seconds' delay they kick in.

Which is just as well because the rain starts to lash down fiercely. If there's any way to make their situation even more precarious Peter really doesn't want to know about it.

Neal is staring at the cell phone as if it's some priceless piece of artwork, snapping it open and closed in a nervous staccato. Suddenly his head jolts up. "We've got signal." He doesn't wait for a response before he's dialling frantically, fingers shaking. "Diana!" he shouts as the line apparently connects, and Peter can only imagine her facial expression.

"Put her on speaker," he demands.

Neal leans away from him. "No, you have to focus on the road. Diana, we're both about to die."

A pause. "If I'm sounding like Mozzie it's for a reason! Have you got the texts yet? We're being chased by very angry men with guns and Peter's driving like a maniac." Pause. "Yes, that's what I'm saying." Pause. "Would you like to swap places and see how calm you feel then?"

"Neal," Peter interrupts. He's having to squint through the windscreen now, the wipers pushing valiantly but unable to keep pace with the torrent of rain. He risks slowing down slightly, banking on the SUV having to do the same.

"Diana, we are going to die," Neal says, in a voice which is a very nice imitation of a completely calm tone.

It's so calm, in fact, that it seems completely inevitable that the long-overdue crash happens moments later.

It isn't Peter's fault. It's the SUV, speeding up when the driver sees Peter's brake lights, that swerves out of control, hurtling across the slick surface of the rain-skinned road to collide with the Ford.

The seconds stretch and elongate and Peter desperately tries to do something but there isn't really much that can be done when a couple of tonnes of fast-moving metal are bearing down at terrifying speed. He twists the steering wheel as the SUV slams against the rear bumper and they jack-knife, spinning across the road, brake shrieking as he jams his foot against it, worn tyres finding no grip. Neal is yelling, a high involuntary sound of pure fear, and Peter is shouting, and the dark line of the trees is like a solid wall and rapidly approaching and Oh god, oh god

- o -

Peter opens his eyes, unsure whether he was unconscious or merely stunned. Rain stripples down the windscreen. It's tilted sideways.

No, he is.

He breathes in, cautiously, and immediately he's acutely aware of how hard he must have slammed against the seatbelt. He's come to rest slumped sideways against something soft. His chest is on fire, each shallow breath hurting like the air he's pulling into his lungs is red-hot.

Still, now that he's started moving, he keeps at it, and pushes himself laboriously upright, breathing rapidly. Specks dance in his vision and he has to lean back and shut his eyes tightly for long seconds. Then he opens them.

With his line of sight greatly improved he can get a good look at the effects of the crash for the first time. The car was spinning when it left the road, which is what's saved them, because the trunk and back seat have been completely stoved in, crumpled against the trunk of a tree. Splintered twigs poke through broken glass.

Peter takes in all of the damage to the vehicle with one glance and then pushes it aside as temporarily unimportant. "Neal," he says, and finds that his throat is hoarse, his voice terribly weak. "Neal, can you hear me?"

The centrifugal force which had slammed Peter against the rigid brace of the seatbelt and left him toppled against Neal had also dragged Neal in the same direction — except that in his case there was an obstacle. His head rests against the window pane. Blood is smeared across the glass and slowly trickles down the door.

"Neal," Peter says, again. He reaches across clumsily, finds a pulse which is thready but definitely there, and sighs in relief. He unclips his seatbelt and shifts himself around to get a better look at Neal, disregarding the stabs of pain shooting across his own body. "Come on, buddy. Talk to me."

The rain against the windows paints shifting shadows across Neal's pale face. The broken remains of the cell are on the floor by his feet.

And somewhere outside are the men who were chasing them, if they survived their own crash. Peter decides that not opening a door or window to check is the safest option. He's unarmed — he certainly doesn't want to be drawing their attention if they've assumed he and Neal are dead.

Neal groans, and Peter's focus instantly snaps back to him. "Neal? Open your eyes for me."

Neal's eyelids flutter, and after a couple of attempts they open. He blinks slowly and then he turns his head, his gaze unfocused.

"Hey," Peter says softly. "Hey there, buddy."

Neal squints at him. "Hey," he says thickly.

"How are you feeling?"

"Not great." Neal lifts a shaking hand to his head, and looks surprised when his fingers come away coated with blood. "Shit."

"Yeah," Peter agrees — perhaps a bit too readily. He tries to peer out through the windows, but the downpour is still making that impossible. "Did Diana give you an eta for a response team?"

Neal is apparently still mesmerised by the red stain on his fingertips.


It takes him several painful seconds to focus on Peter again. "What?"

Peter swallows hard and does his best to be patient. "What did Diana say to you?"

Neal curls his fingers as if he's holding a phantom cell phone. "I… She said…" He creases his forehead. "Peter," he says helplessly.

"It's okay," Peter says quickly. He's not sure what to do. Or what he can do. "They'll be here soon."

"Mmm." His eyes close.

"Neal. Keep looking at me." Peter waits until he has compliance, if reluctant. "Come on, stay with me."

"Tired," Neal mutters.

"I know, I know, but you can't go to sleep here." It worries him that he hasn't been able to get a look at Neal's injury, but making him move doesn't seem like a sensible idea.

"Your fault, anyway."

Were it not for the fact that Neal's voice is slurring, Peter might have laughed. "Sure," he says, "Blame me, not the guy who rammed us."

"Going too fast."

Peter huffs. "You're hardly the expert on how to live safely." He hopes to raise a ghost of a smile from Neal, but fails. "Although, I suppose the fact that you're still alive despite everything counts as an achievement."

Neal groans deeply. At least some of it is exaggeration.

"Neal?" Peter says, tentatively, when Neal doesn't respond further. "You need to keep talking to me."

Neal groans again. Peter can see the appeal of that form of communication; he's pretty certain now that some of his ribs are broken. Each breath comes at the cost of white-hot stabbing pain.

The lashing rain continues to coat the windows, ever-shifting curtains through which it's impossible to make out anything. He keeps thinking he sees shapes, only for them to be washed away a second later.

Harper's men could be advancing on them right now.

"Neal!" Peter demands, anxiety sharpening his voice.

Neal mutters something which sounds suspiciously like, "Go away."

"I'm not doing that," Peter says. "I'm not asking anything difficult. Just talk to me until Diana gets here."

Neal blinks his eyes open at Diana's name. "I talked to her," he said.

"Yeah, I know. She and Jones are coming for us." Possibly saying it out loud will make it true. Or possibly not, but there's nothing to be lost by trying.

"I don't remember," Neal says.

"That's fine," Peter reassures him. "Not like we can do anything about it."

"You're terrible at reassurance," Neal mutters.

Peter sighs heavily (and, god, that hurts). "I don't see you making it easy," he says, slightly short of breath.

"Got… better things to do."

"Really," Peter says, and then forgets to continue as he thinks he sees another shadow loom.

"What is it?" Neal asks, and dammit, he should have known better than to underestimate Neal's observational skills, even when injured. "Peter?"

"Nothing," Peter says.

Neal actually turns his head to look him squarely in the eye. His face is streaked with blood, and taut with pain. "Please," he says.

And Peter can't refuse him, not now. "Harper's men could be out there," he says reluctantly, and sees from Neal's expression that he'd completely forgotten about them. "They've got guns."

"Yeah, I know," Neal says. He closes his eyes for a second and swallows thickly.

"How's your vision?" Peter thinks to ask.

"Blurry," Neal admits. "What do you think, might I have a concussion?"

"That's not funny," says Peter sternly, because it really isn't.

Neal's mouth twitches at the corner for a second. "Do you have a plan?" he asks.

Peter inhales, and scrambles for one. "I go out there, tell them you're dead, which I think you can do a good impression of right now. They take me back towards Harper, and you let the others know so they can catch us before we get there."

"Or," Neal says, "They just shoot you. And then they shoot me just to be sure. It's a terrible plan."

There's not much that Peter can say in its defense, because it is. "What do you suggest?"

"We stay here."

"What, just wait?"

Neal sighs, ending on a slight groan. "Seriously, what are our options? I don't suppose you're advocating for us making a run for it into the trees, because I'm not exactly in a shape for that right now, and nor are you."

Peter can't argue with that, but he's never been one for sitting and waiting in this sort of situation. He looks for any sort of weapon, but there's nothing. And Neal's eyes are falling closed again. "You have to stay awake," he says.

"'m tired."

"I know, but you can't sleep now, you have to trust me. Keep your eyes open."

Is it his imagination, or can he hear voices? He curls his fingers into fists. They'll open the driver's side door first — that's the sensible course. And he'll be ready for them. He's not going to let them take Neal.

"Mmm," Neal says, and doesn't open his eyes. Peter pats his knee. Maybe it's best if Neal drifts off to sleep. There'll be a chance the men will think he's dead after all, and leave him.

The door is wrenched open.

Peter punches out fiercely. At the last second he tries to stop, and his knuckles only brush past Jones's face instead of slamming into it.

Jones, soaked with rain, takes a couple of quick steps back while Peter's still registering what just happened. "Hey!" he exclaims.

Peter exhales heavily, and just blinks stupidly for a few seconds.

"He's okay!" Jones calls over his shoulder. "Peter, you're okay, right? How's Caffrey?"

"I'll be alright," Peter says, shakily. The adrenaline spike is draining away fast. "Busted ribs, I think. Neal's pretty badly hurt."

Neal blinks lazily. "Huh?"

"Yeah, you," Peter tells him. He's grinning with relief; he couldn't help it if he tried. "Sorry for the welcome there. I thought you were one of the guys chasing us."

Jones glances over his shoulder. "Nothing to worry about from them. One's dead and the other's pinned. Diana's guarding him."

"So much for my last stand, then," Peter says. It seems doubly ridiculous now, attempting to fight off guns with fists and restricted movement.

Jones laughs. "I'll check how far out the medics are," he says.

Peter lets himself lean back into the seat. He looks over as Neal taps a hand against his side. "Hey," he says. "I told you everything'd be fine."

Neal chuffs. "Like you knew." He tries to open his eyes further. "Thanks. Was a good last stand."

Peter smiles, and squeezes his hand over Neal's. "Well, there have been better ones."

Despite the pain, which Peter's pretty sure must be only a hair short of overwhelming, Neal manages a brief grin. "Yeah, well. I was being nice."

Peter rolls his eyes. "You may want to work on that," he says, and keeps his grasp on Neal's hand. He glances out of the door. Jones is turning to head back towards them through the rain, waving when he sees Peter looking.

"Maybe later," Neal says, and tilts slightly so that his shoulder leans against Peter.

"Yeah," Peter agrees. The sirens are audible in the distance now; a wonderfully welcome noise. He can feel the slight movements as Neal breathes, and he smiles. "Let's just be glad this is over."

"I'm never trusting your driving again," Neal mutters.

Peter laughs, despite his ribcage protesting, and squeezes Neal's hand again. (Clearly, it's the concussion talking.) "Hang in there," he says.

And they both do.

- o -

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/47313.html with comment count unavailable comments.
Winterwinterstar95 on March 13th, 2012 12:51 am (UTC)
I love your writing. It has an emotional charge to it laced with a physicality. Great stuff.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile shirtfrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 01:23 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Peter Neal hugsholio on March 13th, 2012 01:20 am (UTC)
Awww, boys. ♥ Love the banter and mutual concern.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - walk wallsfrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 01:24 am (UTC)
Thanks :) I like writing little plot-lite snippets like this.
kriadydragon: Beastkriadydragon on March 13th, 2012 02:35 am (UTC)
That was great :D Very intense moment there in the car when Peter thought the bad guys were coming for them. And I would love to know the story behind Neal's fear of reckless driving (because Neal does seem to dread Peter's driving like crazy on the show).
Frith: NY - Stella - smile redfrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I really love writing little action scenes, they're great fun. (I actually started trying to give Neal some backstory for this, but the one I came up with wasn't actually very interesting so I took it out again -- I may try it again some other time!)
oh these heroes come and go;micheleeeex on March 13th, 2012 04:04 am (UTC)
I love this!
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile hatfrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
pooh_collector on March 13th, 2012 05:01 am (UTC)
So now I need a story to explain why Neal is such a bad back seat driver. You made intimations...

I really like the tension in this particularly after the crash and of course the banter between the boys.
EbeneezerDarkebeneezerdark on March 13th, 2012 07:15 am (UTC)
"...explain why Neal is such a bad back seat driver..."

I second that...

Poor Neal. Now I really want to know why he was so scared...
(no subject) - frith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 03:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ebeneezerdark on March 13th, 2012 09:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - frith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 03:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
pipiljpipilj on March 13th, 2012 06:14 am (UTC)
Lovely hurt/comfort story. you built the tension beautifully. loved the banter between the boys.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - purplefrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm very happy the tension worked. And I love writing them bantering while in peril *gg*
noiproksanoiproksa on March 13th, 2012 08:06 am (UTC)
Aww, this is sweet and funny (their banter always cracks me up), which is my favorite combination.
"Neal, shut up," -
"Why? It's not like I can make your driving any
worse." *gg* Heee, that's so them. I think I'm a little evil to enjoy them together in dangerous situations so much.
And yay for H/C! :) You write banged up Neal so well. And the ending left me with a satisfied smile on my face because it combines once again cute (hand squeeze, awww) and funny (Clearly, it's the concussion talking. *g*).
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - tramfrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! And hah, if you're a little evil than I'm a lot evil because I completely love writing them in peril! Um, to the extent where a lot of my fics are just snippets of peril. I should probably work on that...

And I really like trying to combine funny with danger and other stuff, I'm very happy that you enjoy it :) Thank you again!
kanarek13kanarek13 on March 13th, 2012 01:54 pm (UTC)
Awww... excellent. Love the tension and Neal!whump is always a win :D The banter is spot-on! \o/ Thank you :D

BTW, isn't this a fill for azertynin's prompt over at whitecollarhc for the Trapped Fic Bash?? :D

Edited at 2012-03-13 01:55 pm (UTC)
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile shirtfrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I think I started writing it before that prompt was posted... I don't knoooow XD

And thank you!! I'm glad you liked reading this :)
(no subject) - azertynin on March 14th, 2012 08:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - frith_in_thorns on March 14th, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - azertynin on March 14th, 2012 08:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
RabidChild's Ficrabidchild on March 13th, 2012 01:58 pm (UTC)
Good stuff! Love Peter mother-henning Neal.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - wake upfrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
shadowfireflame: White Collarshadowfireflame on March 13th, 2012 04:16 pm (UTC)
This was AWESOME! Action-packed, completely plausible car chases leading to delicious, heart-wrenching h/c, what more can anyone ask for?

"Diana, we are going to die," Neal says, in a voice which is a very nice imitation of a completely calm tone.

Oh, Neal. I love that Diana compared him to Mozzie at that moment. So her.

Neal curls his fingers as if he's holding a phantom cell phone. "I… She said…" He creases his forehead. "Peter," he says helplessly.

This, too. So believable and lovely, even though I ache for him. I can totally see it happening like this.

I love your writing. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for your really nice comment! I love writing action scenes, so I'm very happy that this scenario worked! And of course h/c is always fun ;)
Rumrouzrumrouz on March 13th, 2012 04:18 pm (UTC)
I like it)))
Poor Neal I'd like to know why he was so scared) This story could be interesting)))
And Peter

Thanks a lot

Edited at 2012-03-13 04:19 pm (UTC)
Frith: NY - Stella - smile redfrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed this, h/c involving the two of them is always so much fun to write :D
Vanae: Reviewvanae on March 13th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
I don't know what it is about me and car crash h/c - it never fails. A concerned Peter thrown into the mix is such a bonus, too. I like your writing style, and I really enjoyed this little snippet. Loved the exchanges between Peter and Neal. Also, there was a nice shot of intensity to the bit that has Peter sensing someone approaching, it worked very well. Thanks for sharing :)
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - walk wallsfrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 10:54 pm (UTC)
Car crash h/c is just fun. And I really enjoyed writing concerned Peter :) I'm happy that you liked reading this, thank you very much for commenting! :D
saphirablue on March 13th, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
*awww* Love Neal backseat driving and Peter trying to protect Neal from the bad guys. =)

Thank you! :)
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - tramfrith_in_thorns on March 13th, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Peter's great at being protective :)
(no subject) - sanuye12 on March 14th, 2012 03:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - frith_in_thorns on March 14th, 2012 05:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
azertyninazertynin on March 14th, 2012 08:37 pm (UTC)
Love it !!!!!

You made my day ! :D

I love h/c when Neal is the one who is hurted and Peter is worried and tries to save/protect him.

You write their banter soooooooo well. Great capture of the characters.

You are one of my favorite talented writer in this fandom. I'm eagerly waiting for your next story. :D

Edited at 2012-03-14 08:39 pm (UTC)
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - wake upfrith_in_thorns on March 14th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC)
Awwwww, thank you so much! :D Hurt Neal and protective Peter is my absolute favourite combination. And their banter basically writes itself XD

It makes me really happy that you enjoy my fics :) ♥
sahiya on March 14th, 2012 10:34 pm (UTC)
Awww, poor Neal. Nice descriptions in this one - I wasn't half-freaked out, imagining car ride. Those sort of things are always worse in the passenger seat, I think.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile hatfrith_in_thorns on March 14th, 2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I don't drive, but I'm a terrible backseat-anything-else ;P I really enjoyed writing the action here!