Title: Lab Safety
Characters/Pairing: Neal, Peter; Gen
Genre/Rating: H/c; PG-13
Word count: 1200
Notes: This fic was written for kriadydragon's prompt at collarcorner. (I was trying to write this in time for it to be a birthday present, but it's a little late — sorry!)
This just about fits the "burns" square on my hc_bingo card. (I also have "fire" as a square, so I figure I can get away with this.)
Summary: Shootouts and chemistry labs don't mix.
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"Stop shooting!" Neal yelled, crouched behind the heavy lab bench. "These things are dangerous!"
In retrospect, that wasn't the best thing he could have said. He realised that a few seconds later when the gunmen began purposefully aiming at the shelves behind him and the smash of breaking glass and the slop of liquid joined the gunfire.
"A little help might be useful," he muttered, in the general direction of his watch. "I don't think these guys like Summers's guys very much." He pulled the collar of his shirt up over his nose and mouth as the sharp tang of ammonia made his breath catch and his eyes water. He huddled further under the bench, exceptionally glad to continue in his role of a nervous scientist in way over his head.
Mike, assigned by Summers as his companion (or babysitter, depending on how you looked at it) was already coughing vigorously as he exchanged fire. There were masks in a cupboard somewhere — Neal had noted them earlier — but they might as well have been in another building. And they had just taken their safety gear off.
More chemical bottles exploded. Neal's eyes were streaming now from the mix of fumes, and his lungs felt tight. He scrabbled away from the path of a rivulet of clear liquid and the motion kicked him off into a series of coughs which he couldn't stop. There was an intense and unrelenting pain pounding in his forehead now.
"Still alive, science guy?" Mike wheezed.
Neal nodded, feeling the spin of vertigo. He was seriously worried. He hadn't got around to reading all the labels on the bottles before the rival goons had burst in, but Summers had a very well equipped chemistry lab, specialising in some pretty nasty compounds.
"Got any tricks?"
He needed Mozzie for this, really. It was painful to inhale, and there were black spots dancing in his vision, increasing the blurriness, but he marshaled his thoughts and squinted at the nearest shelf. Concentrated sulphuric acid, and — ah. "Give me your shoelaces."
Neal was abruptly caught in another wheezy coughing fit, and couldn't reply. But he began fumbling the laces out of his shoes with shaking fingers. Mike got the message and did the same, one-handed.
Lacking any sort of tape, Neal tied the two glass bottles together as securely as he could with the laces. "How many men left?" he demanded. God, his head hurt, throbbing sickly. He hoped he wouldn't throw up.
"Three. Down from five."
"Cover me," Neal gasped.
Mike leaned out and laid down a barrage of fire while Neal grabbed the edge of the bench and pulled himself up, holding his breath against the surge of dizziness as he flung the bottle-and-shoelace bomb. He ducked down as soon as he let go, falling clumsily.
The bottles smashed against the far side of the room. A muffled roar signalled the mixing of the chemicals as a cloud of thick black acrid smoke swelled and bloomed.
Mike stood to shoot at his disorientated targets. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Each loud noise seemed to knock the world further off balance. Neal pressed his forehead against the solid wood.
Finally, everything stopped. Mike slumped heavily to the floor.
"Are you —" Neal began, and then choked off his words. Mike was still gasping for air, his eyes wide, but even as Neal reached towards the bleeding hole in his chest he twitched and went still. The blood spilling across the floor mixed into a pool of chemical and began to discolour.
Neal stared numbly, until what felt like a flash of fire along the edge of his left hand jolted him out of shock. He hissed with renewed pain and wiped the corrosive liquid off him using a corner of Mike's jacket, shuddering.
Everything was wavering, the room spinning. For the second time he reached for the support of the bench, and pulled himself up. This got him off the chemical-slicked floor but into the thick layer of smoke, and an unwise breath of it made him feel like he was being scoured from the inside. He was barely able to take a couple of steps away from the mess of broken glass and liquid before the floor began to dip and roll sharply and he pitched onto his knees.
His eyes were streaming too much to see and his head was pounding with migraine-intensity. He coughed and retched with little distinction, and crawled forwards blindly. He had already lost all sense of direction.
Something grabbed him under his arms and he fought like a drowning man, twisting and thrashing even as he was overpowered and dragged, his feet kicking helplessly.
When the motion finally stopped he was too dizzy and disorientated to move. He coughed and coughed until suddenly his shoulders were pulled up onto something solid and his lungs were freed enough to let him finally catch a breath.
He forced his eyes open. There was a hopelessly blurred face hovering upside-down above him, suggesting that his head and chest were pillowed on someone's knees. "Peter?" he croaked.
"I'm right here, you're okay." Peter stroked his hair, calmingly. "EMS are on their way."
Neal gave up trying to focus his eyes and closed them instead.
Peter tapped his cheek. "Come on, stay with me."
"Light hurts." Speaking was like rubbing his throat with sandpaper, but it was nothing compared to the stabbing pains in his skull. He began to cough again, wretchedly.
"Slow breaths," Peter murmured, his hand rubbing back and forth on Neal's chest. It helped. "Hang on, just a little bit longer."
Neal reached up to find Peter's other hand and clung to it, his fingers slipping between Peter's larger, rougher ones. The whole of his exhausted body ached. He tried to match his breathing to the gentle rhythm Peter kept up.
"Neal?" Peter squeezed his shoulder. "The paramedics are here."
He seemed reluctant to relinquish Neal to them, though — as reluctant as Neal was to be moved away from Peter. But he didn't have a choice. An oxygen mask was strapped onto his face, the cool gas smoothing away some of the burning in his chest. He took several deep breaths, and found himself able to half-open his eyes enough to see that Peter was still there, walking close to the stretcher as it was wheeled along. Someone had injected him with something which made most of the pain and nausea go away, but it also made him drowsy and pliant, so that he had to struggle to stay alert.
"It's okay, Neal, you can relax," Peter said. They were in the ambulance already, and Peter was sitting next to him holding his hand. "I'm not going anywhere."
Neal nodded fractionally, and managed a weak smile, trying to communicate his thanks with his eyes. And Peter held his hand all the way to the hospital, not letting go once.
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