Characters/Pairing: Neal/Sara, Peter
Word count: 2000
Warnings: Set post-season 4; spoilers for Sara's storyline but ignores everything else.
Notes: My entry for run_the_con, for the prompt "lean on me". Also for the Neal/Sara thing-a-thon. I continue to massively over-use my favourite tropes.
Summary: He had been trying to call for help and she was an ocean and half a world away and so couldn't do anything, but he was overwhelmed all the same by desperate gratitude at hearing her voice. "Please, don't go…"
- - -
Darkness. God, the dark was heavy, solid and choking. It was in his throat as he inhaled, thick and tasting of dust, and he coughed and choked, ending in wheezes as his ribs screamed in agony. He could feel them move and creak as he breathed. God.
He didn't understand. But he had to do something.
He fumbled through his pocket to find his phone. You're hurt. Hurt bad. Don't move. Call for help.
The screen lit up as he finally edged it out, the sudden light blinding him, stabbing and scraping his retinas. He made a noise high in his throat and jabbed desperately at the touchscreen he could barely make out the details of.
Dialling now.. he'd found speed-dial, at least. He managed to switch the call to speaker right before the phone slipped from his unsteady, shaking fingers, landing facedown somewhere. In the dust and the rubble.
Nothing was working properly. His thoughts weren't working properly; all jumbled up.
It was the wrong voice. But he asked, anyway, "Peter?"
"Are we really that easy to mix up?" Sara asked. Neal could hear a raised eyebrow in her voice, a little smile. "It's bedtime here, but surely it's too early for you to have drunk that much already."
"Sara," Neal said, stupidly. He had been trying to call for help and she was an ocean and half a world away and so couldn't do anything, but he was overwhelmed all the same by desperate gratitude at hearing her voice. "Please, don't go…"
"Neal?" she asked, differently, her tone becoming sharper and more focused, like a searchlight. "Are you okay? What's going on?"
"I —" He tried to find where the phone had slid to, but his questing fingers found only dirt and rubble and sharp edges. "I don't know. Too dark."
"What do you mean, too dark? Are you hurt?" He could hear, faintly, the creak of a mattress, and then her feet striding briskly across a floor. And then stopping. She would be by a window, staring out across the London cityscape where all those lights shone into the night. "Neal, talk to me!"
"I've been better," he said, and coughed again. He opened his eyes as wide as he could, but there was absolutely nothing but blackness that he could see, nothing else at all.
"What does that mean?"
He hadn't really taken stock yet. His chest hurt and his back hurt and his head hurt. He tried to sit up, and then his forehead smacked into something solid — he didn't know what it was other than solid because bright white fireworks were suddenly exploding behind his eyes and the overwhelming shock of pain stopped his breath. Then nausea was coming in waves but he somehow had the wits to realise how horribly it would hurt if he threw up and he began swallowing convulsively instead, interspersed with desperate bursts of sucking down air.
"Talk to me! Neal. Caffrey. Neal!"
"Sara," he wheezed. He couldn't have said whether he was leaning up against something or lying flat. "Sara, Sara, god, Sara, Sara —"
"Neal, shut up!" she half-shouted, even though she'd just been begging him to speak. "Stop it, you idiot, breathe."
He breathed. He could hear her breathing, too, forcibly slowing herself to a calmer rhythm for him to copy. He did his best and it helped, eventually.
"I'm here," he said, finally, still panting.
"Damn right, and you need to stay with me. Okay?"
"Sure," he promised. He didn't dare move again. If only it wasn't so dark, that would be better. And he was cold. He realised, finally, that the wetness he could feel on his face and seeping slowly down his neck must be blood.
"Okay. Good. You'd better." He could hear her pacing again. She must still be inside her apartment, walking around and around. "Neal, listen to me. You were trying to call Peter. Does he know where you are?"
"I… I don't know." God, thinking hurt.
"Neal, what happened? I want to help you, but I have to know what to do."
"Don't go," he begged. "Please…"
"Caffrey" The familiar bark of exasperation was in her tone. "I'm not going to hang up on you! But I need to know if I should be mobilising a search-and-rescue operation on your behalf. Does Peter know where you are?"
Search and rescue. Yes, he was buried, under… under a building. Needed to wait for rescue to get him out, but then he'd be taken into custody… No, that wasn't right. Peter had sent him in. "I'm undercover," he said.
"Under something, all right," she told him, and he let out a shaky little huff of a laugh.
"That's right," she said, encouragingly. "Okay, I'm going to make another call, from the land-line though. I'll still be here."
He wanted to protest, but he forced himself to bite down on it. There was dust, sour in his mouth. Everything was broken, him included. There was a brief silence and then he could hear Sara's voice faintly, but not her words as she talked to someone else.
"Neal?" she asked, and he gasped in relief at having her back. "Neal, are you still there?"
"Here," he said. "Still here."
"I'm talking to Peter. He says they're working on digging you out right now. You just have to hold on, okay?"
"Yes." He wished… he just wished that he could see something. He could feel the dust settling on his skin, but it hurt too much to move to brush it off. Splintered structural bones jabbed into him. Lucky he wasn't impaled on one.
"Yeah?" she asked.
"Can you — keep talking?" He didn't want to tell her that he was frightened. Smooth and slick, that should be him. She was like that too; it was why he loved her.
"Of course," she said, and then gave a little laugh. "I don't know what to talk about. Isn't that ridiculous?"
His eyes were closed, not that there was a difference. "Anything. Just, anything." Talk about the light.
"You know how difficult it actually is to just talk on the spur of the moment?" She laughed again, only this one was more of a hiccough. Neal suddenly realised that she must be crying — she had kept it out of her voice perfectly. "I keep thinking, when I walk around London, how much I want to show it to you. I look at views and think, Neal would love that."
"I walk along the Embankment a lot. It's best in the evenings, just when the sun's going down. There are these play areas where kids are messing around with their parents, and so many street performers. And trees all along, just growing out of the pavements, with lights in the branches."
"I'd like that," Neal said, and tried to imagine firefly lights in the darkness. "Will you take me there?"
"Of course I will. I know it'll be a while, but that just gives us more time to plan, right?"
"Right." He was shivering now. He had been for a while.
"So tell me. What do you want to see first? Obviously I'll take you to the best museums and art galleries, but I need some sort of list."
It was getting harder and harder to pull his thoughts into order. "You choose," he mumbled. "Wherever you want."
"Neal! Pay attention."
"Go where it's warm."
"Those are terrible priorities, Caffrey," she told him sternly. "I thought you were supposed to appreciate art."
Picasso would understand the need for warmth, freezing in his studio. Picasso was apt, he thought, everything mixed up and sideways and none of the framework where you would expect.
"I'm glad," he whispered.
"Glad of what? What do you mean?"
"Glad I called you. Sara…"
"Stay on the line," she ordered. "I'm missing out on sleep for you, so the least you can do is return the favour."
"Cold. Hurts…" His voice trailed away.
She kept calling his name. But the cold numbness had crept up over his throat, like an icy lake he was slowly sinking into, and he couldn't reply.
She was there, though. She kept speaking, even though soon he couldn't make out the words. She was there in the dark, and she didn't leave.
- - -
It was his name he woke to. "Sara?" he whispered, as he swam up from unconsciousness.
Into light. Bright daylight. It hurt his eyes at first, but he forced them to stay open even as they watered, stunned by the beautiful intensity of it.
It was Peter, his clothes filthy and his eyes shadowed. "Neal, buddy, are you awake?"
Neal blinked, vision clearing. He felt like he was floating somewhere soft. There was an edge of unreality, but not enough to worry him; just the unfocusing effect of being drugged. "Hi," he said.
Peter beamed at him. He looked exhausted. Neal understood the feeling; he was tired too. "How are you feeling?"
"Fuzzy," Neal admitted, and Peter chuckled. "What… no, wait. You found me?"
"Eventually, yes. Hold on." Peter patted Neal's arm, and lifted his phone from the table beside the bed. "I promised Sara I'd call the moment you were awake." He suited his actions to his words, dialling a number.
"Where's my phone?" Neal asked.
"Somewhere under a lot of rubble. Everyone was a bit more concerned with getting you out and to a hospital than staying to look for it." He was watching the screen. "Ah, here you go."
Neal was going to reach for it, but Peter cut past that by holding the phone to Neal's ear himself. "Hello?" Neal said.
"Neal!" Sara exclaimed, and gasped. It took a moment for Neal to realise that she was crying; not hiding it now. "Are you okay?"
"Sara," Neal said, and then there unexpectedly seemed to be an obstruction in his throat, so that he could barely speak. "Yes, yes, I'm okay."
Peter made an incredulous noise in his throat.
Sara laughed, still crying. "If you really think that then your brain must have been damaged too. I've been talking to Peter, remember. And Elizabeth."
The words It's not that bad died on Neal's lips as he tried to sit up. Agony ripped through him and for long moments he could only lie perfectly still, breathing heavily, while Peter squeezed his hand and Sara made soothing noises down the phone.
"Ow," he whispered, when he could.
"Don't do that!" Sara ordered. Not knowing exactly what he'd been doing didn't stop her from sounding unimpressed, and shaken.
"Sorry," Neal whispered. It took him more time to stop panting. He was tired; already tired again despite the sunlight streaming in through the window that spoke of how long he'd been asleep.
Peter was frowning at him, and glancing to the monitor on the other side of the bed. "I think you've probably had all the excitement you can stand for now," he said, sternly. "Enough talking. You should get some more rest."
"But —" Neal began. He'd barely even begun to talk.
"I heard that, and I agree," Sara chimed in. It was unfair that she and Peter were ganging up on him when they were on separate continents. "Neal, I'm taking some days off work, and I'm flying out to New York tomorrow. So I'll see you soon, alright?"
He blinked heavily, surprised. "You don't have to."
She sighed impatiently, and he could picture her expression only too clearly. "Screw have to, Caffrey," she said. "I want to."
"Oh," Neal said, touched. He realised, too, that Peter was still holding his hand, and smiled. "Thank you," he said, his words slurred but deeply sincere, speaking to both of them.
Sara had been with him through the dark, and Peter had found him. He couldn't have wished for more.
- - -
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