Pre-Series. Peter catches Neal when Neal saves Peter's life during a chase.

Don't Let Go

Neal ran lightly across the rooftop, keeping to the shadows of vents and chimneys. He stopped for a minute to catch his breath and ready himself for the jump to the next building. All the agents had followed the decoys he'd hired to dress in black and walk calmly through the area. All of them except Peter. How did that man figure so much out? And now Peter was getting closer.

Neal had no real fear of being caught, though. After all, he was more than a decade younger than Burke and had the lithe, athletic body to handle a chase effortlessly. He peered out of the shadows and listened for sounds of pursuit. Nothing but the wind ruffling his hair.

Smiling, he set off at a run towards the edge of the rooftop. With a burst of speed, he leaped over the narrow alley and landed gracefully on the roof of the next building. Looking back he saw Peter running towards him. Neal turned and sprinted for the safety of the fire escape. After all, he was certain that Peter would never attempt that jump, but a bullet would have no trouble catching up with him.

Swinging his legs over the edge, he started to descend the fire escape ladder. Then he heard it. A crash and a cry of pain. No, Peter couldn't have been so cocky as to try that jump! Neal was up and over the ladder in a heartbeat, running back the way he came. It might be a trap, but he didn't care. He had to know that Peter was safe.

He reached the edge of the building and leaned over. There was Peter, hanging by one hand on a piece of gutter that had been partially torn off in his effort to save himself. "Hang on Peter, I'm coming."

Peter was too far down for him to just reach over and grab him. Neal saw a cable fastened along the edge. He forced it around his legs to use as an anchor. Praying it would hold, Neal leaned out into open space and let himself fall towards Peter. The cable bit harshly into his calves, but it held. His chest impacted against the brick wall and the wind was knocked out of him. Neal reached down and grabbed Peter's arm with both hands. The gutter gave way with a screech and fell to the street. Peter clamped his hand onto Neal's forearm. Neal swallowed a scream of pain as the sudden burden of Peter's weight dislocated his shoulder. He gasped "Grab hold of me with your other hand, Peter, and try to climb up me."

"Can't. My wrist is broken. At least two fingers are broken. You're going to have to pull me up."

"Love to, but I can't even pull myself up now."

"Okay, is there a Plan B?"

"Peter, my cell phone is in my left jeans pocket. Try to reach it, and please, please don't drop it."

"No, no, I can't dial a phone."

"If you get it out of my pocket, I can dial it with my tongue."

"Really? How do you do that?"

Neal could tell that Peter was losing focus and likely going into shock. He prodded him, "You know, I'd love to hang here and chat about my many talents, but you're not getting any lighter. And the cable I'm hooked to is shifting. So, please, shut up and do as I ask before we both take a dive."

Peter cautiously reached up his left hand and walked the remaining unbroken fingers up Neal's back towards the pocket. Groaning in anguish, he forced his fingers into Neal's pocket and hooked the phone with his thumb and pinkie. Slowly and carefully, he pulled the phone out and opened it with his ring finger. He held it up to Neal's mouth. Good to his word, Neal speed dialed with his tongue. He heard Kate pick up on the first ring. "Neal, where are you? You're supposed to be back here by now."

"Kate, just listen. Peter and I are close to falling off a building. I've got hold of him for now." Neal paused as Kate said something. "Kate, don't say that. You know I can't. I need you to do as I say—no arguments. Hang up and call an FBI agent named Jones. His number is 212-555-2466. Tell him Peter is in danger and needs help now. Have him call my cell phone immediately. Do it now!" With that, Neal pushed the "end" button. He could see Peter's injured hand trembling trying to hold the phone.

Even in his current condition, Peter had noted with amusement that Neal knew Jones' name and cell number by heart. The prey stalking the hunter. But of more interest was Kate's comment. He looked up at Neal's face. "Kate told you to drop me, didn't she?" Neal's girlfriend was nothing if not practical.

Neal shook his head. "She didn't mean it. She is just scared for me."

Long seconds later, the phone rang. Peter struggled to put it to Neal's mouth and succeeded. Neal answered it. "Jones? Peter and I are dangling off the north side of the Emerson Building. I have a hold of him, but there's not much time before both of us go over. Bring a rope or cut the fire hose in the stairwell and use that."

Through the phone, Neal could hear the sound of running footsteps and shouted orders. Then Jones asked "Let me talk to Peter."

Peter moved the phone gingerly to his mouth. "Jones, he's telling you the truth. Hurry."

He heard Jones reply that he was on his way, and the call ended.

"Peter, try to put the phone in your pocket in case we need it again."

Wincing, Peter managed to slip it into his coat pocket.

"Neal, you told Jones we both might go over. If it comes to that, I want you to drop me and save yourself."

"Peter, I'm not letting go. How could I pass up a chance to have you owe me one?"

"I'm grateful, but you know this doesn't change things. I still have to arrest you."

"Are you sure you want me to put my hands up just now?"

Peter chuckled. "This isn't the way I wanted to catch you, you know."

"You're confused. I'm the one who caught you."


"It's all right, Peter. I understand."

Agonizingly long minutes passed until they heard the shouts of FBI agents scouring the rooftop for them. Then Jones appeared over the edge his arms laden with a fire hose he'd appropriated.

His voice shaking now, Neal told him, "Make a slip knot in the hose and loop it over Peter's free arm. Be careful, his wrist is broken."

Jones did as instructed and tightened it on Peter's arm. Then he began gently pulling Peter up while another agent grabbed Neal's belt and dragged him back up in tandem. Finally both men were over the edge and safe.

They had to pry Neal's fingers off Peter's arm. He had a death grip on him and couldn't control his arms anymore. Neal twisted in agony as they wrenched his dislocated shoulder. His legs were numb from the cable digging into them. He collapsed and passed out. Jones had already called paramedics, and they arrived in a few minutes.

"Can you walk, Peter?"

"Yeah, I think so, with some help. But Caffrey's in bad shape."

Neal was loaded on a stretcher and carried down to the waiting ambulance. Peter joined him, and they rode to the hospital together.

The adrenaline was long gone and Peter felt limp with exhaustion. Only the pain was keeping him awake. He looked at Neal lying so still and pale. Peter was alive and was going home to his wife tonight due to Neal's unselfish bravery. And the thanks he was going to get was to be locked in a cell for years. What a waste.

Peter marveled at what a study in contradictions this man was. Charming his way into people's lives, he left a wake of destruction and waltzed away without a regret. And yet, without a heartbeat's hesitation, he'd risked his life to save the man who was trying to lock him away. Crimes and self-sacrifice. Grifter and hero. Moriarty and Peter Pan. That was Neal Caffrey.

When they reached the hospital and Peter was led to an exam room, he told Jones, "Stay with Caffrey. I don't want him left unguarded for a minute."

Peter went through x-rays of his hand, wrist and shoulders. They put a cast on his wrist and splinted his fingers. His shoulder was badly sprained, but no permanent damage appeared to have been done. The doctors put his right arm in a sling, wrote a prescription for pain meds and released him with orders to rest.

He caught up with Jones stationed outside Neal's treatment room. "What's his status, Jones?"

"He is still in there being worked on. But I know for certain that he is in there." Jones had a slight smirk on his face. The hospital staff had tried unsuccessfully to banish Jones to the waiting room. He had refused to budge, claiming that Caffrey was his prisoner, and he was going to guard him. Period.

A young dark-haired intern came out to talk with Peter and Jones and report on Neal's condition. Neal's dislocated shoulder had been reset, and the lacerations on his calves had been cleaned and sutured. He had a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder from supporting Peter's weight. He also had severe bone bruising and three hairline rib fractures from smashing his chest into the wall as he let himself fall far enough to reach Peter.

"I read the history on how the injuries occurred. It is amazing that he was able to remain conscious for such a long time. The pain must have been excruciating. Your prisoner, he is one determined man."

"That he is, Doctor. When will you be releasing him?"

"We want to keep him overnight and keep the arm stabilized. We're pumping IV pain meds and anti-inflammatories into him now. He won't budge tonight."

"Can I see him?"

"You can accompany him to his room. They're wheeling him out now."

"Jones, arrange for a guard on his room for tonight, and then go home. I'll be back in the morning to pick him up."

Peter followed to Neal's room. Once the nurses had set up his IV and propped his shoulder up on pillows to keep it where they wanted it, Peter was left alone with Neal.

Reluctantly, he handcuffed the sleeping man's uninjured wrist to the bed rail. "Sorry, Neal. I know this isn't much of a 'thank you' for saving my life. It's just the way it has to be." Peter straightened and with a last look of regret, turned and left the room.

The next morning, Peter arrived back at the hospital after a few hours of welcome oblivion. He took care of the paperwork for Neal's release into FBI custody and made his way up to Neal's room.

Dismissing the very sleepy guard to return to other duties, Peter entered Neal's room. A tiny part of Peter had hoped that Neal might have escaped during the night. But no, the handcuffs still held a slender wrist. The bed still contained a sleeping prisoner, arm in a sling, face turned towards the wall, his dark hair spread out on the pillow.

Peter sighed and sat down for a moment rubbing his forehead. This was the end, then. His dedicated pursuit of this most infuriating and fascinating opponent was over. And he regretted it more than anything he could remember.

He had always imagined how satisfying it would be to win the battle of wits with Caffrey. Instead he had caught him only because Neal was a decent man who refused to let Peter die. Not much of a victory. Not at all.

Steeling himself for the inevitable, he stood, reached out and very gently squeezed Caffrey's shoulder. "Neal, wake up, it's time." The figure in the bed stretched and rolled over. Peter found himself looking into the face of the brown-haired intern who had updated him on Neal's condition.

The doctor tried to rise and found one arm handcuffed and the other in a sling. "What the hell?" He recognized Peter then, "You're the FBI agent. How did I get here? What happened?"

Smiling despite himself, Peter unlocked the cuffs. "Neal Caffrey happened, Doctor. Any idea where my prisoner and your patient could have gotten to? Or when?"

The young doctor looked at his watch. "I checked on him a few hours ago. He was awake and responsive—even chatty. Pretty amazing given the amount of pain meds he had in him. I told him I was going to grab some sleep in the doctors' lounge between shifts but would check back with him later. That was the last time I saw him."

"Thank you, Doctor. And I apologize about the handcuffs."

Barely holding his laughter until he was out of the building and heading towards his car, Peter felt a weight had been lifted. He reached in his coat pocket for the car keys, and his fingers found Neal's phone, forgotten until now. If Neal had any sense, he would have tossed Kate's phone by now to prevent it's being traced. But Peter thought it was worth a try. He hit redial and waited to see if anyone would answer. Four rings. Peter was about to hang up when Neal answered.

"Hello, Peter. How are you feeling?"

"I feel beat up, but I'll survive. Thanks to you. I don't suppose you'd like to tell me how you managed, with only one good arm, to move a sleeping intern past a guard."

"No, I think I'll let that add to my air of mystery."

Peter snorted. "You know this is not a game, Caffrey. We both could have died last night. Or I could have shot you."

"Well, how about we strike a bargain? I agree not to drop you off any buildings, and you agree not to shoot me. What do you say?"

"I say that this needs to end, Neal."

"It will end. We both know that, Peter."

"You could give yourself up."

"You could let me go."

A brief silence.

"I guess we both know how likely either of those is to happen."

"We are who we are, Peter. We don't really have a choice."

"I suppose you're right."

"Take care, Peter."

"You too, Neal. And thanks again."

Neal smiled at Kate as he handed her the phone to be disposed of, but his thoughts remained with Peter. He wished he didn't like the man so much. There wasn't any profit in it. But it was enjoyable. And Neal was an expert at "Take What You Can Get," so he was content. For now. The future, well, that would have to take care of itself.

Once the call disconnected, Peter pocketed the phone. Shaking his head, Peter wished he could save Neal from himself. He didn't see how at this point, but he wasn't going to let go. He'd figure out something. He was a man who planned for the future. And he wanted Neal to have one.