A/N: To everbody who reviewed the first chapter, you rock. I don't think I've ever gotten a response like that so quickly before. Made me all fuzzy inside. And stuff. Anywho, here's the last chapter, Neal's POV. It's been fun.
This really wasn't Neal's fault. Peter would blame him, no doubt, because that was what Peter did, but by golly Neal Caffrey was not at fault here. The men chasing him, those were the ones who deserved a stern talking-to.
Which is why Neal almost didn't answer his phone when Peter called.
"Hey, Buddy! I was just about to call you," Neal answered. It wasn't a total lie, because Neal probably almost certainly would have called his sort of but not really partner as soon as he was remotely safe. Right now, though, Neal wasn't. Right now, Neal was hiding from three gunmen.
"Neal!" Neal had no idea if Peter sounded more angry or surprised. "What are you doing out of range?"
Out of range? "Am I?" Neal pulled up his pant leg. How about that, the red light was on. Whoops. "Sorry, Peter. I didn't notice."
"Yeah, well, the red light was supposed to be a clue."
Neal forgot the witty remark he was going to deliver when he heard a crash behind him. He turned to find one of the gunmen at the end of the alley in which Neal was hiding. "Hey, I got him!" he shouted, beckoning his buddies over. Neal almost laughed at the overturned trashcan. Stealth, his pursuers lacked.
Almost forgetting his phone conversation, Neal spoke to Peter. "I haven't really had time to check." Amazing. Here he was, about to get shot, and all the FBI cared about was that he was "out of range."
"What are you doing?"
"Um..." Not slinking out of an alley to get out of sight before all three gunmen got back. Nope, because that was dangerous.
"You're doing something illegal, aren't you?"
Neal was almost insulted, but after a quick moment of thought, he couldn't really blame Peter for making that assumption. "Would you want to know if I was?" Neal said, hoping that would change the subject. He was out of the alley and proceeded to jog across the street.
"Neal, you have about five minutes until the FBI brings up your tracker. Which means you have two to tell me where you are."
"The FBI is coming?" Good thing, because a quick glance over his shoulder told Neal that the gunmen had spotted him. Now they were coming at a full run, guns raised. Neal decided that the stealth wasn't going to get him anywhere. He sped up, ducking into another alley. "Finally!" he cheered.
"... Are you running?"
Neal took the phone away from his ear and gave it an incredulous look. Yes, Peter, I'm super excited that the FBI is dropping in on my escape. I was so excited in fact that I wanted to talk to you about it on the phone. "No, Peter," Neal said, frustrated. "I didn't mean to get out of range, honest."
"No, I mean right now, are you physically running?"
That change of subject sure hadn't lasted long.
"Who are you running from, Neal?"
"You'll just yell at me." Neal cleared the alley and ran into the street, not bothering to look for cars.
"Better than putting you in jail."
True, Neal decided. Yelling was better than prison. "Okay," Neal started, not sure how to break the news to Peter. While he was thinking about that, a car almost plowed right into him. It swerved, and Neal leapt onto the sidewalk. Neal made sure that Peter couldn't ask what that commotion was. "Do you want to good news first, or the bad news?"
Neal sped around a corner, having absolutely no idea where he was heading. All he wanted was to be far away from the guns. "The good news is that I know who forged the painting," Neal said, trying to keep his voice steady as he sprinted.
"And the bad news?" Peter's voice was wary.
"He sent a mob of art thieves after me." Neal tried leaving the guns out of it, but one of the gunmen chose that moment to fire a shot. It missed Neal, but the lamppost next to him wasn't so lucky. Neal ran faster.
"Get out of there, Neal!"
Well no kidding. "Congratulations, Peter, you win the 'Most Useless Advice of the Year' award," Neal snapped. "What do you think I'm trying to do?"
"Just try not to get shot, all right?"
Neal rolled his eyes. "Well at least you're consistent."
Neal almost smiled when he heard Elizabeth's worried voice in the background. At least someone cared. In the meantime, the gunmen must have gotten closer, because a bullet whizzed right through his sleeve. Neal cursed and ducked into another alley.
"What happened?" Peter was back.
Peter was saying something else, but Neal had more pressing matters to think about. Running wasn't working. Hiding wasn't working. He needed to loose them. Neal ran across another street, more aware of cars this time, pausing once to look over his shoulder.
That's when he realized Peter was still talking. "... Understood?"
"Sure thing," Neal said, having no idea what he had just agreed to. The gunmen were hot on his heels.
"I mean it, Neal. Don't do anything stupid until I get there."
Well, Neal just couldn't agree to that. He'd done all the smart things. A stupid move was the only thing that would get him out of this alive. "Just hurry," Neal responded, and then flipped his phone shut.
Neal didn't know whether or not to be grateful that this particular part of town wasn't particularly busy. On one hand, no one had called the cops on the men shooting the guns. On the other hand, Neal didn't have to worry about someone else getting caught in the crossfire. Instead of dwelling on that, Neal decided to focus on the problem at hand and stop feeling sorry for himself.
Alleyways had done him good so far, so he zipped into the next one he saw. As luck would have it, this one was a dead end.
Neal searched frantically for an escape. There was no time to double back. A second later he spotted a fire escape ladder, just out of reach. A dumpster sat behind it.
"This is such a bad idea," Neal mumbled to himself. He could practically hear Peter now, calling him a moron.
Nevertheless, it was all Neal had, so he climbed on top of the dumpster and made a jump for it. And missed.
The pavement met Neal faster than expected, knocking the wind out of him. That was when he heard shouts nearby. The gunmen were close.
Neal leapt back up and tried again. This time, he snagged the bottom ladder rung with his fingertips.
The gunmen appeared at the opening of the alleyway.
"Oh, we've got him now," one of them said.
Neal had to agree. He was just hanging there, after all, with no protection. To top it all of, his phone was vibrating in his pocket. Sorry, Peter, my hands are a little tied right now... He started to climb.
A bullet hit one of the rungs, almost causing Neal to let go. He hung on though, and continued to climb.
"You missed? How could you miss?"
"Give me a break, he's a squirmy thing."
Neal cleared the platform and put one foot on the steps.
Another shot fired.
Neal didn't feel it at first. It seemed like an eternity between the shot and the split second later, when the impact sent Neal into the wall. His arm. Great. He still had another ladder to go.
Blindly, Neal bolted up the stairs and latched onto the ladder leading to the roof. He didn't know what he would do once he was there, but nothing was stopping him from getting out of sight. Using one hand, Neal scrambled up, barely noticing multiple gunshots firing off as he did. Somehow he made it to the roof, and ran.
At the other end of the roof, another shorter building was only a few feet away. Knowing that this time the stupidity of this move would catch up to him if he didn't do it now, Neal jumped.
For a few seconds it seemed like Neal was going to land on his feet. One second he had the landing stuck, a perfect ten, and the next he was tumbling forward into a full roll. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.
Get up, Neal. You're not in the clear yet. But he was getting weaker. He glanced below him, where he had landed, and noted the red stains that marked his trail. Yes, it was time to move.
His phone resumed vibrating.
This time Neal was more cautious about peeking over the edge of the roof, swearing to himself that he would not try that stunt again. Thankfully, it looked like he didn't have to. There was an open window right below him. Trying to be careful with his injured arm, Neal slid down the wall and into the building.
Wherever he was, it was abandoned. The room he was in was bare and concrete all around. Not really caring, Neal leaned against the wall and slid to the floor.
Neal jumped when his phone went off again. Oh, Peter was going to be so angry. Neal fumbled around in his pockets. His phone was in his right pant pocket, so he awkwardly had to cross his left over to fish it out.
Finally, he managed to snag the phone and flip it open. "Yeah," he answered, panting from the exhaustion that was catching up with him.
"Why didn't you answer your phone?"
Neal winced and held the phone away from his ear. Yes, Peter was angry. Too bad Neal just wasn't in the mood. "I was busy," he said. For the first time Neal could feel the wetness of his shirt sleeve, which made him want to gag. He forced himself to look at his right arm. He was bleeding through his jacket.
Maybe taking the jacket off was a good idea, Neal mused. He needed a better look, and probably do something about all the blood. Neal slipped his left arm out of its sleeve, and slowly pulled on the right one.
"Backup is on the way, and so am I," Peter said. "How are you doing?"
When the sleeve pulled against his wound, Neal bit his lip and held the phone away again until he was absolutely positive that he could continue without screaming. "I think I lost them," he answered. Finally he got the jacket off and pressed it to the hole in his arm.
"Are you all right?"
Neal looked at his arm again. The jacket wasn't helping all that much, he didn't think. Blood was trickling down his fingers, and soaking into his collar. "No."
"I told you not to get shot!"
"Well I'm sorry!" It wasn't like Neal had done it on purpose. "I didn't sign up for this."
"You volunteered to go undercover, Neal."
Neal would have thrown the phone against the wall if he didn't think the movement would jostle his arm. "I didn't know there would be guns," he pointed out.
For a moment, Peter didn't respond. "How bad is it?"
Now that was a question worth asking. "Um..." It was getting hard to focus. "I really don't know. I got hit in the arm, and it hurts, and it's bleeding all over my favorite jacket." Not that the bullet hole wouldn't have ruined it all ready. He gave up on the jacket and let it fall to the ground. What a shame.
"Just sit tight and make sure you don't lose too much blood."
Neal looked at the growing puddle he was sitting in. "How much is too much?"
That must have been the wrong answer, because Peter practically growled at him. "I don't know, Peter, it's everywhere," Neal tried to explain, appalled at how whiny his voice sounded. "How soon will backup be here?"
"Not soon enough. You need to stop the bleeding."
Been there, tried that, bought the tee-shirt. "That requires moving."
"You've still got both legs and an arm."
A wave of dizziness hit Neal, and he almost dropped the phone. "I'm tired, Peter." Wow, he sounded pathetic.
"Use your tie to make a tourniquet," was all Peter said.
That just did not sound like a good idea. He liked his tie. It was the only thing he was wearing not soaked in blood. Not to mention his arm was on fire.
Neal closed his eyes and tried to picture himself safe, at June's house, sitting on the roof. Funny how the next thing that popped into his mind was Peter saying, "Cowboy up."
Sighing, Neal dropped his phone into his useless right hand. He used his left to slip off his tie.
The real problem was going to be making the knot. Neal put one end of the tie between his teeth and looped the other end around his arm right above the bullet wound. Making the knot was easier than he had expected, but his shirt fabric kept getting caught. He couldn't get it tight enough.
Frustrated now, Neal grabbed his already tattered shirt and yanked. Bad idea. Bad, bad idea. The hole in his arm didn't really like that much. Neal grunted and told the hole in his arm to cowboy up, ripping until the sleeve was ripped clean off. Then, he finished tying the knot.
"Neal?" he barely heard from the phone. Panting again, Neal snagged it up.
"Sorry, Peter. Had to put you down for a second." That was when Neal heard wailing in the distance.
"I'm almost there, Neal. Backup should be there any second."
"I think I hear sirens."
Neal let himself close his eyes. "I've never been so happy to hear sirens."
"I would imagine." It sounded like Peter was smiling. But, then again, Neal's mind wasn't really making sense at the moment. "You'll be okay, now."
Neal had something very important to say, but he lost it as soon as the thought came to him. So instead, he said, "Don't hang up 'til you get here, okay?"
"No problem. And Neal?"
Neal cracked one eye open. "Yup?"