Neal ran as fast as he could. He was normally faster than Peter Burke, but not in this territory... They were much farther out in the country than normal, but not too far from New York as it was dangerous for a convicted felon to be too far from the city with only his handler. Said handler was dragging his poor consultant through the fall country side like there was no tomorrow.
Neal loved nature, but not under these circumstances. He loved the city. It was his entire life. Running by a river with slippery rocks did not appeal to him in the least and he'd tried to talk Peter out of the asinine idea, but the agent would have none of it! They had almost caught the 'slippery bastard'. Neal had argued that personally, he thought the stones were much more...slick than the man they were currently chasing.
As Neal watched the white water next to them anxiety shivered through him, grabbing his heart in icy claws. This was the 'short cut' as Peter had called it and so far so good. It looked like they would catch up with the dirty under cover agent soon, but that didn't make Neal any less uneasy. If either of them fell in...there was almost no chance of...He shoved the thought to the back of his mind. Thinking that way would only make this harder.
He was only ten steps behind Peter, but he was used to the FBI looking at his back, not the other way around. It was unsettling.
Peter's bulletproof vest was hidden under his FBI jacket, gun drawn. The rocks were getting slipperier by the passing second. Neal tripped forward suddenly and almost cried out as he regained his balance. Almost.
"Peterrrr!" Neal half whined, half shouted. Peter didn't answer, but Neal was positive he'd been heard so he simply chose to continue.
"Maybe we should circle around? Catching him would be that much easier if we don't kill ourselves in the process."
The FBI agent seemed to be in his element at that moment. He called back to Neal and Neal could tell he wasn't too pleased to be interrupted for the second time.
"I told you before Neal, this is the fastest way to cut off Stanley, if you wanna wait behind and watch, go ahead!" Peter returned in obvious annoyance.
Neal considered the facts. Rushing water. Slippery rocks. Cold. Drowning. All of which equaled BAD in his book. Nevertheless he sighed. Peter was actually the one throwing himself to the wind this time? Maybe he'd hit his head falling out of bed this morning. Despite Neal's' constant warning the other man only quickened his pace.
Wind whipped Neal's face mercilessly and his lack of a suitable jacket only made him colder. Suddenly Stanley moved into view between the trees up ahead to their right. The balding, stocky man was headed through the shrubbery straight for them. Apparently the man was unaware of their presence. Neal watched as Peter moved into a full out sprint and Neal only just managed to keep 15 feet behind the FBI agent. That's when Peter got cocky. He thought they had him and decided to give away their position.
Neal thought that maybe, with the weather being what it was, that wouldn't be too hard for the criminal, but as usual the bad guy just had to run. Stanley proceeded to freeze... for about 2 milliseconds before turning on his heel and jumping in the opposite direction.
Really Peter? Why did you have to shout 'freeze'? Seriously, as a con artists I should know how much easier it is to just sneak up behind someone and take them by surprise. You don't actually have to play fair.
That was when Peter cried out.
Neal's head shot up, wide eyed with fear to see Peter tumbling into the rapids.
"Crap!" Neal yelled. "Crap. Crap. crap. crap. crap-", He knew this would happen! He'd told him! He'd told him countless times! Dammit! Peter emerged for a split second...He was already at least 10 feet down the river from the current. "crap. crap. crap. CRAP!" Peter was in there and he needed help...
Without a second thought or any form of hesitation Neal ran straight for the edge of the rocks and launched himself into the churning water. It was freezing.
The first thing he noticed was the absolute, numbing cold that enveloped him like a blanket. The second thing he noticed was that it was deep. At least 14 feet. He didn't dwell on it for long though as he was thrown in circles and head over heels by the sheer force of the waves. He was at their mercy, nothing but bubbles surrounded him the soundless environment and he desperately held his breath. The water's numbing affect reached to his very bones. It was better than the cold.
He unexpectedly burst through the surface and gasped for air, wind brutally hitting him the face and chilling him to the core, only to have more water forced through down his throat. The con artist eyes cast a longing glance at the bank not too far away.
He could have gone...He really could have, but no...That wouldn't help Peter. He had to get get him back. Coughing and spluttering, Neal was forced under once more and he struggled to reach the air above. Finally the water parted just enough for him the float to the top of the waves and he took a huge mouthful of air in gratefully.
For a brief moment he saw Peter no more than 3 feet to his left. Peter was struggling to stay above water, but it looked like something was dragging the agent down. His time gap was short and Neal knew it. In a blinding rush of adrenaline Neal lunged at Peter as his handler went under, diving after him. The water was surprisingly clear as he could mostly make out Peter's face. It was covered in shock at Neal's abrupt appearance. Obviously wondering how smart Neal could really be if he'd jumped in after him.
Neal was clinging to Peter's suit like it was his lifeline. In this case it sort of was. If there was any hope to get Peter out of there they'd have to stay together, but why was the soaked FBI agent not moving with the waves?
Peter shook his head frantically, attempting to catch Neal's attention and he began thrashing his legs back and forth. Neal glanced down, still grabbing Peter's heavy torso for leverage. His heavy bulletproof vest was pulling him down and he couldn't swim up. Neal was running out of air, but Peter had been down there longer than he had. Neal looked Peter in the eyes and held his hand, the one clutching Peter's wrist, up to eye level.
DON'T let go of my hand. His eyes commanded.
Neal waited until Peter nodded to show he understood.
The con artist was losing air. And fast. As quickly as he could Neal yanked one side of Peter's FBI windbreaker from his back and started to remove the vest. His fingers were numb and fumbled with the fabric frantically. At one point he tore the strip away from the vest entirely. Not surprisingly Neal managed to remove the straps in less than a minute, but he could tell Peter was running out of breath as bubbles started to leave his mentor's mouth.
Quickly Neal leaned forward, pressing his mouth to Peter's and breathed the last of his air supply into Peter's lungs. Peter perked up and blinked, causing Neal to smile a little as he watched the FBI agent begin to shrug off the vest. In order to do so he did something that Neal had specifically commanded the agent not to do.
He let go of Neal's hand. Neal lost sight of Peter completely in the span of 3 seconds, dirt from the floor of the river was kicked up as he was thrown backwards violently. His head crashed brutally into something. HARD. Hard enough for the force of the impact to crumble whatever his body had come into contact with. Hard enough for him to hear the sharp sound through the surrounding daze and water pressure as he slumped toward the bottom. The heavy remains of the object crushed his lower torso and pushed him deeper into the sand. Black dots dominated his vision and threated to completely smother him.
Neal realized he wasn't really staring at anything. The water...was turning an interesting shade of red... Why wasn't he trying to reach the surface? His chest...it was screaming in pain from lack of air. His eyes drooped, but refused to slip shut for some reason, like he'd lost all control over his motionless body. He couldn't breathe...He couldn't breathe... The last of his precious air escaped his lungs and left his lips in silent acceptance.