A/N: So, I've come to the conclusion that Gabi and I come up with whump ideas, and then form stories around that. Hmm. Sadly, we do not own White Collar, but I wish we didd. =P
It All Comes Crashing Down
Takada Saiko and Gabrielle Day
In Peter Burke's experience, men who found themselves backed into a corner (whether literally or metaphorically) behaved in one of two manners: they caved or they lashed out. Based on the intelligence they'd gathered about Piers Woodson during their investigation of his investment company, Peter would have staked his life on Woodson being a caver. A slight, thin man he posed not an ounce of threatening physical presence, and regularly appeared nervous and skittish.
Now, as Peter staggered back against the glass wall separating Woodson's office overlooking the first floor of his offices, he realized he was perilously close to losing his own mental wager and Woodson no longer looked nervous at all. Peter glanced to the door, which was now locked thanks to Woodson quickly moving across the room, before glancing over his shoulder to see Neal's horrified gaze staring up at him.
"Are you a chess player, Agent Burke?" Woodson asked, checking his gun.
Peter looked somewhat stunned, brought out of his mental conversation with himself. "What?" His voice was raspy, weak. The single word seemed to sap his remaining energy as his knees buckled under him, sending him sliding down the glass. He could hear Neal screaming below.
"I am, personally, a fan of the game. You know what I like best?" The businessman stopped, as if waiting for an answer. After a moment he seemed to grow impatient "I like the fact that it requires you to be several steps ahead of your opponent. I have to admit, Burke, that you and your thief showed up earlier than I expected, but I'm not opposed to taking on some of the dirty work by myself." He glanced down to where Neal was searching for any rout to Peter. "He doesn't look happy."
"You're not getting away with this," Peter managed. If he could keep him talking, maybe, just maybe, Neal would get help. Not that he'd admit it, but they had stumbled into the hornet's nest by accident. Catching Woodson red-handed was a momentarily happy surprise, but then he'd locked the building down and shot him. Things had certainly turned downward quickly.
"Strategy, Agent Burke, is always better than serendipity. This entire endeavor has been designed for my escape, you know. Didn't you think it odd that the building was clear when you entered? Now all your precious back-up is stuck outside, except for Mr. Caffrey. And as fiercely loyal as he seems to be, I don't think he's going to make it to you in time. Don't worry, I won't make him suffer. I may send his fingers to a couple of interested parties." Woodson said with a smile.
Peter jerked against the glass with a growl. "Leave him," he rasped. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his blood smeared on the glass.
Woodson grinned, flashing his white teeth dangerously as he leaned down and patted the agent's cheek. "Where's the fun in that?"
Peter felt his vision blurring and he struggled to grab onto the buisnessman, not really sure what good it would have done. He slipped through a door to a hidden escape route and was gone.
After a moment he heard Neal yelling again and glanced over to see the con artist climbing the architecture to grasp hold of the railing by the glass that overlooked the offices. The younger man swung himself up, and began digging in his pocket for his lock picks, motioning wildly to Peter before setting to work.
Peter struggled to his knees, twisting and using the glass for leverage. He shrugged off his trench coat, grimacing at the hole in the front and wondering absently if Neal knew anyone who could fix a trench coat. Peter took a step towards the door, Neal still shouting at him from the other side of the glass, only turning when an object on the desk caught his eye.
Neal watched Peter stagger, watched as he lifted one hand to stem the blood flow, seemingly transfixed by something in the room. Neal muttered under his breath as his desire for speed caused his fingers to slip. He got through the door as Peter swayed dangerously to one side.
The conman caught his FBI partner, easing him down to the ground. "Peter? Hey, Peter?" His voice was frantic, fearing the worst. He couldn't lose him. He'd lost too much all ready and he refused to lose Peter. He eased Peter to sit against him, pressing one hand firmly against the wound, trying to staunch the blood flow. "Peter? Answer me!"
The elder man grit his teeth. "We have to get out," he managed, shifting as if he was trying to move away.
"We will. I swear, just hold on a minute. We have to get the bleeding to stop."
"Don't have time." Peter nodded towards the desk, eyes glazed but his voice urgent.
Neal's blue gaze followed the motion and widened at the sight.
"How much time does it say?" Peter asked.
Neal tightened his grip on Peter's shirt, loosening just a little when he winced. "It doesn't matter. We have time." Neal said, wrapping his other arm around Peter in a hug.
Peter dug his fingers into Neal's arm. "Neal? How long?" Peter demanded, he blinked, trying to focus enough to see the time on the digital countdown. The finality in the young man's voice worried him. Told him whatever it was, it wasn't enough. "Neal, go. Please go." he said.
"I'm not leaving you," Neal bit out, his voice strained and sounding very close to tears. He took a deep breath, trying to steady himself. He was better than that. "We have three minutes until the bomb goes off and the whole building is locked down tight. The only way from floor to floor is climbing like I did, and there's no way-"
"Thought there wasn't a lock you couldn't pick," Peter rasped, his lips perked upward slightly.
"I can only pick so many in three minutes, Peter."
The FBI agent took a deep breath and began shifting again. "Come on."
"We may not get out, but give us some chance."
Neal understood and wrapped his arm around Peter's torso, helping him up as the elder man slung an arm over the younger man's shoulders. What did it matter if they stopped the bleeding here if the bomb blew them away? At least they could get as far as they could in the time they had left. Two and a half minutes and counting.
"Wait, Peter, where did Woodson go?" Neal asked, glancing around the room.
Peter took a second to process anything other than the points of warmth where Neal was holding him up. "What? Woodson." Peter looked around and pointed. "There was a panel. It moved."
Neal licked his lips and forced out a frustrated sigh. Lowering Peter to the first floor would be a tricky maneuver and take up a lot of time. If there was a passage and he could find it fast enough, it might get them far enough into the building to survive the inevitable.
They moved together, Neal doing his best to ignore the way that Peter clenched up with every step. "There," the agent said, pointing sluggishly to a part in the wall.
Neal's expert hand moved over every movable object he could reach while still holding onto his friend. Finally the panel slid and he spared just enough time to look back at the clock. One minute. Damn. "Stay with me, Peter," he begged quietly as he pulled the injured man down the long, sloping hallway. At the end he spotted what they might need. There was a turn and he dragged Peter behind the wall.
All at once there was a loud sound that nearly deafened both men, a loud flash, and heat. Everything around them shook and fell inward. Neal dove over Peter, ignoring his own survival instinct and shielding the wounded FBI agent.
Peter barely had time to wrap an arm around Neal, cradling his head in the hopes they wouldn't be completely crushed to death. A split second silent prayer, and all went black.
Sirens screamed as fire trucks and ambulances pulled up in front of the damaged office building. Jones pulled up behind a police car and jogged to Diana's side. She stood facing the wreck, hands on her hips. "How long ago?" Jones asked.
"Twenty minutes." She answered grimly.
"Are they answering their phones? Either of them?"
Diana shook her head. "No." she said softly.
Jones took a deep breath. "They'll be all right. If there's one thing Caffrey's good for it's escaping near-death situations. Peter too."
Diana nodded, pulling her phone out of her jacket pocket and hitting redial. It hit the voicemail immediately just like before on Neal's, leaving Peter's to ring into the early evening air.
The first thing he noticed was the ringing. It seemed to go on forever. It was probably the middle of the night, being that he couldn't remember much and the fact that he was lying down. The ringing was probably Jones or the Marshal's office calling to tell him Neal was out of his radius again. Something stupid, knowing Caffrey. Peter shifted, gasping against the pain that radiated down his left arm. Images flashed through his mind and it took a moment to realize that they were memories.
The bullet that had buried itself somewhere deep in his left shoulder.
Panic began to edge its way through him. Neal. The bomb.
"Neal?" His voice came out in a croaking manner and he shifted again, trying to keep his left side as stationary as possible as he blinked against the dust and grime that was left in the wake of a building blown to bits. "Neal?"
Peter's body began calculating the various injuries and pressures on him and he twisted to the right, realizing it was Neal pressed up against his side, and extremely still. An extremely still Neal and an extremely quiet Neal were always causes for concern in Peter's book. It usually meant he was up to no good, outside his radius, or had gotten himself into trouble. Now he was afraid it was for a different reason entirely. He slipped his hand through Neal's hair and down against his neck. "Please, Neal. Come on." he whispered.
A pulse beat against his fingertips, giving the agent a reason to let out a sigh of relief.
The conman groaned as he began to surface towards consciousness and his blue eyes fluttered open. For a long moment he looked dazed and confused, blinking again and again. "Peter?" he managed, voice holding pain that reached his eyes.
"Right here," the elder man promised, trying to take inventory of how bad off they were. He shifted, clenching his jaw against the pain in his shoulder, and was finally able to see more than just the thief's face. While the fire from the actual explosion had missed them, the debris had not. The passage way had caved in all around them, leaving them trapped on all sides. The building gave an ominous creek as it shifted dangerously and Peter's eyes immediately searched
overhead. The good news was it was unlikely that any more of the ceiling directly above them would come crashing down on top of them. The bad news was that it was because it all ready had. Neal had shielded him from the majority of the fallout, leaving his thin body pinned under the sharp debris that had crashed in from the floor above. It seemed that Peter had escaped all but a few pieces that left his right leg wedged into place and unable to move.
"This isn't good, is it?" Neal murmured.
"I'm very happy to see you're developing some detecting skills from your time with me at the agency." Peter said wryly.
Neal tried to move and couldn't stop the soft noise from the back of his throat. "Hey, shh, stay still. You're not...damn it Neal, you tried to catch a building for crying out loud." Peter said.
Neal quirked the side of his mouth in a half smile. "You can't say I do anything halfway." "No, I never could say that. Not once."
"You okay?" the younger man whispered after a long moment of silence. Peter huffed out what might have been a sigh. "The good news is that Jones and Diana should have backup outside by now. They'll find us."
"Peter, can I make a suggestion?"
"I'm sure you're going to."
"If you're going to evade a comment, try not to be so obvious next time." Neal craned his head to one side painfully, trying to catch sight of their surroundings. He was lying at an odd angle, halfway on his side and buried under the rubble. With each small move he felt it jab at him and wondered just how bad it was under everything. His eyes finally came to rest on the debris twisting Peter's leg and he couldn't help but grimace. That was going to hurt when the adrenaline wore off. "Not that either of us are in a great position right now, but do you think you can shift any of this off of me?" Neal asked hesitantly. He felt like he had the proverbial elephant sitting on his chest, not to mention the fact he was sure his hat was lost and demolished. Peter frowned at him and Neal smiled. Not all was lost if Peter was still frowning at him. "I don't know if that's a good idea. If something shifts more or...takes pressure off something that might need pressure..." "I don't need this kind of pressure, Peter."
"I was thinking more along the lines of internal bleeding, smart man."
"And I was thinking more along the lines of I can't breath like this," Neal retorted, grimacing as he did.
Peter's frown deepened and he made a mental note to keep injuries as much to himself as possible until their escape. Silence fell between them and the younger man watched as the FBI agent shifted and rolled, trying to get his good arm under him and lift himself into a more elevated position.
Neal's eyes snapped to the rubble suddenly. "Did you hear that?"
Peter shot him a glare. "What? The sound of the building coming in on us?"
"You're sure Woodson got out, right?"
"That would have been his plan, yes. It's just the building, Neal."
Panic flooded his veins, the feeling of being trapped and injured and easy prey too much for him to tolerate and Neal struggled against the rubble pinning him down, gasping for breath. Peter tried to catch his arm and missed, the younger man's had hitting him in the shoulder causing Peter's world to turn momentarily gray and spotty.
Neal could taste blood and decided he would rather die by being crushed to death than to be shot like an animal in a trap. His gasps for air grew weaker as he fought.
"Neal!" Peter hissed, fighting back against the darkness that threatened. Neal was not a fan of any sort of walls, he knew, but he'd never seen him quite like this. "Neal! It's the building shifting, damn it!" He reached out again, this time grabbing onto the other man's wrist. The conartist stopped his flailing, growing very still in Peter's grasp, sending chills up his spine. "Neal, don't do that," he urged, trying to move so that he could see. His efforts to sit up and see what might be done about freeing them had come to an end with Neal's panic attack that had left him back on his back, pain ridden. Now he held onto the slender hand in his grasp, refusing to let go. A pulse fluttered under his thumb, giving him some sense of relief and he gripped tighter. "Neal?"
The response came in the form of a shuddering cough and slight twitch of the fingers.
Peter moved enough to bump his forehead gently against Neal's. "Hey. You with me? I need you to stay with me. Everything is going to be okay, I promise." he whispered.
Neal's fingers tightened around his. "That's it. That's good. Stay with me, Neal. Think about the Riviera. Think about the first time you saw New York, the freedom you felt. Think about Monte Carlo."
"How...do you know about Monte Carlo?" Neal rasped.
Peter smiled. "Now I do."
"Damn," the conman chuckled, his lips turning upward. Peter's turned downward in concern as the lights that had been flickering - unsure if they wanted to put forth the effort that it required to stay on after the explosion - sputtered on and momentarily illuminated the younger man's face. It was surprisingly intact, he thought, and wondered if it were partially because he'd done what he could to protect him in return when the roof fell in, but the blood at the edge of his mouth told the story of Peter's fears. "What's that look for?" Neal rasped, bright eyes searching Peter's. The lights flickered ominously again and Neal shuddered at the sound the building gave.
Peter shushed him softly, trying to gage any other injuries on Neal with ever burst of light. There was nothing major he could see, not that he could see much, a couple of scrapes and a ruined suit, unless Neal knew a miracle worker of a tailor. (Of course, this was Neal, Peter reminded himself.) He was fairly certain the lack of visible outward injuries wasn't a good sign, as much as he wished it were, merely an indicator of internal damage. He had no timeframe, no idea how long Neal would last, how bad the damage was, or how quickly Diana could find them.
"Maybe the hidden passage wasn't a great idea." Peter said.
"It was our only chance," Neal managed, squeezing his eyes closed. The flickering lights were giving him a headache. He felt the panic inching at him again and tried to take a deep breath, only succeeding in sucking dirt and dust down his throat and it sending him into a coughing fit. Dark spots danced in front of his eyes, noticeable every time the lights flickered on. "Peter," he coughed out. "We have to get out... now."
"Backup's on its way. Just stay calm." The building gave a louder creek and Peter began to feel the same sense of urgency.
"Can you stay still for just a minute? I'm going to try to get my leg free and see about digging you out, okay?" Peter asked. He knew moving was a risk, for both of them, but doing nothing for much longer could seal both their fates. Neal nodded, clenching his fists.
"You're going to hurt yourself, though." Neal said.
"Short on options, buddy." Peter said, gritting his teeth. He moved both his hands under the edge of the piece pinning him down and took a deep breath.
Pain raced all down his left side and he pushed through it. The rubble shifted, adding pain to his broken leg and a gasp escaped his lips as it fell away. "Peter?" Neal rasped to the side, only to be greeted by the ragged breathing of his partner. The breathing evened out after several long moments and Peter shifted, trying to keep pressure off his left shoulder and right leg and not being overly successful. Neal heard more than saw in the darkness Peter's shaking hands begin to clear the smaller pieces of debris from the pile that pinned him to the ground. "Peter?"
"Just stay still," the other man said through tightly clenched teeth.
Neal focused on putting all his energy into keeping absolutely still, making his brain pay attention to all the micro expressions on Peter's face as he cleared away the debris. Peter was in pain, that much was obvious, and looked gray when the light flickered on him. He favored his injured arm, using it only when necessary, blood soaking the sleeve and smearing across his fingers.
"Just a little more. Just...a little more. Okay?" Peter said, sounding out of breath.
"Yeah," Neal answered, voice shaky. Peter had cleared most of the small debris off and by the way he was shaking the conman didn't think there was a good chance that he'd be able to move the rest.
"I said stop moving," Peter rasped and Neal's head fell back against the floor. He hadn't even noticed that he had craned his head to get a better look at the damage. Peter frowned deeply at the dark red that had become visible between the boards left piled on his partner.
"If you promise to quit moving, I'll let you help me shop for a new suit." Peter said when he saw Neal's gaze begin to drift.
The blue eyes turned to him and Neal grinned a little. "Yeah?" "Yeah."
"The whole works? Tie? Cufflinks?"
"The whole works. Maybe even a hat."
"Don't get carried away." Neal said, still grinning.
Peter smiled back at him, preparing to lift one of the heavier boards. "This is going to hurt." he warned. He counted to three and hefted the board away. Neal jammed his knuckle between his teeth to keep from screaming. Peter lowered the board, he froze, apology stolen from his lips when the barrel of a gun pressed into the back of his head.
"Don't move," Woodson's voice echoed through the destruction.
Peter held his hands out, showing he was unarmed. "You didn't make it out."
"Obviously. Stand up."
"You told me not to move."
"I could shoot you. That'd be easier."
Peter stood slowly, hands still raised and looked down at Neal. The younger man's eyes were trained on the gun, wide and fearful. The FBI agent moved as their captor demanded, back against what was left of the tunnel wall. "Can't get too far like that," Woodson said as he motioned to Peter's leg, which he was carefully keeping up and off the ground.
"Yeah, well that's what happens when crazy criminal types blow up their own buildings and try to murder two federal agents." Peter said. "Technically one federal agent and one federal criminal. I think your boss might even thank me if pretty young thing here bites the dust." Woodson mused.
Peter made a low sound in the back of his throat and Woodson tightened his grip on the gun. "If you'll excuse me, Mr. Caffrey, I have unfinished business with your man here." Woodson pushed the gun into Peter's back, forcing him down what was left of the tunnel.
"No! Peter!" Neal shouted.
Woodson forced Peter out of view.
Panic set in and Neal started struggling against the boards that were still crushing against him. They shifted ever so slightly and he let out a low grunt as the last one shifted and tumbled off. At once the pressure was relieved, but nothing felt better. He closed his eyes for just a moment before pushing himself into a sitting position. Peter needed him.
Peter crashed to the ground with the shove that came from behind. "Broken leg and blood loss does not keep someone on their feet," he snapped through gritted teeth.
"You don't need to be on your feet, Agent Burke. I'm going to execute you. You'd end up on the ground anyway."
"What is the point of this? You have no way out. The FBI are the only ones coming in. You're finished, Woodson. If we're alive, at least we might cut you a deal." Peter exclaimed.
Woodson shrugged. "I had my run. Now I have cold blood." He raised the gun.
Peter did the only thing he could. He lunged at Woodson, taking him to the ground. The gun went off, hitting the ceiling above them. They struggled. Peter was stronger than Woodson on a good day, but this was not a good day. Woodson elbowed him in the shoulder and Peter momentarily lost his grip. Woodson lowered the gun and Peter grabbed for it. It went off between them.
Peter's eyes went wide. The pain caught up half a breath after the realization did and he slipped to the side. Woodson's lips turned upward in a sadistic smile. He never saw the board and hardly felt it as it hit him across the back of the head.
Neal dropped the 2x4 to the floor and stumbled to the fallen agent's side. "Peter? Peter, look at me," he said, voice panicked and throat raw as he dropped to the floor next to him.
Peter blinked, eyes unfocused. "Neal? How-"
"Adrenaline," the con artist replied, hands clamping down on the new bullet wound and attempting to stem the blood floor. "Please, Peter," he whispered shakily as he applied pressure, "don't die."
Peter collapsed the rest of the way to the ground, head on Neal's leg. "This day is crap. I say we scrap it and start over." he said.
"Sounds like a plan to me. I liked that hat." Neal murmured, keeping one hand on Peter's wound and running his fingers through the agent's short strands with the other.
"That's what you'll say about me when I'm gone, isn't? Oh, yeah. Peter Burke. I liked that hat." Peter said, closing his eyes and smirking slightly.
"Keep your eyes open," Neal urged. The adrenaline was wearing off and he could feel the weight of injury bearing down on him. He forced the pain down as he focused on keeping pressure on Peter's wound.
"You moved those boards all by yourself?"
"Neal..." The next words were cut off as the sound of their names echoing through the destroyed corridor reached their ears.
Neal took as deep of a breath as he felt he could without falling into a coughing fit. "Here! We're in here!"
Peter had wanted to tell him, had wanted to say so many things that felt too heavy to move past his tongue, words that wouldn't sound right with blood on them. He could feel the warmth of his partner through the fabric his cheek was pressed to, and he knew that Neal would be okay. There were a lot of things he thought about when he thought about Neal, and he had always equated an easy warmth with the younger man. So many things to tell him. "Neal," he tried again. It was too much. The last thing Peter heard was Neal shouting his name and a faint burst of light as the cavalry came to their rescue.
The wall just past them came crashing in as men pushed through it. "We need paramedics!" one called out, moving towards the two men.
Neal clung desperately to the FBI agent even as the paramedics came to move them. "We've got to move him," one of the medics said sternly, hand on Neal's shaking shoulders. "Sir?"
Neal looked up, eyes wide. "Can you save him?"
"We're doing everything we can," the medic promised as they moved Peter down the way and towards the opening. "We need to exit. Sir?" He shook Neal's shoulder gently and looked back to where his partner was motioning to them. "He's in shock."
His partner cursed. "Look at him. That's not all this guy's blood." The medic looked down at Neal and whistled softly through his teeth. "You just sit tight. We need another stretcher in here." he called.
"I can walk." Neal mumbled.
"I'm sure you could, but I don't think you need to worry about that. We've got you."
Neal looked at himself, his hands. His blood, Peter's blood, it was all the same, now. "That guy tried to kill us. Me and my partner." he said, pointing to Woodson.
"Yeah. Your friends outside told us about that. They'll take care of him."
"Take me to the same hospital?" Neal asked. He could feel himself sinking into the tiredness.
"You got it, my man. You got it."
The first thing Peter noticed when his eyes slid open was that there was a hand firmly gripping his. He blinked, his vision clearing and his eyes finally focusing on his wife who was bent at what looked like an extremely uncomfortable angle to lay her head against the bed, all the while continuing to grip his hand.
She stirred as her husband squeezed her hand a little tighter. Elle sat up, her entire face lighting up. "Good morning."
"'mornin'," Peter rasped, voice raw and sore. "What-?"
"They got you out."
"Neal?" Elizabeth's lips twitched downward and the FBI agent felt a coldness sink somewhere deep inside of him that had nothing to do with his injuries or the pain medication. "Elle, where's Neal?"
"He's alive, honey." Elle said softly.
The cold feeling didn't ease. A thousand terrible scenarios ran through his mind. Neal was comatose, on life support, he'd lost a leg, he lost a hand, or Woodson had gotten to him before Jones and Diana got in with medical help. Or worse..."Did he run?" Peter asked softly after Elle helped him sip water out of the hospital cup.
"What?" Elizabeth asked, startled.
"Did he run?" Peter asked.
She shook her head, unable to stop herself from chuckling softly. "No, Neal did not run." She stepped to one side, giving her husband a clearer view of the young man who looked to be sleeping very soundly in the second bed.
Peter felt relief wash over him with every rise and fall of the young conman's chest. "Is he okay?" he asked at last.
"Like you, he's getting there. The doctor said..." Her voice trailed off and she blinked tears away. "The doctor said if they'd gotten to you much later..." "Elle, honey, it's okay," Peter said quickly, grabbing for her hand.
She squeezed his fingers and suddenly leaned down to kiss him. "I know. I know. Everything's going to be all right. The two of you have fans that should know you're awake. I'll send the doctor in, and I'll be back in a little bit, okay?"
"Okay. I love you, Elle." Peter said.
Elizabeth kissed him again, gently. "I love you, too, mister. Get some rest." Her fingers trailed along his until the slipped from his grasp and she was gone from the room.
Peter sighed contentedly and turned to make sure Neal was really still only five feet away.
Blue eyes were staring back at him with a smirk quirking his lips. "I would just like to take this moment to tell you that I'm hurt that you would even consider that I would run after this whole fiasco," the younger man said as he shifted in his bed, trying to look disappointed and failing.
"It is you," Peter reminded with a smile of his own. "I take it Woodson's in custody?"
Peter nodded and closed his eyes, thinking. "How did you keep him from shooting me?"
"I think I hit him over the head with a board, but I could have dreamt that. It's all kind of fuzzy." He stopped and took a deep breath, every bit of his demeanor showing how serious he was. "Let's not do that again, huh?"
Peter cracked an eye open, waiting for what sounded like the second half of a sentence. "Okay?"
"I...I've done a lot of crazy things in my time, Peter. You've been around for most of them. I'm probably going to do a lot more crazy things. One way or the other, I'd like you to be around for the rest of it." Neal said softly, never taking his eyes of the agent.
Peter felt his heart twist around in his chest in an oddly satisfactory manner and he smiled. "Oh, you can count on that, Neal. You can count on that."
A/N: We are review addicts. We deliver angst, fluff, and whumpage, and we ask for reviews in return. Please? That would be lovely, thank you =D