He stood stock-still, his arms hanging by his sides with his muscles tense. His heart hammered in his chest, threatening to rip through his skin and abandon his body. From the neck down, imaginary shackles of fear that even the best con artist couldn't pick, paralyzed him from the inside out. His body had been trounced by fear, but his mind was putting up one hell of a fight. He reveled in the small victory of being able to wear a mask of bravery, despite his current predicament.
The cold barrel of a gun was pressed deeper into his temple, threatening to send a bullet through his most valued asset. A strong gust of wind blew through his already disheveled hair and made his small frame sway back and forth ever so slightly, although the weapon never wavered from his temple. He swallowed thickly, not as sign of nervousness but, against the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. He wanted desperately to wipe away the crimson river pouring from his nose, but he knew better than to make any form of movement. Alternatively, he chose to focus on the sight in front of him, one he was thankful for finally filling his vision.
The calvary was surrounding them, shouting orders and taking aim. The blue and red lights flashed over his features and he began to wonder what the bruises on his face looked like in the glow of police lights. However, the cocking of the gun that threatened to steal his life away brought him out of his trivial thoughts. He watched as agents moved only centimeters closer, while their faces turned shades of red and their veins bulged out.
He was anticipating the sound of a report, either from the gun at his temple or the guns aimed at the man who held him hostage, so when it came minutes later his body didn't jerk. He remained completely still, as if nothing had happened, even when the gun aimed at his head fell to the ground with the man holding it following closely behind.
It wasn't until the reason he was able to keep up his brave facade stood in front of him, placing a hand on his shoulder, that his body was released from the immobilizing fear. He let his shoulders sag and rewarded his lungs with deep breaths, while his mind worked to process what happened.
In seconds, he relived the precise moment when he had made a grave mistake during the operational sting, the beating his body had no choice but to endure and the barrel of a gun that imperiled his life. It was a classic scenario that he had come to live through several times, but one that he could never get use to. For years, he had to be the hero in the end, to be the one to save himself, but lately he had come to find a new hero, a lionheart. Though he would never become fully dependent on his newfound rescuer, he liked the idea of being able to rely on something, someone rather, other than himself.
A familiar voice pulled him from the abyss his mind was wandering into. He blinked sluggishly, his eyelids remaining closed longer than he wanted. He struggled to open them, to see the person in front of him.
It wasn't a question, but a relived statement, assuring himself that his rescuer had pulled through. The agent nodded, confirming Neal's prayer had been answered. For a second, Neal thought that Peter was getting taller until strong hands were under his own arms, lowering to the ground with him.
This time Peter's wasn't asking a question out of concern. Instead, he was demanding, ordering Neal to comply, to do the simple tasks of breathing, staying awake and for some reason hold a handkerchief. He took the the offered material and looked at the man squatted down eye level with him. He placed what he hoped to be a neutral mask on his face, but when the agent rolled his eyes and gave a small laugh, he knew his confusion had shown through.
He felt his handler's hand wrap around his own and flinched at the touch, but let the agent lift his hand up to his nose.
"You're going to need a blood transfusion if you don't stop the hell of a nose bleed you have going on." Peter joked, as he moved his hand to Neal's eye which was swelling rapidly. He tried to open it, but Neal batted his hand away. The agent rocked back on his heels and held his arms up, surrendering.
Neal watched Peter wave someone over, then turn back to him. Peter waited a few seconds, using the time to take in Neal's appearance, then gave an unfelt smirk.
"I see why you hate guns so much. They are always pointed at you."
The corners of Neal's mouth tugged slightly. "Yeahhh," The conman drug out. "But I'm finding my hatred for them is lessening."
"Oh yeah? Why's that?" Peter asked, as he placed a hand on Neal's back to keep the younger man sitting up.
"Because whenever there are guns involved, you always come." Neal replied, his voice becoming more slurred. He started to tilt slightly, but Peter caught him by shoulders. Neal squinted up at Peter, when the agent remained silent.
The agent coughed awkwardly.
"I'd rather you hate guns." The older man replied as he looked up to see a paramedic finally headed their way. He turned back to meet a pair of glassy, blue eyes staring at him with an admiration that made Peter's stomach twist. "I might not always be there, Neal. Things don't always turn out the way you want them to."
Neal's eyes widen, but before he could respond the paramedic started checking him over. However, it didn't stop his response. While the paramedic checked his vitals, Neal looked up at Peter who stood behind the EMT.
"But you always come. You'll always try to come won't you Peter?"
The agent swallowed the lump in his throat as he looked at the bloodied and bruised form of Neal Caffrey.
"Yeah Neal. I'll always try to come." Peter responded, but when the paramedic pressed on Neal's ribs and his partner tried his best to muffle a scream the agent changed his answer.
"I'll always come."
Peter hadn't expected Neal to hear him, but when the younger man gave him a painful smile he knew he had been heard.
"Then things will turn out the way I want them to, Peter."
AN: A random one-shot rolling around in my head. Feedback is appreciated! Thanks for reading!